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Cell phones source of radiation fears


July 18, 2000
Web posted at: 12:05 a.m. EDT (0405 GMT)

In this story:

Contradictory reports

Recommendations to limit radiation


ATLANTA (CNN) -- With the number of cell phones in the United States approaching 90 million and growing by 30,000 new customers every day, many are worried about the radiation from their phones.

Cell phones already had sparked controversy because some say drivers using phones can't help but be distracted. Others find phone use in public places simply annoying.

VideoCNN National Correspondent Martin Savidge explores the debate over whether use of cell phones poses a health risk
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Communities are taking steps to find remedies. Some are passing laws banning phone use in cars and some restaurants are limiting where users can talk.

But users themselves have a cause for concern -- conflicting opinions about possible health risks posed by radiation from certain types of cell phones.

"Every time it comes up, you can't help but think about it," said one man. "But right now, there's nothing I can do."

Contradictory reports

The phones in question are the hand-held variety with a built-in antenna that is positioned close to the user's head. Studies on whether such phones are unhealthy are plentiful -- and contradictory.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, which could take action if a health threat were found, the jury is still out. For every report that hints at a possible risk, another report says there is none, which leaves cell phone users who are seeking answers, on hold.

"I really do not try to live with this stuck in my ear for all of those reasons," said one woman holding her phone.

Even the experts do a sort of balancing act when confronted with questions about risk.

"While there is no documented risk at the levels of exposure for current cell phones, there is some uncertainty -- as there are with many things in life, including exposure to the sun -- and you have to maybe manage risk," said Professor Paul Steffes of the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Recommendations to limit radiation

In the absence of conclusive information, the FDA issued these recommendations:

  •  Since time spent on the phone is key, use a cell phone for short conversations and a conventional phone for long talks.

  •  Use a mobile phone where the antenna is mounted on the outside of a vehicle.

  •  Use a headset attached to a cell phone that is carried at the waist.

Earlier this year, two new studies did catch the attention of the FDA. One found an association between cell phones and a rare type of brain tumor.

The other study found that DNA in human blood cells breaks down when exposed to large doses of cell phone radiation.

After reviewing the information, the FDA came up with the conclusion that more studies were needed.

Cell phone industry to publish radiation data
July 17, 2000
FDA to participate in study on mobile phones
June 9, 2000
Cellular cool
May 30, 2000

Federal Communications Commission
World Health Organization
The United Kingdom's National Radiological Protection Board
Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association
Microwave News
Motorola, Inc.
FDA: Consumer Update on Mobile Phones
Food & Drug Administration on Cell Phone Safety
WOW-COM's World of Wireless Communications
Pacemaker patients - Use the cell phone, but with caution
Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones

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