Stuff Yaron Finds Interesting

Technology, Politics, Food, Finance, etc.

Cell Phone Health Hazards?

Two weeks ago the economist had an article more or less making fun of people who think that Cell phones might pose a health hazard. To be clear, to date there has not been any conclusive evidence that cell phones are dangerous. Instead, based on the evidence provided by the book and the article I reference below, there appears to instead be a well organized attempt by the cell phone industry (specifically the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA)) to make sure that the research done into cell phones health affects won't find anything wrong.

[Update: 10/11/2005 – A good article at Commercial Alert about Cell Phone Hazards to children.]

The first information source I use is a book with the disappointingly sensationalist title "Cell Phones – Invisible Hazards in the Wireless Age – An Insider's Alarming Discoveries About Cancer and Genetic Damage". The book was co-authored by Dr. George Carlo who used to head up CTIA's research efforts and a journalist by the name of Martin Schram. The book discusses two topics. The first topic is the potential health hazards of cell phones. Dr. Carlo describes, in easy to follow language, what health damage cell phones might cause and what evidence exists to believe the damage is occurring. The second topic is a description of Dr. Carlo's career and provides detailed allegations of how the CTIA has tried to bias the research being done on cell phone hazards to make sure nothing is found.

For example, one of the studies that Dr. Carlo worked with looked at brain cancer rates in people who use cell phones versus people who do not. The study found no difference in brain cancel rates. The trick however is that the study looked for all types of brain cancer located in any part of the brain. By looking for all types of cancer in all locations any real affect of cell phones would be drowned out because cell phone radiation can only penetrate a few inches into an adult's brain. So Dr. Carlo re-ran the data looking only for cancers that occur near the skull around the ears and controlled for which side of the head people used their cell phones. Sure enough, cell phone users had 2.4 times higher incidence of brain cancers near the skull around the ears then people who didn't regularly use cell phones. Unfortunately the study did not have enough participants to be conclusive but apparently did have enough to merit follow up. Follow up that, as far as I'm aware, has never happened in the U.S.

Recently the alumni magazine of the University of Washington published an excellent article about one of the researchers mentioned in Dr. Carlo's book – Dr. Henry Lai. Dr. Lai made the mistake of researching the 'wrong' kind of cell phone health hazards. The article provides Dr. Lai's account of the bribes and threats that were used to try to get him to stop his research.

Are cell phones a health hazard? There seems to now be enough experimental evidence to reasonably conclude that cell phone radiation has biological side effects. Furthermore there also appears to be enough epidemiological evidence to conclude that it's likely that people are being harmed by cell phones. How much harm? How serious is the threat? Serious enough to require changes in behavior? We just don't know because the cell phone industry, if Dr. Carlo and Dr. Lai's allegations are true, are doing their best to make sure the right questions don't get asked.

A related concern is 802.11 and other forms of wireless Internet. While the radiation levels in wireless Internet are much lower than in cell phones they are also much more pervasive. Someone using 802.11 at home or at work is being constantly bombarded by active radiation non-stop. Are there potential health effects from long term low level exposure? No one knows because no one is looking.

For whatever it's worth I have a couple of rules I follow when it comes to cell phones and 802.11. I generally don't use cell phones. I have one but I keep it on the far side of my desk and I only take it with me when I'm going out without my wife. I prefer to use my wife's phone because it angle's the antenna away from the head and she can keep it in her purse. We both use headsets. If I had kids they wouldn't be allowed to use cell phones. Cell phone radiation goes much farther into a child's brain than an adult and a child is growing with lots of rapid cell division so they are more vulnerable to potential health affects than adults. I also don't use 802.11 in my home and since I work out of my home I don't have to worry about exposure at work.

I hope that all of these precautions prove to be completely unnecessary. I hope there are no serious health consequences. But if the accusations made in the book and article are correct then at best we are all guinea pigs in a huge experimental project. If the book and article's accusations are accurate, if studies are being designed to find nothing, then I would love to see some kind of negligence suit filed. It would set a great precedent if companies understood that supporting sham science will expose them to significant legal liabilities even if it turns out there was no real health hazard. It's one thing to do real research and not find a problem. It's another to do fake research in order to make sure no problem can be found.

84 Responses to Cell Phone Health Hazards?

  1. linda says:

    I have been telling my family that after talking with them on the cell phone, I had to get off my ear was hurting. This has been going on for this past year. Never really thought much at first, but then it started happening more often than not. My husband became very upset with me because I went over the given for texting. This morning we were on the cell phone and told him my ear was starting to hurt and needed to get off phone. I thought, maybe I have an ear infection and should see a specialist. My last visit with my doctor (approx. 4-5 months) did not reveal any abnormalities, otherwise she would have said. I have never even had an ear infection in my life. Maybe only pain related to a sore throat. The pain feels like pressure, then it radiates as a larger area, then the piercing starts. Normally, I use on my left ear. I have tried to use on my right, but it becomes awkward to hold and uncomfortable. After the piercing, then the headache, but it does subside. Headache not full blown enough to need Tylenol. Now the pain (slightly) enters into my right ear, some mild pain, but then I can feel like a slight drainage in both. I decided before making an appt.to check the internet. Yeh! I’m not the only one, thank you for this website. I have contacted those family members that I speak to the most and told them the cell phone will only be used for emergency’s only (when speaking). Only texting. My husband will now be getting us on a plan with unlimited texting, since I found this website. I could see his point however; our plan offered unlimited minutes and to him it seemed like I was blowing money to the wind. Apology was accepted. I do hope this helps. Your comments were so very appreciated and welcomed. Linda

  2. Meg says:

    As an update, mysteriously I just started getting ear pain using the corded landline as well! It does have an antenna because it also has a corded in the charger across the room.

    First the left ear, and today the right. I also have smallish swellings, feel like slightly swollen lymph nodes, right under each ear, that ache sometimes, and the left one is bigger, though both are still quite small. These have been there for months, but at first I just noticed I had swollen glands under my ear (firm, and they don’t move) and waited for it to go away. It hasn’t.

    I did screw up my courage and go to the doc, but got asked if I had a fever, had my ears searched for an ear infection. No infection, but did have a little fluid behind one eardrum. They offered me an antihistamine. I said no thanks.

    I did have an allergic response to some fragrance this week, but that cannot have been the factor all these months, and still doesn’t explain why my ears hurt ON THE PHONE, even when I don’t hold the phone physically touching my ear.

    When I told her about the pain while using first a cell phone, that I have had to give up after relying on them for more than a decade, and then surprisingly, even the landline (which makes no sense at all to me), I know she probably thought I was nuts. She suggested it was pressure from holding the phone to my head.

    When I told her I had been holding it physically away from my head since it had first started hurting, I got a nonplussed shrug and dismissal…anyway, I understand the human tendency to outright dismiss that which is not in our own experience, or that which flies in the face of our expectations, but this whole thing is one giant downer, and I try not to dwell on it, since there is apparently not a thing I can do except get rid of that which causes the pain, and hope to heck I don’t follow in the path of some people who have reported online, going on to become unable to do things like use wifi computers, or be near much of anything electrical. Because they are even talking of getting rid of landline phone service altogether. It’s the wave of the future, and I had people who were saying it was bad, firmly in the ‘crazy’ category, until this started happening to me.

    Now it’s just frightening, and apparently all we can do is hope those of us affected will be ok, until and unless we find out we have something, and then hope it’s treatable or nonthreatening.

    Moot point for me since I can’t use a cell phone anymore, but has anyone else heard that the metal frame of a car acts as a Farraday cage, that makes the cell phone increase its intensity so it can get through that, and therefore talking, even on a speaker, on a cell phone in a car, is bad unless you have it hooked up to an externally-mounted antenna? Any electrical engineers or others out there who have a thought on this?

  3. Lourie says:

    I went to a general doctor in may because I was having dizzy spells and headaches and I had an MRI. The doctor said I had chronic sinusitis and recommended that I see a nose surgeon because I have a deviated septum and this will keep happening to me. I told the doctor about my ear pain and my iPhone, but he shrugged it off. I’ve never had sinus issues before and I never followed up with the surgeon because my bill after insurance for the MRI alone was $1,500 plus my several doctor visits. I know your health is the most valuable thing you have, but it’s getting more and more expensive for healthcare. I still have sinus issues and headaches, which has never been a problem until recently. I still have ear pain while in the phone and afterwards so I try to use speaker as much as possible. I think I’ll end up seeing an ENT and the surgeon and I’ll update u guys with the findings.

  4. louisa says:

    I feel hot and pain and lost of hearing as soon as I put my mobile which is Erickson or nokia in my left ear, I try to switch ears but it is now affecting my other ear and I am worried and sometimes unable to answer my call due to this. I am worried as my hearing is deteriorating and i believe it is to do with these mobiles, i have been to the Doctors but he just said “stop using the mobiles then, it does not happen to me when i use main lines. Is anyone been to their GP or to ear specialist for help

  5. DC says:

    Since the first time I used a cell phone in the early 90’s I could feel pressure in my heard and would get sharp pains in my head on the side I used the cell phone. this pain continues today and I rarely use my cell phone. Everyone else tells me that they never experience what I do. I am beginning to wonder if those of us that experience these symptoms do so because we may have more metal in our bodies

  6. valerie says:

    I’ve been experiencing pain in my right ear in which I often listen with my cellphone! I have never had this problem until the use of this particular brand!! I am very concerned and will research this further!!

  7. Kelley says:

    I have pain in the ear that I use my phone for. I wish I had started an earbud sooner,because now it hurts often when I haven’t even used the phone much, and the phone ear also has a wierd white bump in it. I am going to have it checked out. timing of pain directly correlates with cell phone use.

  8. susan says:

    Just thought i would log into google and just find search for ear problems realting to mobile phone and EURKA we are all suffering the same syptoms, its not just a coincidence is it, cant be, when we all have problems after using mobile phones with pain in our ears, headaches, yes i believe there must be connection to the phone itself. I have been to doctors on numerous occasions, it is not an ear infection, suggested could have problems with my jaw bone, thus causing pain in ear, but i know conclusively that if i am on holiday and do not use my phone the pain is not there, but as soon as i am receiving a phone call within minutes the earache starts up, i was totally incapacitated i had to have two days sick of work as the pain was so unbearable, to date the doctor cannot give me a proper explanation as to the re-occurence of he each pain, frankly, and i dont need any more convincing when so many of us are suffering it must be my mobile phone…………

  9. Jim says:

    I think we are the gifted few who can actually feel the real effect of cell phone microwaves. There is no question that cell phones are harming our ears. I use an earbud and my ears do not hurt but when I am talking on my phone or anyone elses phone without an earbud that ear hurts and I switch to the other ear and it begins to hurt also. I hang up as quick as possible. This has been happening for years with various phones. Watch and see in the future… cell phone radiation will be the Transfat that is horrible for our health. God Bless You all!

  10. Tom says:

    I get stings of pain right above my right ear when on cell phone for less than one minute. doctor said to use ear buds. They seem to postpone the pain for some minutes and with less strength. add me to the list.

  11. chand pathak says:

    I am experiencing shooting pain in my right ear from the time I attended my mobile half an hour back. The pain comes and goes and comes and goes in pulses of shooting pain 6 – 8 times with a duration of 1-2 seconds of relief in between. The pain intensity is similar to a toothache if it is infected. on a grade of 1-10 it is 5/6 I had earlier experienced pain too but not to this extent. This has really alarmed me.

  12. Al says:

    I am also experiencing discomcort on my left ear where I mostly hold the phone. What I experience is humming sound that goes on my ear non stop. I am on the top floor of a high rise where there are lots of short antennas that I believe are cell towers. I noticed the discomfort when I changed my mobile provider last year. The new provider uses 2100/1700 frequency, where as the previous provider used GSM 1900/850. This is a correlation though. Also, the new provider uses 3.5 G data transfer for its connectivity. Further, the new phone I have with new provider is a smart phone (it has internet) which I believe is causing this discomfort in my ear too. When I hold the smart phone (nokia c7) in my ear for few minutes, the phone gets hot hot, and so does my ear as a result. If I use the headphone or speaker phone, as a way around it, the sound quality suffers.
    Can anyone share with me if the frequency with their phone is the same as mine? Are the people with ear pain use smart phone, or regular one?
    Thanks

  13. Al says:

    thanks for notifying me by email

  14. stephen aldridge says:

    Been using aNokia c3 since JUne. Get heated ears and numbness on cheeks and now even the landline seems to trigger an ‘over sensituive ear on the side i hold the handset up to.

  15. John Barton says:

    I to have been having problems with my ears and monile phones .I dont vhave to be using one to get the sensations .Blocked ears ,Feelslike cotton buds in ears .Itching ears, Pain in ears,And it feels like someone pushing the palms of there hands into my head above ears .This also happens sometimes when im sitting in front of my computer .If I wear ear plugs it helps stop this when using computer ,Headaches to. Not in one particular part of head .Spent thousands of $ on doctors specialists and scans but found nothing .I threw phone away and wont use one Very hard to get away from people on busses etc when there on phones ,hope someone knowsc something to try to help this problem No one i speak to has heard of this problem It is good to see im not the only one experiencing this Godd luck to everyone with problem J B

  16. susie says:

    I ALWAYS KNEW THAT CELL PHONES ARE VERY HARMFULL but I have used them on occassion and sometimes hold it right up to my head. I have had 3 episodes of shooting pain into my ear & head that lasts for a few days while making a cell phone call. This last time my ear canal swelled & has been painful. After 5 days I went to see my entomologist. He told me that because my ear canal is so swollen now, he has to assume it is an ear infection. He installed a wick in my ear canal & gave me a perscription for antibiotic ear drops. I told him the problem began at the same moment I had made a cell phone call that had a piercing sound. I AM NOT SURE WHO ELSE TO CONTACT TO EXPOSE THIS PROBLEM OR HOW TO GET HELP.

  17. John Barton says:

    After reading lots of the writings here looks like a lot of people dont care about the pain there experiencing Ive found the best way to help with it is not to use a cell phone at all YOU can go without Iv e been without one now for bit over 2 years If people cant wait to contact me to bad My health is more importent to me Wall phone answering machine or email had been here for a long time use them

  18. ams says:

    I have a problem with my ears plugging up after talking on my cell pone – it happens even while texting – crazy! Sometimes I get a weird tingling in my jaw while talking on it as well.

  19. Marilyn G. says:

    I experienced ear pain and headachs when I first starting using a cell phone. Now I only use a cell phone in an emergency situation. My problem now is being around other people who are using their cell phones espeically when one is anwswering an incoming call. I have extreme pain in my head and ear. My ear feels like it is vibrating. I recently went to an otolarynologist who gave me azithromycin for an ear infection and told me I have hyperacusis. I cannot use a landline and have almost stopped going places. Cell phones are very dangerous. I plan on having a CAT-Scan or MRI.

  20. sueann says:

    Cell phones have always been one of the worst human health hazard inventions. I am also EXTREMELY effected by the microwave frequencies. We can not permit the world to believe that the pain & effects some of us suffer is a sensitivity. How do we ever get everyone to understand the danger ? Now that so many people have become ignorantly dependent they are also exposing their infants & children to the health risks. Don’t give in to the pressure of using it for work, friends & family. Give them up or never start. You will have better health & more PEACE.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Wow. I am so glad I found this message board, thought it was possibly just a reoccuring ear infection, but the pain would go away after a few days. Then the other day I had to be on my cell phone for almost 3 hours with a friend having a lot of family problems. Shortly after the call my inner left ear began hurting so bad, I can barely chew food, it also extends into my jaw and bottom left row of teeth. Thought maybe I had an infection in my tooth and the pain was radiating to my ear, but went to the dentist, no infection. Have been trying to stay off my phone as much as possible, and my ear has gotten a little better, but this has been happening on and off now for several months and I just connected it to my cell phone after that very long call. I will be using the speaker phone and texting as much as possible rather than calling from now on. So glad you have all left comments so I now know I’m not going crazy.

  22. tpayne8 says:

    I , too am happy to find this message board. I was not sure if my symptoms related to the cell phone or if I was about to lose my hearing. Now I know my symptoms are related to my cell phone. I will certainly monitor my usage.

    For those that don’t know there is a place – Green Bank, W.Va – that is free of any eletro magnetic fields. The U.S. National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000–square-mile area where most types of electromagnetic radiation on the radio spectrum (which includes radio and TV broadcasts, Wi-Fi networks, cell signals, Bluetooth, and the signals used by virtually every other wireless device) are banned to minimize disturbance around the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, home to the world’s largest steerable radio telescope. People sensitive to these frequencies live there.

  23. sue cyr says:

    talking on cell phone up to 4,000 minutes a month gave me a sore in my ear, now I have a landline wirless and I have leakage in one ear with infection

  24. maimoona says:

    back in 2008, i started using nokia prism, and i would talk for a long time tht resulted a pain in my right ear, so bad tht i had started using headset. when i changed tht set, i guess it went away. cox again i have changed from samsung galaxy to htc rhyme and the pain has started again.. there was a sharp sensation in my right ear followed by a mild pain and it seems as if there z ball travelling in my head if i move my head. my right eye feels heavy and right side of nose too gets sensation. m forced to use speaker or headset as i cannot even imagine talking over the cell phone. went to neurologist, he said i might be suffering from depression as theres no such thing possible go and get MRI if u want to make sure theres nothing wrong.. i didnt do it , it was so expensive…i still feel my right side of head heavy and strange….

  25. Sydney says:

    Has no one actually checked to see if a b r a i n t u m o r has been the cause of these problems/pains?
    That’s what this article is actually about.
    Yet there is not one comment mentioning it.
    Something is up, or being covered up..
    If anything happens to me, let this stand as evidence

  26. John Barton says:

    Sydney,, ive had head scans, ear scans, nose scans, neck scans and there is nothing in the way of a tumour Been to supposed nose specialists One even told me to look on google and I might find a solution Then asked for $150.00 fee I honestly don’t think anyone knows or cares In 20 years or so we will all be told not to use mobiles because there dangerous My problem isn’t always mobiles or computers It just comes on for no reason it is very frustrating I get all the symptons like everyone who has written in here My MRI showed nothing

  27. Rhonda Sommerfield says:

    I have had some of the same issues for 2 years with Samsung phone. My ear hurts and needs continually popped for at least an hour after talking for only a few minutes.

  28. Steven says:

    OK so most of what I’m reading here is happening to me also. It’s hard to describe but I feel a mild burning sensation coupled with a strange tightness, almost like the muscle and soft tissue in my face and cheek are tensing. This occurs every time I talk within the first 30 seconds and if I ever have an extended conversation of more than a few minutes, it intensifies and I will end up with a headache. I swap sides and the same thing happens. I have the phone in my pocket and I can feel it in my leg and I get these localized little muscle spasms/twitches.

    I’m not sure that what I want to share next is relevant but it has certainly raised suspicion in my mind. A close friend of mine in his early 30’s was recently diagnosed with cancer in his neck (Thyroid). Interestingly, the specialist he saw told him that it was an unusual growth that they had not seen before. My friend described it as having these multiple little branches that spread out from the source. He has used mobile phones very heavily since the 90’s, more so than anyone else in our circle. He is right handed and the tumor/cancer was on the right hand side of his neck. I know there are multiple causes for Thyroid cancer but I found it interesting that the specialists also found it unusual and intriguing.

    Further more, a colleague of mine at work in his early 40’s was also a very heavy cell phone user, like, ridiculously heavy and he developed a brain tumor on the right hand side of his brain. He was also right handed. Everybody who knew him knew how much he used his phone and we all considered that his phone use was a possible cause.

    Finally, and this is just an observation, but when ever I call to speak to my 5y/o son whilst I am away for work, he rejects the mobile phone and hands the phone back to mum within under a minute. At first I felt upset because I know how much he misses me while I’m away and I couldn’t understand why he would end the conversation so abruptly when normally, he won’t stop talking. Little guy talks all day lol. So anyway, I tried calling him on the land line and guess what happens……? He tells me evvvvverything and doesn’t want me to go.

    I don’t know, jury’s not out I guess but I’m seeing a pattern here and as long as people are experiencing these ill effects, then the questions will continue to be asked. In the meantime, a fair assumption to all this might be that if it causes you physical or mental discomfort, then it probably isn’t good for your health.

  29. Amy says:

    Thank you so much for all the information here! Does anyone have any ideas for help in this area, other than simple (ha!) avoidance or moving to W. Virginia?
    I don’t want to use the “R” (Radiation) word, because people won’t take it until more people are suffering; as someone else has pointed out. After seeing lots of doctors, having lots if tests, and only using ANY phone for short conversations (like making appointments), it’s easy for “outsiders” to note my history of allergies and sensitivities. True, I have those, but now, after years of xrays, ct scans, etc., of mostly my respiratory tract, I have something new. Something called ‘nodules’. In my lungs, nasal passages, thyroid, and on my liver. My last ct scan was 4 yrs. ago, and yes, they were compared (no sign of ‘nodules’ in past). Right now all we are doing is monitoring. The thyroid is the most bothersome because of symptoms of hypER – thyroidism, and I sure don’t need any more anxiety! Also, the thyroid problem is where I first heard any ideas on the ‘R’ word.
    I saw my doctor today for swollen, hard, but movable lumps (gland area) behind both ears. No other symptoms of infection, so monitoring that, too. BTW, I finally found an allergy pill that works (and doesn’t put me to wanting my bed), so I have a lot fewer sinus problems (a usual source of swollen glands). Anyway, if I do put a phone to my ear, guess which ear I use? Should I wonder why the left side lump behind the ear is bigger, and why my left ear “rings” more than the right?
    Anyone else recently told that they have (benign) ‘nodules’ inside their body? I had never heard of this before, and same with anybody public I have talked to. Most people respond with “Is it cancer?”
    Thank you.

  30. Chris says:

    I have noticed that I get ear pain whenever I use my cell phone. I can never put it close to my head, I always have to put it on speaker phone. Even with speaker phone I can still feel the effects. I personally feel from experience that constant cell phone use is having a negative impact on everyone’s health and the cell phone industry does not want us to know the truth. I feel that some people are more sensitive to the effects of cell phones and know that they are being harmed. Its like a internal safety alarm our body is speaking to us when our ears starts to hurt. This is just my opinion, you can believe what you want. But in my opinion we can’t wait for science to catch up because we might have cancer by then.

  31. Jody says:

    Every time I talk on my iPhone, I get a pain in my jaw that’s feels like the muscle tightens up and stays that way for a couple hours after I quit talking on it. The phone has also made me dizzy. I stopped using it except for mostly Internet and texting.

  32. Mayank says:

    Hi All, I also had this issue while talking on cell phone and this started after years of cell phone use.
    My ear start hurting even after 2 mins of cell phone use and if I use it for 5 mins, my head also start paining and pain remains for few days atleast.
    After years of pain and shunned away by Gp, I went to neuro and he checked me for b12(I am a vegiterian and was vegan for a few years) deficiency straight away. B12 is only created by bacteria and thus not available for vegans in any form.
    I was found b12 deficient and that neuro mentioned was one of the probable cause of pain because b12 is the coating around nerves which protects them from radiations etc.
    All MRI’s(ear, bring, spinal chord) came normal and nothing wrong was found there.

    After 1.5 years of getting B12 injections and pills not, this pain while talking on phone is still there even if I talk for 2 mins, but head ache does not remain for weeks. B12 deficience and nerve damage if remians for more than 6 months, as per internet, it dosent gets repaired completely.
    I am not sure if there is some other problem too.

    Thus I suggest that all the people having this issue, at least go for b12 test atleast and check with neurologist because this is a serious problem which can cause serious issues in future. Might be the problem is in general but is detected early because of cell phone radiations exposing them(in past b12 deficiencies were detected very late when ppl started having issues in spinal chord.) Also note one of my frinends had this problem but was not found b12 deficient.

  33. Rosie says:

    I searched earaches and iphone use because I’m experiencing pain in my right ear when I’m typing a text, I have no pain when holding the phone to my left ear the one I always use when talking. In these posts everybody had pain when talking, I’m not sure why I only have pain and feel the vibrations when I press any key while typing. I just got a new iphone6 and it started right away, it never happen before with an older iphone4 that I used for many years. I hope I don’t experience the pain people talked about while talking since that’s my only mean of communication. Does anyone have any answer to why I only experience pain while texting?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *