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Microwaves and Cell Phones - An Update

2000 by Linda Moulton Howe

February 5, 2000  Christ Church, New Zealand - Since my January 30th radio and Earthfiles reports about the microwave research of Neil Cherry, Ph.D., Biophysicist at Lincoln University in Christ Church, New Zealand, I have received many questions from viewers and listeners. Dr. Cherry considers the proliferation of cell phones, microwave towers and microwave pollution to be a serious contributor to cancer, brain tumors and increasing neurological problems among the human population. Several thousand more microwave towers are expected to be built in the United States in the next few years. The following are a series of audience questions and Dr. Cherry's responses.


Neil Cherry, Ph.D., Biophysicist, Lincoln University in Christ Church, New Zealand:

1. Even if the cell phone itself is shielded, isn't the antennae the source of most of the offending radiation? Is there a way to shield it, too?

Dr. Cherry: "The antenna of the mobile phone travels down the length of the hand piece. To shield the user from this, the body of the phone and the antenna need to be shielded.


2. Does it help to use a remote mike and earpiece?

Dr. Cherry: "The hand-free kit does help a great deal by keeping most of the radiation from the user's head. But don't keep the phone in a breast pocket or on your belt near your liver, kidneys, womb or testes because the microwave radiation can break chromosomes wherever they are."


3. Did the studies find if there is a threshold at which the radiation becomes harmful? Or is being on your phone just a few minutes a month as bad over time?

Dr. Cherry: "We do not know of a threshold. However, risk is proportional to accumulated usage. Any reduction in number of calls, length of calls, hands free use and so on reduces risk."


4. Can a person minimize the damage by making the call as brief as possible?

Dr. Cherry: "Yes, a person can minimize damage by using only brief calls."

5. What is the best material to use for shielding from microwave and other forms of electromagnetic radiation?

Dr. Cherry: "Distance is good. A fine metal mesh can provide significant shielding from UHF and microwave radiation. That is why microwave ovens have a metal grill over the glass door. If the holes are much smaller than the wavelength of the radiation, it is a good shield. The shield works mainly by reflection."

6. Are there any nutritional supplements that can help repair the damage to the human body?

Dr. Cherry: "Good fresh fruit and vegetables are full of anti-oxidants which are essential for repairing the body. Melatonin is a potent free radical scavenger. A good night's sleep produces good melatonin. Unfortunately as we age, we have lower and lower natural melatonin which causes accelerated cell death and cell damage. This is why cancer rates rise very significantly after 65 years. It is also the cause of neurological degeneration and disease." Melatonin supplements might be helpful.

7. I would like to know if the new digital phones are also microwave band phones, or are they different? What disadvantages might there be in using them?

Dr. Cherry: "The new digital phones are microwave. The signal is pulsed to produce the digital signal. Pulses are shown to be worse than continuous waves in causing cell damage and cancer."

8. What is the brand name of a cell phone manufacturer trying to provide more shielding?

Dr. Cherry: "The brand name of a low emission phone is Nokia, a very large mobile phone manufacturer in Finland."

9. Could you address the issue of computers and cordless phones? My children spend hours writing
reports and doing homework on the computer, not to mention games and surfing the web, and I am concerned about what potential health hazards this may pose. I also have a cordless phone and was wondering if you are exposed to microwaves using a cordless phone?

Dr. Cherry: "Computers: There is a wide range of low frequency and radio frequency radiation from computer screens. Modern screens have much lower emission levels than older computers. The computer I am using to send this e-mail to you is producing 35 microwatts/sq. cm. at the screen which reduces to 0.05 at my head and at womb level. This is radio frequency radiation which penetrates tissue more effectively than low frequency fields. With home computers and children starting very early, it is a real worry because a U. S. study, Beall et al (1996) Epidemiology 7 (2): pages 125-130, shows that computer programmers develop and die more from brain tumors, with the rate increasing with the years of work:

a) Up to 5 years exposure, OR = 0.6  95% CI: 0.2-1.9

b) 5 to 9 years exposure, OR = 1.9  95% CI: 0.7-5.2

c) 10 years or more, OR = 2.8  95% CI: 1.1-7.0

Since our brains detect and use very low frequency signals from the Schumann Resonances, which have a mean intensity of about 0.0000001 microwatts/sq. cm. (0.1 picowatts/sq. cm.), it is not surprising that at exposures which are millions of times higher, there is increased brain cell damage and an increased risk of brain tumor in a dose-response manner. This kind of result is indicative of cause and effect.

Portable phones (not cell phones) use a high frequency radio signal which isn't too far from the mobile phone frequency, but are much less powerful than mobile cell phones. So they do expose our heads to measurable RF radiation. Hence, portable non-cell phones are low risk, but not risk free. Some people report a 'fuzzy head' after a long call on a portable phone.

Cell phone users describe dose-response symptoms of dizziness, loss of memory and concentration and headaches. Some people also report nausea. This probably is caused by differential heating of fluid in the middle ear affecting the balance mechanism."