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Using a Blackberry? Be Cancer-Smart About It!

cellphoneBy Diana Daghofer, Co-Chair, Prevent Cancer Now

In the Fall 2008 edition of An Ounce, Magda Havas, one of Canada’s top experts on electromagnetic radiation (EMR), explained the links between cell phone use and cancer. Now the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in Washington has published some excellent research rating the EMR emissions of most major brands.

Check out their online consumer guide to cell phone radiation , and see how your phone rates. EWG has rated more than 1,000 cell phones marketed in the United States. Many are also sold in Canada.

In fact, Canadian manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM), maker of the wildly popular Blackberry, does not rate very highly. None of its models makes it into the Top 10 choices, with Blackberry’s best offering, the Storm 9530, coming in at #11, with emissions of 0.57 W/kg. The next best phone, the Curve 8900, ranks at #74, with 1.01 W/kg. Other models are rated 90th or worse, and all have over 1 W/kg of emissions.

In the U.S., the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) regulates the radiation absorbed by a cell phone user’s brain and body using a specific absorption rate (SAR), measured by the amount of the phone’s radiation energy (in watts, W) absorbed per kilogram of tissue (W/kg).

Current FCC regulations permit SAR levels of up to 1.6 W/kg for partial body (head) exposure, 0.08 W/kg for whole-body exposure, and 4 W/kg for exposure to the hands, wrists, feet and ankles (FCC 1997, 1999). However, research conducted by scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that biological effects occur at SAR levels of 1 W/kg (U.S. EPA 1984). They have observed tissue heating that led to behavioural alterations in mice, rats and monkeys at these SAR levels, and warn of “potentially adverse effect in human beings.” (IEEE 2006)

What can you do about it?

There are a number of things you can do to limit your exposure:

  • Use a cell phone only when absolutely necessary, and don’t let children under 16 use one, except in emergencies.
  • Pick a cell phone from the Top 10 list, with EMR of 0.5 or below.
  • Use the speakerphone or hold the phone as far away from the head as possible.
  • Use a wired headset with a ferrite bead. The bead is designed to absorb the radiation so you don’t. They are inexpensive and widely available. A Bluetooth earpiece emits at least 100 times less than the radiation you get when you hold a cell phone to your head.
  • Use a “hollow tube” earpiece. It’s just like a regular wired earpiece, except the part next to your ear is a hollow tube. There’s no radiation-emitting wire under the plastic.

Write to RIM !

Let the Canadian manufacture of the Blackberry – RIM – know that you are not happy about using their high EMR-emitting products. Contact Co-CEO Jim Balsillie and tell him that Samsung and Motorola phones appear much safer. You can write to him at: jbalsillie@rim.com.

Here is a sample letter. Feel free to adapt it to your specific concerns:

    Dear Mr. Balsillie,
    I am writing to express my concern that most models of Blackberry emit more than 1.0 W/kg in SAR. While this is within the FCC guidelines, it is at least three times what your competitors’ phones, from Samsung and Motorola emit. Recent studies find significantly higher risks for brain and salivary gland tumours among people using cell phones for 10 years or longer. While more research is needed, I urge you to take a precautionary approach and reduce the EMR emissions from all models of RIM PDAs.
    Thank you.

We pay enough for our cell phones; we deserve better!

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