Dr. Mercola joins the cell phone ‘radiation’ debate
By 2013, the number of people accessing web pages and applications from their Smartphones will exceed those using laptops or desktops. This is a common statistic coming out of research firms such as Gartner Inc.
But, while the above has profound implications for how small businesses manage their online presence (and attempt to convert visitors into leads) it may also pose a risk to consumer health.
In the past few days while researching a vitamin et al supplement e-commerce website for a potential client I stumbled upon a paper published by Dr. Joseph Mercola, regarded as a leader in this sector by millions of consumers but also deemed controversial by the medical community.
The paper was entitled Cell Phone Radiation – Is the Danger All in Your Head. I took the time to read it since unofficial sources tell me that Dr. Mercola, an osteopath, may have over 1 million email subscribers to his monthly newsletters on a wide range of health issues, which now appear to include cell phone usage.
The Chicago Tribune suggests his website Mercola.com receives over 2 million unique visitors.
It’s thus worth reviewing his conclusions considering the potential influence he exerts. To confirm his audience, take a look at a trending Google Insights graph for search terms based around Dr. Mercola
The surge in interest displayed above is partly driven by the success of published books, including The No-Grain Diet, which made an appearance on the New York Times Best Seller List.
Considered an expert in alternative medicine his views stating that “HIV is harmless and does not cause AIDS” or that “sunscreens may cause cancer” are considered controversial. Some regard him as ahead of his time; others label him a quack. He has a checkered history.
But, his paper on Smartphone radiation indicates a new direction for his website. Most consumers tacitly conclude that Smartphones must in some way affect your health. Dr. Mercola slipstreams this belief with a lengthy article on the topic.
Further, the mainstream media generally suggests there is a link between cell phone usage and cancer, at some level, based on findings from selected independent groups. And, If not cancer then at least cell abnormalities caused by low level radiation.
Data can politicized and this fiery topic is no exception, with a battle underway between the Ayes and Nays.
Meanwhile, the government including the FDA and FCC, conclude there is no material evidence of cell phone radiation risk. The lower radio frequency bands used by these devices, suggest no direct causation of brain cancer from cell phone usage. Numerous studies seem to confirm this. On other hand a number of emerging studies challenge this position.
Dr. Mercola’s views are thus worth examining, considering the gigantic following he can influence through newsletters, books, Twitter, Facebook and online materials.
His 13-page synopsis on cell phone radiation is generally well researched, with over 29 studies, web pages, and magazine articles referenced throughout.
He initially points out that the body of governmental data suggests that there are no health risks. But, gradually over the course of the 13-page document suggests that new medical research from a number of independent bodies paints a different picture, where new conclusions may need to be drawn, including a direct relationship between cell phone radiation and human cell abnormalities.
A number of sources are quoted including a 2004 REFLEX report by the EU which broadly concluded that RF radiation caused several types of chromosomal abnormalities in human cells.
But, perhaps the area where his paper generates the most ‘buzz’ centers around the impact of cell phone usage on children.
A number of bodies, including the Environmental Trust, have challenged government studies which they suggest are biased towards a narrow group of subjects which are typically male, 6″2′ in height and weight 190 lbs. They state that this group only represents about 7% of the population.
Children, for instance, have smaller brains and may be more susceptible to radiation. Further, they conclude the government is remiss in not also using MRI scans to confirm their findings.
Dr. Mercola himself references a paper conducted by the CTIA, the governing cell phone body, which funded a five-year study in 1993 to investigate the link between cell phones and cancer.
According to Dr. Mercola CTIA results showed that cell phones may have an adverse affect on children. He quotes further media reports, which suggest that while the CTIA initially published the findings they never took action. The results, he said, were discarded due to the negative conclusions drawn by the lead researcher.
“In November of 2000, (Dr. Carlo) published a book, Cell Phones—Invisible Hazards in the Wireless Age, 14 in an effort to expose the industry cover-up,” said Dr. Mercola.
The CITA adopts the following viewpoint (more or less) on its website:
“As the FDA points out on its website, radio frequency waves do not have enough energy to ionize biological material and therefore are categorized as “non-ionizing.” As the FDA notes, other types of non-ionizing radiation include “visible light” and “infrared radiation (heat).”
This basically means the radiation count from cell phones is far too small to have any impact on a human being. At least according to the CTIA.
To date there has been no long-term studies on the affects of cell phone usage among children. Generally, not enough data exists as yet to draw any concrete conclusions.
However, in recent days the World Health Organization has partially reversed its earlier position on cell phone risks and concluded that cell phones are “possibly carcinogenic,’’ putting these devices in the same category as some chemicals and pesticides which affect human health.
This turnabout has led a number of medical researchers to slam government positions on the issue.
“It’s a wake-up call for the telecom industry and for the U.S. government to take cell phone radiation seriously,” he said. “The first step should be limiting the use of cell phones by children,” said a New York Times report.
Dr. Mercola himself fails to out rightly condemn cell phones in the final paragraphs of his paper, although he generally moves in this direction.
His final suggestions relate to the steps one can take to mitigate (potential) cell phone radiation:
• Limit the amount of time you spend on the phone.
• Use the speakerphone instead of putting the phone to your ear this is probably one of the single most important steps you can take other than not using your cell phone.
• Use a non-Bluetooth (wired) headset to limit your exposure to the cell phone. Better yet would be use an air tube headset which conducts sound but prevents any radiation from travelling up the wire to your brain.
• Attach a ferrite bead to your headset to decrease RF interference
• Limit calls inside buildings.
• Use the phone in open spaces as often as possible.
• Limit use by children and preadolescents.
Meanwhile, mobile devices will get closer and closer to your brain over the next few years.
The New York times reports that mobile devices now account for 7% of worldwide web traffic. 37% of this traffic takes place over a Wi-Fi connection
And Gartner Inc officially adopts this position:
By 2013, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide. According to Gartner’s PC installed base forecast, the total number of PCs in use will reach 1.78 billion units in 2013. By 2013, the combined installed base of Smartphones and browser-equipped enhanced phones will exceed 1.82 billion units and will be greater than the installed base for PCs thereafter.
The future is without doubt mobile. The question remains how our brains will adapt to this coming revolution in mobile usage. From what I can make out Dr. Mercola is still not completely sure himself, even though his paper attempts to suggest the rising dangers of radiation via cell phone usage.