More Static About Cell Phone Safety
Exposure to radiation from cell phones isn't even an issue, according to Fitzsimmons. The type of radiation emitted by cell phones is not the same type as that from X-rays, which have been shown to cause damage linked with cancer. "[X-rays] can alter your genetic makeup, and that's not a good thing. But radio signals [such as those from cell phones] don't do that," he says.
Cell phones use extremely low energy, Fitzsimmons says. "Only high-power sources [such as big electrical power transformers] present a concern."
The phones' antennae are of some concern, because they bring electromagnetic power close to your head. "But there has been no evidence that shows it causes any kind of damage," Fitzsimmons says.
For extra reassurance, he points to data on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, which have been used in health care for over a decade.
"We've done millions of scans using them," he says. "To date, there are no known negative, long-term effects over a period of 10 years. And those energy levels are much, much higher than cell phones. There could even be beneficial effects. They may stimulate growth, brain function, blood flow."
Even if a localized warming effect is stimulating blood flow to the brain, it's only slight, Fitzsimmons says. "I don't think this is anything that is going to be used constructively. It is just one of those things that is interesting ... and shows that it is not always just a simple matter of saying something is bad or it's good because at different levels you have quite different effects."
Although many studies show no adverse health effects associated with cell phone use, the FDA isn't ready to call them "absolutely safe" just yet. The agency's concern is that cell phones emit low levels of radiation while in use, and even smaller amounts when not in use. It is known that high levels of this radiation, which is the kind used in a microwave oven, can cause damage to tissue because it heats it up, but it's not known what low levels of the radiation do, especially over long periods of time.