Joel Moskowitz on the Health Risks of Cell Phone Radiation

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Woman talking on cell phone. courtesy of UC Berkeley news.

When the first cell phone went on the market in the U.S. in 1984, it was big, clunky and very expensive. The Motorola DynaTAC sold for a whopping $3,995. That’s almost $10,000 today. And, to make it even less worth the investment, it got bad reception because there were very few cell tow­ers in the country at the time.

But, as we all know, cell phones have come a long way. In addition to making calls on our phones, we can do pretty much everything else on them, too, just like Apple promised we would in 2007, the year the iPhone made its debut.

As of 2017, there were 273 million smartphones in use in the U.S and 5 billion subscrib­er connections worldwide, according to Joel Moskowitz, director of UC Berkeley’s Cen­ter for Family and Community Health at the School of Public Health.

Joel Moskowitz

“This is a big, big business,” says Moskowitz, whose re­search led to the California De­partment of Public Health pub­lishing cell phone radiation safety guidelines in December 2017. “The industry as a whole spends about $100 million a year lobbying Congress. This is an industry that’s probably been unparalleled by any other industry in the world, in terms of reach.”

Moskowitz gave a talk last spring called “Cell Phones, Cell Towers and Wireless Safety” for Be Well at Work, a University Health Services program at UC Berkeley for staff and faculty to improve employee health and well-being. The event was co-spon­sored by the School of Public Health.

Moskowitz, who has con­ducted research on disease pre­vention programs and policies for more than 30 years, says that with the influx of smart­phones has come hundreds of thousands of cell towers. These towers receive and transmit ra­dio frequencies called micro­waves — the same waves used in microwave ovens.

In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Can­cer (IARC) of the World Health Organization classified radio frequency radiation as possi­bly carcinogenic to humans, based on studies of cell phone radiation and brain tumor risk in humans.

“Currently, we have con­siderably more evidence that would warrant a stronger clas­sification,” says Moskowitz, an adviser to the International EMF Scientist Appeal signed by more than 240 scientists who publish peer-reviewed research on electromagnetic radiation. “Many scientists to­day feel that it’s time for IARC to re-review the literature giv­en all the research that’s been published since 2011 to up­grade this to at least ‘probably carcinogenic to humans,’ if not actually ‘carcinogenic.’”

To reduce the risk of harm, Moskowitz recommends that we:

Minimize use of cell phones or cordless phones. Use a land­line whenever possible.

Keep cell phones away from our heads and bodies. Ten inch­es from your body, as compared to one-tenth of an inch, results in a 10,000-fold reduction in radiation exposure. Store your phone in a backpack or purse and text or use a wired headset or speakerphone for calls.

Use cell phones only when the signal is strong. A new study by the California Depart­ment of Public Health found up to a 10,000-fold increase in electromagnetic radiation exposure when reception was poor (when you have one or two bars on your phone).

Learn more about Moskow­itz’s research on his website: saferemr.com.

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