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WWL: Are Cell Phones Dangerous?
Where We Live - with John Dankosky
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About 90% percent of Americans, and four billion people worldwide, use cell phones


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48:58 minutes (23.51 MB)
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About 90% percent of Americans, and four billion people worldwide, use cell phones.

There have been whispers about a link between cell phone use and brain cancer for decades. But while the state of Maine and the city of San Francisco consider requiring a warning label on cellular phones, the FCC and the mobile phone industry say there’s nothing to worry about.

Today we’ll talk to experts on both sides of this divide and try to figure out just what the available data means.

Is your cell phone a danger to you and those around you? What about cell towers and wi-fi? What about the FM radio you’re listening to right now?


*This episode was also produced by Jonathan McNicol

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It takes so long for science

It takes so long for science to make a causal link.  The reason why we don't know for sure with this, and it took so long to get real policy changes with regard to tobacco - is because 1) these studies take decades to do when they're done right, and 2) it's difficult to tease out these exposures and link it to cancer (it's not like studying whether a match will light a piece of paper on fire - way more complicated).  In the studies that have been done (in the Interphone studies, IARC link Jonathan posted), they've used a case/control design (which is often used when looking at long term outcomes like cancer) meaning they FIRST find people with the disease (the type of tumor they hypothesize the waves cause) and also a group without the disease, and THEN look back at the participants' histories, incl asking them about their cell phone usage and find out whether those with cancer had more usage or not.  BUT ruling out ALL the other things in those people's lives that could also have caused the cancer, the confounders, is basically impossible to do, so all those things factoring in become "limitations" to the study design, reducing the strength of the results, and in turn, giving ALL the nay sayers fodder for their argument.  So science can be it's own enemy in some cases.  Finding a good study design is KEY.  A stronger study design would be a cohort study with a control group - finding a group of people who have high usage, and then a control group of people who don't really use them - and moving forward to see what their outcomes are (rather than looking back at their histories as with the other design).  But that's really hard too, because a prospective study can take decades to do - hopefully there are studies with this design going on now.  It also hard to find people who don't use cell phones in this world and once you do, you have other major confounding differences involved btw those two groups, including education, income, urban/rural environments...so you need to adjust for almost everything!  The bottom line, is based on the research I've reviewed so far, I am making proactive changes in my life and my family's life that I deem to be important.  Thanks again for discussing this. 

In general, scientific

In general, scientific inquiry may overlook a lot of potential truths in its efforts to focus on and prove one.  Microwave frequencies are  non-random and regular, and have embedded information unlike the random and free of embedded information frequencies of natural objects like planet earth, and the electrical functioning of body cells. Bodies are vulnerable to all frequencies, both man-made and natural.  Much of our physiology and development is based on the subtle low frequencies of cells. This helps maintain order  homeostasis. The radiofrequency spectrum isn't likely to enhance our health, and there have been a lot of studies done which point toward potential harm!  Our bodies tissues  absorb these wireless frequencies and are not able to dissipate them properly. Aren't we predominantly water?  Water conducts and absorbs frequencies.  This could be why people reporting headaches and dizziness as the waves pass through them and interact with our cells. MIcrowaves have been shown to alter the electrolytes in cells, and break down the blood/brain barrier. Microwaves reduce the production of melatonin which is an anti tumor hormone produced by the brain which also helps to bring on sleep.

Look up "microwave sickness" to read more.  Or the Bioinitiative Report. There have been many studies down to show the harm against the body.   Do you believe we are completely unimpacted by it?  Mammals, including humans evolved along with natural frequencies given off by planet earth. We are designed to utilize the natural earth frequencies in our survival.   Pineal glands in mammals, including humans have magnetite in them which is used by many creatures that migrate to orient properly. This makes us additionally vulnerable to man-made emf which is passing through our brains 24-7. 

We never seem to understand that by changing the environment, we ultimately impact ourselves. We act as though we are supermen.   

What about the people who feel ill by these frequencies? Could that not be a common sense warning that maybe this is not so good for us?  We should have a choice if we want to be bathed in this electromagnetic frequency blanket, but unfortunately we have none.    Why can't we follow the precautionary principle here?

Scare mongering

This show was extremely biased against the basic science. The energy we are exposed to due to wireless communication radiation (Cell phone, tower, broadcast, wifi) is orders of magnitude less than you would get if you toook a single trancontinental flight in an airplane (At high altitudes, less of the ionizing radiation from space is blocked by the atmosphere). If the previous poster who is pregnant is serious about pulling her wifi, she should encase her house in a wire mesh to prevent radio and tv waves from penetrating the house, not fly in an airplane and not go outside where we are bathed in radiation of all frequencies from both man-made sources as well as those from space. This sort of reporting promotes a kind of inchoate and baseless fear of a mysterious "technology" at the expense of far greater dangers such as talking or texting while driving, not eating a proper diet or not having access to preventative health care.

Furthermore, EM radiation is not radioactivity. Radioactive materials can produce EM radiation, but communication frequencies are much lower in energy and cannot ionize tissue (which is how cellular damage occurs) as X-rays or gamma rays can.

Finally, despite what you heard on the show, the vast preponderance of evidence is that there is no evidence for a link between exposure to cell phone radiation and any health problem. Now just because there's no link, is it possible that there may be. Yes, it's possible. But it's also possible (to use an absurd example) that drinking two glasses of lemonade a day will shorten your life. But since there's no evidence to contradict this claim, should we act on it. Of course not. A philosophy of better safe than sorry when applied for no good reason is a poor guide to life.

Stephen Irons.

North Haven CT.

Your example is

Your example is misleading.  We know that drinking two glasses of lemonade a day does not shorten your life. Your example mocks those who have legitimate concern about this CONTROVERSIAL topic. You fail to address hot spots of wireless frequencies which occur because of overlapping wireless fields. Remember the crests and troughs of wave interference patterns.  These laws of physics apply here too. You are right about basic science, I don't think you are explaining how wireless frequencies are safe, when so many other scientists, doctors, biophysicists who are already quite aware that the "heating problem of ionizing radiation" is not the issue are still quite concerned.  The problem is the INTERFERENCE of these man made frequencies with the fundamental, need for survival natural frequencies of living beings.  Have I made my point here?  People can go to www.weepinitiative.org for an excellent source on science behind this problem.


Wireless is a biological experiment.

Calling the effort of those who point to facts - the results of independent peer reviewed scientific studies - is not scare mongering.  

The telecommunications industry and their professional organizations like the IEEE and ICNRP, and other supporters, including engineers and physicists tactic is to confuse the American people - to cast doubt about what the independent scientific evidence is telling us about the adverse biological effects of exposure to radiofreqency radiation and electromagnetic fields.  The industry is using the same play book that tobacco used - claim there is no scientific evidence and further studies are needed before any action may be needed. The tobacco industry succeeded in postponing protective regulation for decades which resulted in miliions more people dying from lung cancer. 

Those who claim the "vast preponderance of the evidence is ..no evidence of a link" between phones and health problems" is spinning the facts. If you look at the non-industry funded studies then it is claer that the scienctific evidence is troubling and we are irresponsible to not heed this knowledge. 

Man-made artificial radiation used for wireless communications is not the same as naturual background radiation.  Wireless signals "carry" data on the wave - naturaL radiation doesn't have voice and data stuff riding on it.  And man-made wireless signals are digital - pulsed - signals.  There are many differences between artificial and natural radiation.  Don't let the people who are vested in the technology con you.    

Listener Email from Katie

I think it’s important to note that we’re not just talking about cell phone microwaves, but wifi too. You can’t go anywhere without being exposed, and it’s ironic that cities and towns are really moving toward putting wifi access everywhere (outdoors, in parks and public spaces) but yet we’re now talking about whether it’s possibly dangerous. Can we go back to where we started from? I don’t think so – I think wireless technology is fully ingrained and it’s not going anywhere – scary.

Two additional things – I was originally going to make the switch to a blackberry, but after hearing about all this, and knowing that making that switch means likely being glued to my cell phone, I decided not to switch. And secondly, when I’m pregnant, I intend to remove wireless internet in my house and just go with the landline access.

Thanks for the show!!!

Listener Email from Brian

I also have concerns about the possible medical side effects of cell phone usage...even without reports such as the one on the air today. Cell phones operate through the use of electromagnetic waves and I have compared it to holding a very weak microwave up to your head every time you use it.

Also, even if malevolent effects do occur as a result of decades of exposure, it will be near impossible to scientifically suggest cell phone usage is a direct cause of negative health ailments because it will be impossible to have a control in such a scientific experiment as nearly everyone operates a cell phone on a regular basis. Also, how will scientists be able to discriminate this potential variable from other types of electromagnetic waves passing through the air at all times?

Even while thinking this, I am confident there will be no significant side-effects for many, many decades as the radioactivity is so very weak, and certainly not strong enough for consumers, including myself, to buy cell phones in the long run.

What I am concerned about as a consumer and citizen, is not just cell phones, it is the conglomeration of all electromagnetic radiation that is continuing to expand in society. Maybe now there is no serious harm, but maybe in 5, 10, 20 years, as more and more wireless technology send these radioactive waves through the cells in our bodies, that there will be a point that the sum of all these potentials will end up limiting a person's life expectancy. Maybe instead of a warning label on the phone, how about a coupon to a physics book?

Cheshire, CT

Listener Email from Drosh

IF cellular phones actually cause cancer, a warning label will not help at all. How many smokers didn't light up because there was a warning label?

Wasn't there a similar panic about the headphones on personal stereos back in the eighties?

Everything electronic emits radiation. The radio show I'm listening to right now is a potential threat. Yurts! Let's all go live in Yurts.

Hamden, CT

p.s.: Slow news day? :)

links to EMF toxicity posts

This link is to my blog and posts that speak to EMF.


To some extent it is a history of the conversation associated with creating a response and not a debate.

The United States continues to have a legislation, lobbying and scientific process that is focused on problemistic review and not exercising precaution.  EU now leads in legislation to exercise precaution when there is some evidence.

EMF today is what Tobacco was 40 years ago. The first person recorded to encounter EMF toxicity was Thomas Edison.  Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway and Physician Leader of WHO, and active in the UN community is also EMF sensitive.

In CSR reports on Ethics, telecommunications is found to be one of the most unethical industries in practice.  The installation of Cell Antennae on Firehouses and Schools has created a citizen response, these companies and our government do not respond to or seek education. Strategy to a Telecommunications company and related industries is about features and benefits of their product and not Corporate Social Responsibility. 

Yesterday I published a blog post to the CSR community that speaks to how CSR has ignored health and health is not sustained by this new method of monitoring corporate and investment performance.



I welcome comments at my blog and opportunities for interviews on how to factor a strategy in business, community and government where health really mattres.


As a professional buisness leader, health educator and facilitator I am available with my global network to develop responses for communities of business people and citizens to build a risk assessment method based on creating better health for our communities and workforce.



Living under more that 18 cell phone antennas is even worse!

I live in one of three penthouses in an 8 floor apartment building in a lovely residential neighbourhood of Toronto.  Our "Christmas" present came on Dec 8 2009 with the installation of 18 cell phone antennas over our living areas.  There is no concrete on the roof - just gravel, felt and a wide metal mesh and wood. 

There are a total of 6 adults and 1 child in residence.  My neighbour has had to find other accommodation since she is now EMF, the 3 others are moving out since they've come down with non-thermal symptoms of exposure that seriously affected their health.  We have put in some protective measure over the ceiling of our sleeping area and it has made a significant difference and we are also seeking a new place to live - and this is after 25 years of living very quietly.  Non-thermal symptoms include disrupted sleep (documented as an adverse affect but not serious enough to cause a violation), numbness in the extremities, prickly heating of the skin surface, disordered thought, lack of concentration, incredible fatigue.  We are all private people and none of us knew until the end of January that we were all suffering to varying degrees from these symptoms.  All of us love our technology.  I've worked in the IT field for at least 30 years.  We are in the process of challenging the installation of this montrous installation and rallying the neighbourhood.  

Since we were all in excellent health prior to this installation, we had independent engineers come and test for us from a University where they have been gathering data about this type of installation.  They use much lower thresholds than what the Canadian government says is acceptable and in their opinion, none us should be living here.  The government engineers came in to test when conveniently most of the antennas were not operating due to a connectivity problem so for comparison purposes, we can't make comparisons.   

Since we know that the residents in this area will worry about property values, they will have a stronger voice for removing these things.  We know, based on past cases, it won't be for health reasons.  So - in about 5 to 10 years time when we've all been bathed continually in this stuff, and the bodies start to cram into the emergency rooms and more claims for disability insurance start pouring in, we will be vindicated in our belief that RF/microwave radiation is not as harmless as people think it is. 

Afterall, our government thinks it's still okay to sell asbestos to Mexico and India where there are now cases of the related fatal lung disease and cancer - in this case, we can't say "we didn't know".