Back in the late 80’s when I was in high school, I spent a lot of time talking on the phone. My nightly babbles encountered frequent interruption from breathy little brothers. Their failed attempts at eavesdropping prompted house-wide threats of maiming until my lovely mother simply picked up the receiver by her bed and declared it was time to say, “good night.”
With one parental click our family communication device (note the singular noun), was on official lockdown for the evening.
Phones in many forms now abound and as their ubiquity grows, so does our addiction for using them. I shudder to imagine the air traffic I will have to manage once my little ones hit their teenage years. As example, three separate friends have recently complained of finding their teenage daughters up far beyond bedtime, hidden under their covers texting to their hearts’ delight.
The topic came up as we were discussing healthy sleep guidelines, not furtive communication transgressions.
But given what I’ve been reading recently about cell phone exposure risks to children and teenagers, I think it is time to call out this elephant in the bedroom.
I expect there to be a hefty divide between those of us who share some concern about how this technology may impact our bodies, and those who don’t give it a thought. At this juncture, I’m heading down a path of precaution while researchers continue to present data for our consideration.
At the very least, these devices should stay in the kitchen, far away from our pillows, while we sleep.
I first became aware of the medical debate over radio frequency exposure risks in May of 2008. I was on a walk in San Francisco with Dr. Devra Davis, author of The Secret History of the War on Cancer, and Director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.Trust me when I say that this is a woman whose every word you hang on when it comes to discussing today’s human health concerns.
While we scaled the city’s hills, she reluctantly carried her cell phone in her pocket as she prefers not to have it on her person. She was waiting for a call from the producer of NPR for her afternoon interview so she needed to remain available. When her Blackberry rang (more than once), she used the speaker or plugged in her earpiece in order to answer. She kept every conversation brief and to the point.
Observing her behavior made me wonder why she was so careful. I mean, what are there now – 4 billion cell phones in the world? Hasn’t some government, somewhere made certain that the technology is safe for human interaction?
Of course, but like the tobacco industry, there is BIG money involved in telecommunications and when the economic stakes become this high, science can err in the favor of industry, at least for awhile.
I know, I know… Cell phones really can’t hurt us, especially since we cannot imagine life without them. But indulge me…
Remember that famous ad campaign, “This is your brain. (Crack the egg into the searing skillet.) This is your brain on drugs.” Now imagine a CAT scan of a child’s head. And the new campaign is, “This is your kid’s brain. (Color about 70% of the scan with vivid red.) This is your kid’s brain getting fried by radio frequency radiation while chatting on a cell phone.”
If you think I’m being overly dramatic, perhaps two minutes with Dr. Devra Davis will add some muscle to the argument in favor of precaution.
Because their skulls are smaller and thinner, their brain tissue is softer and their cells are reproducing more rapidly, younger people are more susceptible to the potentially disruptive impact of these powerful waves traveling into the most vital area of their bodies.
I am not a scientist so the brain wave issue is way above my pay grade. But there are a few basics that I now understand. First, when my ear gets hot while talking on my mobile, I immediately end the conversation. I know that it is a really bad sign when the radiation is powerful enough to physically heat up the cells in my ear canal and beyond.
Further, I read in an article written by environmental health expert, Dr. Mercola, where he states, that, “the information-carrying radio waves from cell phone base stations and cell phones make children’s exposure to vaccines and heavy metals much more dangerous than they typically are. Electromagnetic radiation (EMR) can actually trap heavy metals inside your cells, causing cellular damage and hindering your body from detoxifying.”
What happens next is that increased deposits of heavy metals begin to accumulate within our cells, leading to production of free radicals, which can decrease cellular production of energy and cause the body to experience fatigue as one notable physical side effect.
Hmmmm… Fatigue is a pretty vanilla symptom, which many of us leading sleep deprived lives cannot directly attribute to our phone usage. However, when you look at the list of more significant side effects to radiofrequency and electromagnetic exposure, it becomes very easy to imagine a direct link to interrupted melatonin production, immune disorders, neurological imbalance and tumor development as example.
Heavy metals can damage our nervous systems. Disrupted antioxidant supplies can make us vulnerable to cancers. Some researchers are now even looking at how electromagnetic radiation may relate to the stunning increased rates of autism in America.
Today the incidence of autism is 1 in 150 children in our country, whereas the figures were 1 in 10,000 when I was a child in the 1970’s. Certainly Darwin would agree that evolution could not possibly pace with those statistics.
There is growing evidence that autistic symptoms can be triggered by a high presence of toxic heavy metal in the system. For those children who are sensitive to EMR, their bodies are unable to detoxify properly and thus they become vulnerable to various neurological impairments. I recommend you reference the research of Tamara Mareia and Dr. George Carlo to further delve into this topic.
Dr. Davis told me in very clear terms that she does not believe cell phones are safe for children. She further explained that there is not a major body of proof available – yet – but that it would be wise to err on the side of precaution.
Last spring, she had joined an international expert committee comprised of professionals including oncologists, radiation experts, physicists, biologists, epidemiologists, researchers and others who were preparing a report entitled, The Case of Precaution in the Use of Cell Phones. A few months later, they published their work.
This report includes a vivid depiction of how far EMR is absorbed into the brain cavities of a 5-year-old, a 10-year-old and an adult. Doubters out there, you have to look at that visual aid and you will find the inspiration for my opening reference to the vivid ad campaign above.
Soon thereafter, in Canada, the Toronto Department of Public Health issued a warning in July of this year advising that children use land lines whenever possible, keeping the use of cell phones for essential purposes only. Officials encouraged adolescents to limit the length of cell phone calls and use headsets or hands-free options while conversing. Further, children younger than eight years of age were warned to avoid using these devices except in emergency situations.
But what does this mean? Right now, even the experts are not entirely certain. Why? The grand experiment is being conducted in real time. We and our children are the test subjects.
Data is now being gathered on cell phone usage over the past decade. I remember when my husband got his first “satellite phone.” It was big and off-white and it looked like he could call the moon if he so chose. I shudder to think what that monster was pumping into his brain cavity.
Fast-forward 14 years and he can usually be found with a Bluetooth earpiece fastened to his head and Blackberry in close proximity. I cannot stop worrying about what these extraordinarily high daily exposures may be doing to his body.
He’s one of those people who can’t fathom that using your phone could possibly be dangerous – and guaranteed, I will catch an earful for writing about it! So please believe me when I say that I get it if you want to relegate this article to the crackpot file.
But like everything else I’ve tried to understand, I believe that the arguments Dr. Davis and her colleagues are making seem entirely intuitive and logical. I don’t hesitate to connect the dots between electromagnetic radio frequency waves – cell alteration – heavy metal deposits – free radical proliferation – immunity decline - susceptibility to illness.
We’re very clear that I’m not a medical professional, but such oversimplification works for me as a mother scanning the horizon for danger ahead. In fact, a freedom from scientific shackles allows me to highlight enough gut belief to cast a shadow of concern to merit our closer attention.
But certainly, my message here is not to find a way to live without your phone. I wouldn’t take my own advice and full disclosure, you can often find me tripping off curbs while typing and walking in the high holy name of efficiency. Abstinence from these enabling technologies is an absolutely absurd expectation in today’s world.
However, maybe your teenager can survive just a little longer without customizing his or her ringtone and adopting this wave-emitting appliance as an accessory. If the argument is necessity or safety, aren’t there some great texting devices available now?
If your kids already carry phones, it would be valuable to offer them some precautions such as those outlined by Dr. Davis and her peers. And if you have very little children like mine, saying hi to Daddy once in awhile is a treat, but keep it short and sweet.
Indeed, we have devices at every turn in our lives now. I just sent away the guy my husband hired to come and boost our cell reception in our 100-year-old house (don’t tell him – I’m hoping he forgets!). I plan to swap out some of our super high megahertz portable phones and replace them with long-corded alternatives. And now it’s time to do a little more reading on those Wi-Fi routers we have scattered about….
There is certainly no going back to the days when one click could shut down the party. But let’s not forget who’s paying those family plan bills. As adults, we still hold the keys to the kingdom and it is our responsibility to protect our subjects, especially as this 21st century Trojan horse casts its shadow on the drawbridge of our wired utopia.
If you do decide to wrap some new boundaries around your kids’ cell usage, they may be a little grumpy about it. But who knows, a little forced eye contact might just be the magic ticket for our thumb-twitching teen-age lexicon leapers. On that note.....
G2G CWYL B4N xocg