Tuesday, scientists from the World Health Organization announced that the agency would now list cell phone use in the same category of “carcinogenic risk” as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform.
There haven’t been enough long-term studies to draw a clear conclusion whether cell phone radiation is safe, but there was enough data to persuade the WHO of a possible connection.
Cell phones use non-ionizing radiation, which does not damage DNA the way ionizing radiation does. Cell phone radiation works more like microwaves at very low wattage, but nobody really likes to think of relying on a low wattage microwave.
If the WHO labeling of cell phone use as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” has alarmed you, here are some basic tips to limit your exposure.
– To log in
It is no coincidence that most cell phones come with a wired headset.
A wired headset will automatically reduce your radiation exposure because the phone is away from the body. Every inch you can move away from the body reduces the amount of radiation you absorb.
A wired headset can still transmit radiation through the wire, but this is a very low level. If this is a problem for you, you can buy a ferrite bead for just a few dollars at most electronics stores. It attaches to the wire and absorbs any radiation passing through the wire, reducing the amount that enters your body.
And it’s not too inconvenient. CNN chief medical correspondent Dr Sanjay Gupta said he used an earpiece because his neck didn’t hurt as much after a long phone call. Gupta: cell phones, brain tumors and the wired headset
– Using the loudspeaker
It can get quite annoying if you are in a public place. But experts say using the speakerphone feature is helpful because you keep the phone away from your brain. Every inch you can move the phone away from your body reduces radiation. For example, Holding the two inch cell phone makes the radiation drop by a factor of four, Magda Havas, associate professor at the Institute for Health Studies at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, told CNN.
But try not to share your conversation with the whole world. Thank you.
– Don’t wear bluetooth all the time
Bluetooth wireless headsets will expose you to radiation. However, it would be much less radiation than a cell phone.
The problem is, most people wear their Bluetooth all the time. And that’s not a good look at anyone.
If you are using a Bluetooth device, flip it from ear to ear so you don’t have too much exposure to one side. Simply remove it from your ear when you are not on the phone.
– Radiation hot spots
Cell phones do not always emit the same level of radiation. For example, your phone will emit the most radiation when connecting to cell towers.
But a moving phone (like you’re talking while driving) will continually connect to towers coming in and out of range – and this automatically boosts power to maximum when the phone repeatedly tries to connect to a new antenna. A weak signal will also make your phone work harder, emitting more radiation. So avoid using your phone in elevators, buildings and rural areas. Research shows that your device emits more radiation when transmitting than when receiving.
– Read the fine print
Most of us ignore the manuals that come with our gadgets. But most cell phone safety manuals tell consumers not to keep the phone near their head, or even in your pocket. Apple iPhone 4 indicates 5/8 inches from the body when transmitting. And the BlackBerry Bold says to keep it at least 0.98 inch from your body when the BlackBerry device is in use.
If you keep it close to your body, manufacturers cannot guarantee that the amount of radiation you absorb will be at a safe level.
– Don’t talk, send a text
If you don’t want to keep the phone next to your face all the time, send text messages or use your messaging or messaging services if you have a smartphone. This way you completely avoid putting the phone on your head.
And our friends at CNN Tech say the general rule is that the smarter the phone, the more radiation there is.
CNN’s John Sutter contributed to this blog.