Keep mobile phones, tablets or laptops away from your body: Wireless devices may cause harm

Did you ever notice the heat of your mobile phone against your ear?

Did you ever feel the warmth of the laptop against your stomach and thighs?

While recording muscle tension, we sometimes observe a signal that is NOT the actual muscle contracting.  It is an electrical signal that is recorded with sensors at the location of the body but not produced by the muscles.  In some cases, this artifact is caused by the client’s mobile phone or other wireless device being activated even though the ringer function was set to off.  Below is an example of an artifact signal that can be hundreds of times larger than the biological muscle (electromyography) or brainwave (electroencephalography) signal as shown in Figure 1.

Slide11

Figure 1. Surface electromyography recording showing the effect of cell phone located 1 cm (0.4 inches) away from the electrodes (from: Lin, I.M. & Peper, E.,2009).

The artifact was caused by the microwaves radiating from the cell phone antenna as it communicated to the  by cell phone tower. As long as the cell phone and the wireless devices are being used for talking, texting, streaming data, or audio and visual media, they are communicating with the tower.  Most cell phones, as long as they can receive calls, also connect every 900 milliseconds to the tower to report its location. To prevent artifacts in electromyographic and electroencephalographic recording, request clients to turn off their mobile phone or switch it to airplane mode.

When we initially observed this artifact produced by the mobile phone antenna signal, we wondered if this could be a health risk.  I was further persuaded after reading epidemiologist, Devra Davis, Ph.D superb book, Disconnect- The Truth about cell phone radiation, What the industry is doing to hide it, and How to protect your family. For more information see her website Environmental Health Trust (http://ehtrust.org/).

Although being exposed by microwave radiation at 1 watt of power output while talking is not the same as being blasted for two minutes by 1000 watts necessary to bring a cup  of water to boil in a microwave, most of us experience ongoing exposure for many minutes per day.  We are now connected 24/7- anywhere we go-from coffee shop to the bedroom. We tend to keep cell phones and other wireless devices on our person. Men often stash it in their pant pockets and woman sometimes in their bra.  Yes, you can even buy a bra with a built in cell phone pocket.

We use smartphones and tablets as a communication device for texting, talking, updating our social networks, searching the web, and as an alarm clock next to our head while sleeping (we do not want to disturb our roommate or partner).  Smart phones and tablets have become omnipresent in our world. They are used in classes, while waiting for appointments (the stack of dated magazines have become irrelevant), and are the last thing we check before going to sleep. Soon these devices will be so small that they will be inserted in our ear, under our skin, or embedded in our glasses — truly connected at all times.

In our 2012 survey, university students used mobile phones and tablets/i-Pads for at least 118 minutes a day, of which 40 minutes occurred just before going to sleep. This meant that they spent 19.7 days a year texting/talking on their smartphones (Waderick et al, 2013) as shown in figure 2.    Fig 2

Figure 2. Minutes of smart phone and tablet  used by students and the percentage of disturbed sleep and hours of sleep (from: Waderich, K., Peper, E., Harvey, R., & Sutter, S., 2013).

In less than 20 years, we can no longer imagine a life without these wireless devices and go into a panic when they are missing. We have accepted the new technology and assumed that it is safe.  Yet, could this be similar to the early cigarette debates in the tobacco industry?  Most of the published studies claimed that cigarettes did not harm people and had nothing to do with cancer. We now know better.  One cigarette probably does no harm; however, smoking many cigarettes over numerous years does cause harm.

When radar was initially developed in World War II, some sailors on ships in the North Atlantic Ocean warmed themselves by momentarily standing in front of the radar beam. While they did get warmer, they also became sterile for a period of time since heating the testicles with radar reduced sperm production. Could a similar effect occur by the heat and microwaves emitted from a laptop, tablet, or cell phone against the abdomen or lap?

Research findings over the last twenty years have often been ambiguous, although indicating that there is a risk (Davis, 2010). It is unlikely that the telecommunication industry will support research into possible dangers since it would put them at financial risk. Instead, the telecommunication industry lobbies to oppose laws that would require right to know labeling of cell phones with disclosure of possible risks or antenna output power.  A more neutral perspective is reported by the International Agency for Research into Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization World Health Organization (WHO). As of 2011, the WHO has classified mobile phones (and any wireless device that uses microwaves to communicate) as a group2b risk, which means that they are “possibly carcinogenic to humans” and there is “limited evidence” that something causes cancer in people, and even the evidence from animal studies is “less than sufficient”.

Research studies report that adults who have used mobile phones intensively for at least ten years experience an increase in brain cancer (glioma and acoustic neuroma), salivary gland cancer, and even rare eye cancers on the side of the head where the cell phone was predominantly held (Davis, 2010).  Some men diagnosed with testicular cancer had the cancer occur in the testicle that was closest to the pant pocket where they stashed their cell phone (Davis, 2013).

More recently, some women who have habitually stashed their cell phone in their bra have been diagnosed with a rare breast cancer located beneath the area of the breast where they stored their cell phone.  Watch the heart breaking TV interview with Tiffany. She was 21 years old when she developed breast cancer which was located right beneath the breast were she had kept her cell phone against her bare skin for the last 6 years.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FA4Mhc30Ug

While these rare cases could have occurred by chance, they could also be an early indicator of risk. Most research studies were based upon older adults who have tended to use their mobile phone much less than most young people today. The average age a person acquires a mobile phone is ten years old. Now infants and toddlers are entertained by smartphones and tablets–the new technological babysitter.  The possible risk may be much greater for a young people since their bodies and brains are still growing rapidly.  I wonder if the antenna radiation may be one of the many initiators or promoters of later onset cancers. And, most cancer take twenty or more years to develop.

Instead of waiting for twenty or thirty years to find out definitively whether the antenna radiation is, or is not, harmful, adapt the precautionary principle and reduce your and your children’s exposure. The simplest strategy is to keep the devices away from your body.  The further it is away the device is from the body the less power of the antenna signal reaches you as shown in figure 3.

Slide17 Figure 3. Decrease in amplitude of microwave emission as recorded from the skin as a function of distance (from: Lin, I.M. & Peper, E., 2009).

Why take the risk! Act now and reduce the exposure to the antenna radiation by implementing the following suggestions:

  • Keep your phone, tablet or laptop in your purse, backpack or attaché case. Do not keep it on or close to your body.
  • Use the speaker phone or plug in earphones with microphone while talking.  Do not hold it against the side of your head, close to your breast or on your lap.
  • Text while the phone is on a book or on a table away from your body.
  • Put the tablet and laptop on a table and away from the genitals.
  • Be old fashioned and use a cable to connect to your home router instead of relying on the WiFi connection.
  • Keep your calls short and enjoy the people in person.
  • Support legislation to label wireless devices with a legible statement of possible risk and the specific absorption rate (SAR) value. Generally, higher the SAR value, the higher the exposure to antenna radiation.
  • Support the work by the Environmental Health Trust.

For more background, read epidemiologist Devra Davis’ book, DisconnectThe truth about cell phone radiation, What the industry is doing to hide it, and How to protect your family.

*I thank James Johnston, PhD., for his constructive feedback.

References:

Davis, D. (2010).  Disconnect-The Truth about cell phone radiation, What the industry is doing to hide it, and how to protect your family..  New York: Plume.

Davis, D. (2013). Health Risks of Cell Phones & WiFi Devices.  Presentation at the Holistic Health Learning Center, San Francisco State University, April 17, 2013.

Lin, I.M. & Peper, E. (2009). Keep the cell phone away from your body to prevent electromagnetic interference artifacts and cancer. Biofeedback, 37(3), 114-116.

Waderich, K., Peper, E., Harvey, R., & Sara Sutter. (2013). The psychophysiology of contemporary information technologies-Tablets and smart phones can be a pain in the neck. Presented at the 44st Annual Meeting of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. Portland, OR.


47 Comments on “Keep mobile phones, tablets or laptops away from your body: Wireless devices may cause harm”

  1. Thank you for a nicely balanced and sensibly precautionary article!

  2. Liz says:

    what about computers and large TV screens

    • erikpeper says:

      Regarding your comments, computers and TV screens would not apply unless they are connected to microwave towers and communicate back and forth. In addition, we usually do not hold TV screens within inches of our bodies.
      It would mainly be laptops computers some of which are wireless and use the cell phone towers for communication, then do not hold them on your lap.
      Erik

      • Bob Bichen says:

        A transmitter doesn’t need to be connected to be radiating. In fact, if it isn’t connected, it may be transmitting more frequently or at a higher power than if it is in an attempt to connect. Be sure to disable unused wifi transmitters in TVs, Blu-Ray players, laptops etc.

  3. Jan says:

    hi Erik..Where is your control group for the sleep statistics? eg no use before sleep
    Jan

    • erikpeper says:

      Hi,
      Great question and we have no control group. It is only descriptive statistics of students. From a health perspective, the length of nighttime sleeping is short. They probably should be sleeping eight hours or so as almost all wish that they could sleep longer. They have to wake up to go to school and work, etc. Their sleep length is an indicator of chronic stress and a significant risk factor for illness. Recent research has shown that ADHD is significantly correlated with sleep apnea and shorter sleep as children.

    • Andre says:

      There is no control group any more because everybody is exposed to low level microwave radiation everywhere. The industry has gotten a blank check from the government to radiate all of us without proof of long term safety.

  4. Parents says:

    Thank you very much for your analysis. Please also see this regarding the safety warning in iPad’s user manual which most users have hardly seen:
    http://www.safeinschool.org/2013/04/ipad-user-manuals-safety-warning-and.html

    Here are some videos showing the pattern and intensity of iPad, cellphone and laptop signals:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/SafeinSchool/videos
    http://www.safeinschool.org/2012/01/ipad-iphone-wi-fi-radiation-and.html

    Thanks again!

  5. sale says:

    I strongly believe that radiation is causing cancer. My sister holds the laptop on her stomach all the time and she got stomach cancer, my aunty has the cell phone in her ear all the time and she got a tumor in the brain. A friend got genital cancer from placing the phone on his lap all the time and I stopped using the phone so close to my ear because I was getting massive headaches on the side of where I always talk on my cell phone.

  6. […] The handheld devices expose the brain and dividing cells to electromagnetic radiation which can harm… This is the radiation by which hand held devices communicates with connect cell phone towers or the server as it connects to the web. […]

  7. zendesk.com says:

    Everything is very open with a precise clarification of the challenges.
    It was truly informative. Your website is very helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Google says:

    I love what you guys tend to be up too. This kind of clever work and reporting!
    Keep up the great works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to my own blogroll.

  9. Mark says:

    You recommended not relying on wifi for computer and using wire instead. Is it certain that if I connect the computer to the router by wire, that the computer will stop using the wife and stop radiating?

  10. Lainataan.fi says:

    Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though
    you relied on the video to make your point. You clearly know what youre talking about,
    why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your
    site when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?

  11. dratman says:

    I see no reason to believe there is significant risk from cell tower communication or wifi, without scientific evidence to back up the concern.

    Maybe bananas are bad for people. Oak trees might cause cancer. Hot summers with high humidity may be shortening your life… and so forth. Any one of these other ideas and fears can be advanced in conversation or in writing, possibly in a quite convincing manner. But that won’t lead me to believe it.

    Bear in mind, I could be wrong. I take a risk by not believing my cell phone will give me brain cancer. But in my opinion, without evidence, I would be taking a greater risk by believing the cell phone was doing it to me, when the preponderance of evidence says a cell phone is not dangerous to human tissue.

    • erikpeper says:

      the risk of cell phones is very, very low; however, adopting the precautionary principle suggests that there is a very slight risk. Thus, keep the phone away from your body and use a headset.

  12. winston says:

    I started using cellphone at the age of 17. I used to talk a lot, about two to three hours a day. After a year of usage I developed mild headaches which were all through the day. And sometimes they were sever, so I avoided the extensive usage. After somedays everything was fine and unknowingly I started using the cellphone extensively. Then though I discounted I always have headaches after attending just a single call. And I can’t avoid the attending some calls everyday. It’s 7years of usage now and am worried of these tumors. I Haddon a CT scan couple of years back, but no evidence of tumors. But I want to be safe. If I discontinue the usage, am I safe? Or the tumor may develop Bec of the previous 7years of usage, though I stop now?
    And using headphones is not same as they channel the radiations directly to the brain, the effect is increased three fold..
    Thank you for the above information, and plz reply to my query

    • erikpeper says:

      To reduce the risk keep the phone away from direct contact with the body and use headphone and mic which will reduce the electromagnetic radiation produced by the the antenna of the cellphone very significantly. If you continue to have headaches, obviously have yourself checked by your physician. It is also possible that the headaches occur because of muscle tension around the neck and cervical area as well as squinting to read the phone or talk and listen.
      If you are worried about cancer, there are many health practices you can do to enhance your immune function. Implement some of the suggestions in our book, Fighting Cancer, by Robert Gorter and Erik Peper.

  13. juliet says:

    hello,I am very worried as when I was pregnant(twice) and very ill I spent hours with laptop next to me or near my belly and each time after they were born,while feeding,I would lie on bed with them with laptop right behind them,often behind their heads….give me some advice on that and the radiation.If it says it is non ionizing then what is it that makes is dangerous.thank you

  14. juliet says:

    I want to add that I spent hours with laptop and child on my hands so very close to the laptop.It has been 2 months now… :/

    • erikpeper says:

      Although there is a risk it is very small. I would recommend that your children do not use the devices next to their heads; instead, have them go outside and play. There are so many factors that effect brain development and cancer, thus focus on those over which you have control such as a regular life style, eating predominantly organic foods, regular fun exercise and lots of laughter and love.

  15. juliet says:

    May I ask you one more question,please?For how long, would childs head have to be next to the laptop or mobile phone to get to much of radiation that could be harmful? I read that little babies and children are way to sensitive to this.As I wrote my newborn spent a lot of time with laptop behind her head and my 8 year old with a phone…I cant take them outside as I live in a place where the weather is just too bad to go out and we are forced to stay in ,which I hate.Please,be honest with me as I would like to know if I put my kids ,especially the new baby in a great risk(read about leukemia and other bad stuff and Im even more worried now)thank you

    • erikpeper says:

      It is a statistical risk, however, almost all babies will be okay. Namely for 99% of the babies there will be no harm. Thus focus on loving them, giving them a regular life which means going to bed on time, sleeping long enough, and avoiding the devices as they are little. Read to them a lot and also for yourself, practice stress management techniques. For a summary of things you can do to mobilize your immune system, see our book, Fighting Cancer: A non toxic approach to treatment, by Robert Gorter and Erik Peper. See part 3 of the book.

  16. juliet says:

    Thank you for your reply.Where can I find the book? Im worried you wrote this stuff not to worry me…

  17. waves in the mobile phone and the laptop is indeed dangerous. and I just know it can cause cancer. thanks for the article

  18. juliet says:

    hello again,Thank you for the lovely reply.I understand what you wrote about only some being affected but I just cant stop worrying! please,explain some more to me.I read that more than 2mG is harmful and by my childs head being no more that 4 inches of it so often she would be getting anything between 4 to 20 mG.I am so scared! We bought our laptop on the beg.of 2012 but it got broken as we were lifting it up by the screen,my husband fixed it but could there be more leakage then?Would you be able to tell me how much radiation she got from the hours a day with head inches away from it? could it have consequences?her head was not next to it all the time but when I think about it it was too much,way too much! I feel so guilty! I know it is not a forum for private stuff but need someone who will tell me if I should be keeping an eye on my 2 months old baby as I exposed her to it so early in life.What about x rays and the 20 mG how does it compare?I know children are way more sensitive to radiation so when and how much of laptop radiation would cause harm?Please,tell me more,I really want to know if I could have harmed her 😦

  19. juliet says:

    I read this..2.5 μW/cm2 – Damage to blood-brain barrier. Salford et al., (1997) what does it mean?please,please,please,tell me,with what I have wrote you,do you think there may be a damage? I really don’t want to bother you but I feel so lonely with this,its driving me mad!

  20. juliet says:

    please,don’t ignore me,I’m loosing my mind! I read that after some years kids get blood cancer or other nasty stuff…and I exposed my child head,please,imagine what I feel.Would you know how long it takes before the brain or blood and cells get damaged?

    • erikpeper says:

      The reality is that everything is harmful and helpful. The most important part is not what you did nor not did. The past is the past. The odds that something could happening is unbelievably small.Think of it this way.. You compare 100,000 people who use cell phones intensively versus 100,000 who do not use cell phones. What you may see is doubling of the risk of brain cancer. This sounds horrible; however, it may mean that in the group that uses cell phones two people develop brain cancer while in the group that does not use cell phones one person develops brain cancer. On the other hand it means that 99,998 people who use cell phones do not develop brain cancer; while 99,999 people who do not use cell phones do not develop brain cancer.
      I strongly recommend you let go of the worry and focus on mastering stress management and provide a healthy diet since an unhealthy diet or lock of exercise is much great risk.

      • Juliet says:

        Thank you,Jesus bless you xxx

      • Juliet says:

        Can you tell me what is the minimum distance for the laptop and the phone to be kept from the skin/body if possible? Is 2-3inches for laptop the minimum to reduce the worst radiation.what about the phone and do the fabrics get radiated as well as put them on pillows and blankets.please,let no know the minimum distance so I can be aware of it.thank you

  21. Ranjithkumar says:

    I am android phone with whatsapp, face book, gmail etc. When I am using these apps and feeling some little headache or irritation. After leaving my phone and am going walking and bike riding without phone there is no headache and I feel normal and better.

    Which type of speaking is better while using phone either directly or any head phone.

    Give some valuable advice. Its useful for all youngsters.

    • erikpeper says:

      when speaking either use a headset or speaker phone. It is also possible that the headache is the result of trying to look at the small font on the cell phone. You may need reading glasses. Often the glare makes reading difficult. Finally the ergonomics of looking down can also contribute to headaches. continually interrupt looking at the cell phone screen by sitting/standing erect and looking at the far distance while relaxing the shoulders.

  22. Keeping the mobile switched off inside the pantese cause any problem. I want suggestion please reply in mail

  23. Harika says:

    Hi..
    I am a user of tablets as i had to work with them connecting WiFi, 8 hours in a day. That’s my job actually. I am 16 weeks pregnant now. I am very much worried whether usage of tablets with WiFi will effect my yet to born baby. Please leave me suggestions. Thanks in advance:)

    • erikpeper says:

      Congratulations on being pregnant. The main recommendation is to keep the tablet or cell phone at least a foot or more (two feet preferred) from your belly. This will radically reduce any harm.
      For general health for you and the developing baby:
      1) do not take Tylenol
      2) Take Omega 3 (such as fish oil) supplements

  24. Monica says:

    Does keeping Nokia basic mobile phones (not smartphone)switched off inside the panty cause any problems. Plz reply soon.

    • erikpeper says:

      Once a phone is switched off or switched to airplane mode, it no longer communicates to the cell tower and does not radiate any microwaves.
      It is totally safe.

  25. […] I strongly recommend that you adaptthe precautionary principle and assume that cellphones could be harmful. Thus, keep them away from your body. Put them in your purse, attaché case, or backpack and use speaker phone or blue tooth earphones and microphone to talk or put it on airplane mode when not in use to reduce your long term exposure to RFR. For more recommendation see: https://peperperspective.com/2013/04/27/keep-mobile-phones-tablets-or-laptops-away-from-your-body-wi… […]

  26. […] and Wi-Fi (e.g., routers, smartphones, tablets and any device that uses wireless connections) will probably cause harm. From an evolutionary perspective, this is the first time in human history that we are […]

  27. Kiara says:

    I thank you for taking the time to create this article. I am aware of radiation of many electronics, but I am curious though if a individual decides to use their “smart” phone at night, could blankets or a cover reduce the percentage of radiation toward the body?

  28. […] Keep mobile phones, tablets or laptops away from your body: Wireless devices may cause harm […]

  29. […] Keep mobile phones, tablets or laptops away from your body: Wireless devices may cause harm […]

  30. […] More on keeping your laptop and cell phones away from your body in this article […]


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