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The Safe Cell Phone – The Neurosurgeons View

One thing is for sure, the controversy regarding cell phone radiation is going to continue for some time. For someone like me, who has experienced electrical sensitivity [1] first hand, is all very cut and dried: cell phones are dangerous. Period.

But I can understand that for someone who is just discovering this issue, it all must seem very confusing.

Perhaps neurosurgeon Dr Keith Black will help you dispel your doubts on this subject watch this video and you will learn that:

– cellphones are dangerous and the public has a right to know they are

– studies show they are dangerous; people who have used a cell phone and more than 10 years have double the rate of brain tumors

– if you read the small print in the in safety instructions of your cell phone, even the manufacturers advise against putting the cell phone next to your head


(The original video interview with Dr. Keith Black has been taken off YouTube – below is the transcript of the original interview.)

Announcer: “If you’ve ever put a cell phone to your ear, you should listen to what neurosurgeon Dr. Keith Black has to say: “there is no way to say that cell phone use is safe. I think that the public has a right to know that there could be a potential risk. The public generally assumes that if one is selling something on the market that we have had assurances that that device is safe.

To be clear Dr. Black’s message is at odds with headlines from the largest international study on cell phones and cancer. Their conclusion; little or no evidence that cell phones are associated with brain tumors. But if you look just one layer deeper into the appendix of that same study, you will see something unsettling. It turns out participants in the study who used a cell phone for 10 years or more had double the rate of brain glioma; a type tumor. And keep in mind cell phone use in the United States has only been popular for around 15 years. Back in 1996, there were 34 million cell phone users. Today nearly 300 million are in use, according to industry figures. Environmental factors take decades to see their effect not a few years. So if it may take decades to get a clear answer, what can we say about cell phone safety now?

Measuring Cell Phone Radiation

Scientists here in San Jose California are trying to answer that very question. The FCC requires all cell phones emit below 1.6 Watts per Kilogram of radiation [2]. In order to test for that, scientists here try and mimic the human brain with salt, sugar and water; so one of the things that we have to do first is literally put the brain inside the head. Let me show you precisely how they do this test. This is a model. This is supposed to approximate the human skull, an adult male. This is my phone that is actually attached there. It’s connected at the angle that most people would speak with and inside over here, very important, this bubbly liquid inside, that’s what represents liquid brain. What’s going to happen is the phone is making a call. After a period of time this device is going to come over here and start to measure radiation at all sorts of different points in the brain. After that they are going to take all of those numbers, basically put it on a computer screen and tell us where the hot spots are and just how high the levels got.


Children and Cell Phones

My cell phone measured within FCC limits, but the whole process was, well, surprisingly low tech, and what about different size skulls or children? In children, their skull is thinner. Their scalp is thinner. So the microwave radiation can penetrate deeper into the brain of children and young adults and their cells are dividing at a much faster rate so the impact of the microwave radiation can be much larger. But there have been no studies on children in cell phone safety. And here is something else that might surprise you. The cell manufactures themselves actually advise against putting the cell phone right next to your head or really anywhere in your body. Take a look at an example with the iPhone 4. The safety instructions specifically say when using the iPhone near your body for voice calls keep it at least 15 millimeters or 5/8 of an inch away from your body. Or if you are a Blackberry user specifically they also have safety guidelines. In this case they say keep it 0.98 inches or 25 millimeters from your body; meaning your head or really even your pocket.

Rising consensus on the Health risks of Cell phone use

Dr. Keith Black has been talking about this longer than many, but the voices joining him are becoming louder and more prominent. The city of San Francisco pushed for radiation warning labels on cell phones. The head of a prominent cancer research institute sent a memo to all employees urging them to limit cell phone use because of possible risk of cancer. And the European Environmental Agency has pushed for more studies saying cell phones could be as big a public health as smoking, asbestos and leaded gasoline.

FCC Guidelines On Cell Phones

The Federal Communications Commission, the FCC, they set the guidelines for how much radiation a cell phone can emit and they say cell phones are safe. But how can they be so sure? Keeping them honest, we decided to come here to try and find out for ourselves but they declined an on-camera interview. The type of radiation coming out of your cell phone is called non-ionizing. It is not like an x-ray, but more like a very low powered microwave oven. What microwave radiation does, in the most simplistic terms, is very similar to what happens to your food when you put your food in a microwave often. It is essentially cooking the brain. But based on their past statements, the FCC isn’t convinced there is a real risk and maintain they quote, “do not endorse the need for consumers to take any take any precautions to reduce exposure.”

Now I will tell you as a neurosurgeon, as a journalist, as a guy who personally has 3 cell phones, I believe this is an important issue to investigate and for what it’s worth I haven’t met anyone who says don’t use a cell phone. Of course that is not even realistic in today’s age. But there are things you can do, steps you can take to minimize your risk from radiation [3]……”