September 5, 2009. Below
is a document on cell phones, antennas, and radiation. The original
material on this page was written in 2004 with edits throughout
the past five years. However, immediately following this introduction
is the recent information collected during August, 2009, concerning
studies of cell phone radiation. We think it is urgent to present
this information and wish that mainstream media had picked-up
the leads we discuss.
Note: Base stations - that is antennas - are not the problem:
handsets, the phones we hold in our hands, are. The closer we
are to a base station or antenna, the less power our phones
need and the safer they are. The information below suggests
that there are substantial gaps in our understanding of radio
frequency radiation (RF radiation) and that precautions are
necessary. Most alarming is that this information applies to
cordless phones (those we use in our homes to connect to our
land lines) as well as cellular. Please take appropriate precautions.
The technology properly used is both useful and safe.
Cell phones, Cordless Phones and Cancer
- Real Warnings!
For the last 15 years, I have been following research on the
effects of non-ionizing radiation produced by cell phones Our
entire family and most of our staff and guests use them. Knowing
their hazards makes using them a bit geeky and definitely less
convenient, but, importantly, somewhat safer. In any case -
let's start with the recommendations from a stellar panel of
scientists from the planet's premier universities.
First, this information is from a study released in August, Cell
phones and Brain Tumors 15 Reasons for Concern - Science, Spin
and the Truth Behind Interphone. The authors advocate the
adopting the "precautionary principle"
The precautionary principle applies where scientific evidence
is insufficient, inconclusive or uncertain and preliminary
scientific evaluation indicates that there are reasonable
grounds for concern that the potentially dangerous effects
on the environment, human, animal or plant health may be
inconsistent with the high level of protection chosen. (European
Commission Communication on the Precautionary Principle
- 2nd February 2000: In Cell phones and Brain Tumors...)
Finding that published information regarding microwave radiation
to be insufficient, uncertain, manipulated and even biased and
that a variety of peer reviewed studies demonstrate correlations
between the use of cell phones and cancer, the study recommends
taking personal responsibility and lists actions you can take.
Below is a modified version of their list:
Use a wired headset, speaker option, or text. (Bluetooth
uses microwaves to communicate with the earpiece.)
Keep the cell phone away from your body. Use a holster;
keep on the outside of a purse, messenger bag, backpack,
Avoid use in a car, train, bus, or plane. Vehicles are
metal and microwaves are reflected by metal ricocheting
until they dissipate their energy.
Avoid use in rural areas moving vehicles or wherever there
are less than full bars. The greater the distance from antennas,
the greater power the cell phone will generate. Distance
equals "more power.”
Use cell phones as answering machines. Leave off until
you can use it to check calls.
Use a corded land line whenever possible to return calls.
Avoid cordless phones. Recent studies indicate that they
also increase the risk of cancer.
Avoid use inside buildings, particularly with steel structures
Do not allow children to sleep with the phone - under
their pillow or on their bedside table
Do not allow your children under 18 to use cell phones
except in an emergency
Here are the 15 reasons for concern summarized:
Industry's own research showed cell phones caused brain
Subsequent industry-funded research also showed that using
a cell phone elevated the risk of brain tumors
Interphone studies, published to date, consistently show
use of a cell phone for less than 10 years protects the
user from a brain tumor
Despite the systemic-protective-skewing of all results
in Interphone studies, significant risk for brain tumors
from cell phone use was still found
Studies independent of industry funding show what would
be expected if wireless phones cause brain tumors
The danger of brain tumors from cell phone use is highest
in children, and the younger a child is when he/she starts
using a cell phone, the higher the risk
There have been numerous governmental warnings about children's
use of cell phones
Exposure limits for cell phones are based only on the
danger from heating
An overwhelming majority of the European Parliament has
voted for a set of changes based on "health concerns
associated with electromagnetic fields"
Cell phone radiation damages DNA, an undisputed cause
Cell phone radiation has been shown to cause the blood-brain
barrier to leak
Cell phone user manuals warn customers to keep the cell
phone away from the body even when the cell phone is not
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) warning for cordless
For Digitally Enhanced Cordless Technology, the FCC warns,
"This equipment should be installed an operated with
a minimum distance of 20 centimeters (almost 8 inches) between
the radiator and your body." The radiation from these
phones is based on GSM cell phone technology.
Male fertility is damaged by cell phone radiation
One of the studies cited by the authors is particularly striking
in its indictment of not only cell phones but also cordless
phones. Pooled analysis of two case-control studies on use
of cellular and cordless telephones and the risk for malignant
brain tumors diagnosed in 1997-2003 reports odds ratios
with a confidence level of .95 of 3.7 for digital cellular phones
and 2.3 for ordinary cordless phones for malignant brain tumors
when used for more than 2,000 hours. Worse, odds ratios are
higher for younger users. (Odds ratio is a measurement between
two groups - those who have used the devices versus those who
haven't.) To summarize their findings: Cumulative use of cellular
and cordless handsets, particularly on one side of one's head,
is correlated with increased risk of malignant tumors including
This study alone is alarming. And it is only one of many cited
by the authors of Cell phones and Brain Tumors...
The bad news just keeps coming: A few years ago when I looked-up
information concerning the nature of microwaves' effect on the
brain - the only effect was understood to be as a point source
of heat. This newest report points out that there are unknown
effects other than heating: "...why does medicine use these
fields for healing bone fractures that did not previously heal
with a cast, and the military use them to discourage the enemy?"
(Cell phones and Brain Tumors...)
Cell phone manufacturers are providing more substantive warnings
than even five years ago. For example, BlackBerry specifies
that users carry the phone in an approved holster or keep the
phone approximately 25mm or nearly an inch from the body. The
company warns that the popular Curve should not even be carried
on the body if not in an approved holster that must have a belt
solutions, including RIM approved carrying solutions and carrying
solutions not approved by RIM, that do not come equipped with
an integrated belt clip SHOULD NOT be worn or carried on the
body. For more information regarding the wearing or carrying
of this BlackBerry device without using a RIM approved carrying
solution equipped with an integrated belt clip, see the Holster
information in the Additional safety guidelines section of
For what it is worth, he iPhone is 10mm better!
optimal mobile device performance and to be sure that human
exposure to RF energy does not exceed the FCC and European
Union guidelines, always follow these instructions and precautions:
When on a call using the built-in audio receiver in iPhone,
hold iPhone with the 30-pin connector pointed down toward
your shoulder to increase separation from the antenna. For
body-worn operation, keep iPhone at least 15 mm (5/8 inch)
away from the body, and only use carrying cases, belt clips,
or holders that do not have metal parts and that maintain
at least 15 mm (5/8 inch) separation between iPhone and the
body. When using the EDGE data transmission feature of iPhone
(see the iPhone User's Guide for more information), position
iPhone's antenna at least 15 mm (5/8 inch) from the body.
Note: Radiation density, to which the "specific absorption
rate" (SAR) ultimately refers, decreases at a rate equal
to the square of the distance. SAR ratings are calculated based
on the position of the phone. (This
is a link to an on-line explanation). The telephone antenna
is assumed to be as close as possible. In one set of tests,
the antenna, due to the phone configuration, is 5 mm from the
surface of the head and generates maximum allowable SAR of 1.6
watts per kilogram. If the phone's antenna is moved just 60cm
or 2 feet away in speaker mode, the radiation is reduced by
a factor 14,400! (60cm/5mm squared) - approximately 1/10,000
watt. It is clear that distance is the key to safe use of cell
and cordless phones.
There's more information. But more is not necessary. Just be
careful. Use the precautionary principle- be sure to use wired
headsets. Don't carry your phone in a pocket and particularly
near organs. If you need to use your phone in a vehicle - stop,
open the windows. Similarly, use your cell phone outdoors as
much as possible or by an open window. A local RF engineer told
me when that dual pane glass reflects RF signals, which will
cause the phone to power-up. (Interference AND distance = more
power!) The cell phone is a wonderful product and a BlackBerry,
iPhone and other smart phones are computers usually smaller
than a cigarette package - and perhaps far more dangerous. Take
and Base Stations, Health and Emergencies
In December, 2004, Edge Wireless switched on a GSM antenna
located about 40 feet above sea level below a house across Mendocino
Bay from the town. Service is now available in Mendocino. Customers
of Edge, Cingular, and companies using similar technologies
having roaming agreements with Edge Wireless can now use their
phones in an area of less than a square mile. Marginal GSM service
is also available at The Stanford Inn. Additionally, in December,
2006, a CDMA antenna began service at the Stanford Inn providing
Verizon-type signals for the Inn and the town.
The benefits of cellular phones are well known - accidents
and medical emergencies can be reported when traveling without
having to find a land-line phone; children can call their parents
and report where they are or ask for a ride; and families and
businesses can reach traveling parents or principals. There
are some people who feel that these benefits do not out way
the hazards of the technology. It is these people who have worked
to keep cellular service out of Mendocino. They have not been
Mendocino Cellular Signals
Edge Wireless' GSM signal and the CDMA signal from the Inn
provide connection for Edge-Cingular, Verizon, Sprint and US
Cellular. Taken together, these companies provide the the full
range of signals used in the United States with the exception
of those by Nextel. These signals are CDMA - a technology by
Qualcom - and used by Verizon, Sprint and US Cellular, and TDMA-GSM
used by Edge, ATT, Cingular, T-Mobile. GSM is the current European
standard and CDMA is prevalent in Africa and China. TDMA is
a technology which overtime will not be supported.
Although Mendocino is a rural area and preeminent destination
for North Coast travelers, Mendocino remains primarily cellular
free through the activism of a tiny group.
Health Effects and Emotional Arguments
A very small group of ardent anti-cell activists are persuaded
that cellular technology is dangerous. They fervently believe
that "radiation smog" is damaging them and is the source of
a multitude of illnesses. A small group of local citizens are
sympathetic and are moved by the anti-cell folks' emotional
arguments. One of the activists recently wrote the Mendocino
Beacon from his car 'somewhere in New Mexico' in an attempt
to find an area free of radiation. There is little validated
science supporting the claims of the anti-cell activists especially
with regard to cellular base stations. Nevertheless, many of
their local supporters find science to be unemotional and uninteresting
as well as difficult to read and understand.
A Little Science
Cell phones operate within a range of frequencies called microwaves,
300 thousand cycles per second (hertz) and higher. Unlike X-rays,
the microwaves are non-ionizing. In 2000, responding to a review
of scientific studies of the biological effects of non-ionizing
microwave radiation, Britain’s National Radiological Protection
Board in concert with their Health Protection Agency called
for another review of studies "on the biological effects of
non-ionising radiation relevant to human health and to advise
on research priorities.”
On January 14th, 2004, the Associated Press reported the results
of the study: The British government determined that "cell phones
pose no cancer risk," but, "long-term research [is] still needed."
The report Health
Effects from Radio frequency Electromagnetic Waves (this is
a link which you may click on) evaluated peer
reviewed, scientific studies. Generally, the report absolved
antenna sites, or base stations, as health hazards, but suggested
handset use might be problematic.
More recently a Danish study released in December 2006 suggests
that cell phone use does not cause cancer. Surveying data on
420,095 Danes who have been using cell phones for 7-20 years,
researchers found 14,249 incidents of cancers, a lower incidence
than would be expected in the population. However, the disparity
could be caused by the fact that early adopters of a technology
tend to be among the intelligentsia of a society and a recent
British study demonstrates that individuals choosing to become
vegan tend to have higher IQs. vegans tend to have
less disease, including cancer and especially chronic disease.
The Danish study has not eliminated other lifestyle variations
1. A Problem with Older Technology
With regard to handset use, Reuters, on October 15th, 2004
reported that a Finish study demonstrated that "ten or more
years of mobile phone use increases the risk of developing acoustic
neuroma, a benign tumor on the auditory nerve." However, Rueters
notes that the study was done after a period when powerful analog
phones had been in use for more than a decade. The institute,
a medical university and research center which awards the Nobel
Prize in medicine, reported that their research could not determine
if newer GSM digital technology would produce similar tumors.
GSM is the technology use by Cingular, T-Mobile and other companies.
The Finish study found that the risk of acoustic neuroma was
almost twice for cellular customers who started using cell phones
at least ten years prior to diagnosis.
The primary effect of cellular radiation is thermal. Microwaves
are absorbed by water molecules, essentially heating them as
in a microwave oven. The heat spreads into the tissues and can
lead to a breakdown of the blood-brain barrier. Of course, one
may easily avoid the thermal effect by using an earphone and
by staying out of the sun and avoiding a heat stroke when on
a long call.
2. Indeterminate Results - Power is not all there is.
Digital signals, although generally weaker, may not be safer
than analog signals. Louis Slesin, editor of Microwave News notes that research demonstrates that digital pulsed signals
are more "biologically active" and may react in the
body more strongly.
One of the reports we reviewed in our continuing exploration
of potential health effects of cellular technology was Henry Lai and Narendra Singh's studies of the effects
of "safe" microwave radiation on rats' brains, reviewed in the
University of Washington Alumni Magazine. Lai and Singh found that two hours' exposure to FCC
"safe" levels of microwave radiation caused the destruction
of DNA in rats' brain cells. They compared rats exposed to a
low dose of microwave radiation for two hours to a control group
of rats that spent the same amount of time in the exposure device,
but didn't receive any radiation. The exposed rats showed 30
percent increase in breaks in DNA compared to the control group.
It is not clear if the damaged DNA would lead to any other than
cell death or cell repair. Other experiments did not find an
exact correlation between duration, power and damage. In fact,
this indeterminacy is common in biological systems: "It
happens with chemicals. One dose can do one thing, while a higher
or lower dose does the opposite," according to Jerry Phillips
who reviewed the studies for Motorola and suggests that research
be undertaken into repair methods.
3. Warnings from a Technical Writer - The Handset
Molly Wood, senior editor of CNET.com compares the cell phone industry to big tobacco
in The Buzz Report - The Cell Phone Industry: Big Tobacco 2.0?.
She notes that recent studies suggest that the cell phones
can be harmful to users, citing some of the work we studied
while exploring the safety of cell phone technology, for example,
Lai and Singh's studies of rats' brains. Wood lists additional
"bad news" for the cellular industry.
Research must be funded and encouraged, however, as Wood points
out, cell manufacturers are attempting to discredit research
such as Lai and Singh's and uses economic muscle to discourage
research in universities. These and other studies suggest that
cell phones might be harmful - "even cancer causing."This is
one of the first high profile articles written about the safety
of the industry. Molly Wood's article in a major on-line technology
journal is a harpoon, unfortunately, this harpoon is more like
a neutron passing through the earth than even a mosquito bite.
Cell phone users are unfazed, if even aware of the potential
4. Handsets: Cellular and Home Remote Phones
In addition, a comparative analysis of cell and other wireless
technologies such as walkie talkies and remote phones used in
the home, reports that the standard 2.4 gHz remote telephone
used in the home operates at 20% of the FCC's maximum public
exposure - MPE. The average Motorola cell phone operates at
The research we undertook such as that noted above suggests
that cell phones and remote handsets for home phones should
be used with caution. British health officials urge children
8 or younger not use them. For adults, whenever possible, headsets,wired
preferably, or the phone's speakerphone should be used during
5. Manners, Health and a Warning from a Cellular Manufacturer
LG Cellular Phones writes in its User Guides that
base stations operate at higher wattage than handsets, but are
so designed that "the RF exposures that people get from
these base stations are typically thousands of times lower than
those they can get from wireless phones." LG then goes
on to suggest the use of a headset.
The anti-cellular people are fighting base stations, but for
many the real issue is manners: they are upset by ringing phones
in restaurants, movie theatres and other public places. Many
users, hearing static on their phones, yell into to phone and
disturb others. And an often heard silly complaint comes from
those who eavesdrop - they don't like the inane conversations
The fight against base stations whether for unsupported health
concerns or because of manners has diverted attention, at least
in the coastal area of Mendocino County, from the need to properly
use cellular handsets where they can be used. The antennas within
or on the phones require that the phone be held at a correct
angle, that the phone not be held by the antenna and that it
never be used if the antenna is damaged. Proper use is critical
to maintain the antenna's distance from the brain. For longer
calls, headsets or speakerphone options should be used. And
as stated above, children should not be allowed to use the phones
at least until more definitive research is completed, assuming
that it has even begun.
These issues regard handsets. This article has to do with base
stations, or the lack of them along the Mendocino Coast.
Base Stations in Mendocino: Manipulation of the Planning
The lack of cell service is in part due to the difficult route
taken to get approval for cell sites in Mendocino County. Almost
all cell sites require separate use permits. After a site is
found and an agreement reached with the owner for the siting
of antennas, a plan is created, engineered and submitted to
the County's planning department with a request for a use permit.
The use permit is subject to a public hearing before the Planning Commission at which time a variety
of issues can be addressed by the public and the Commission.
Co-location of antennas - the confusion between a tower
and an antenna
Co-location is a huge issue. The Mendocino County planning
commission issued guidelines for the placement of antennas.
One such guideline is that where there is one tower, there should
be several antennas mounted, in effect directing that there
be less sites, with each site carrying the signals of all the
providers in the area. Towers are not particularly an option
in the Coastal Zone. Special rules exist to protect the scenic
beauty. These rules have caused cellular companies to develop
stealth sites hiding the antennas in water towers, chimneys
or other building sofits, man-made trees, etc. The stealth site
immediately eliminates the basis of ganging antennas on towers
- that is, protection of scenic values by limiting towers.
Planning meetings are often consumed by issues such as co-location.
In 1996, the Federal Government passed the Telecommunications
Act that authorized the Federal Communications Commission to
be the primary agency responsible for determining safe levels
of electromagnetic radiation. Those who believe that "radiation
smog" is dangerous have had to find other grounds on which to
fight the installation of cellular antennas. One of these is
How it has worked is that a stealth site is found, a permit
applied for and a condition of the permit is that the site owners
allow the siting of other cell services. Most of the sites are
small and can only serve a single company and because only one
company can be served, opponents claim that the owners are in
breach of the use permit.
What We Are Doing
We entered into an agreement to lease chimney space to a cellular
company on the condition they provide a public relations effort
to proactively inform the public regarding the efficacy, safety
as well as proper use of the technology.
Principals at the company did not believe that such an effort
was necessary and we were exposed to protests and other assorted
In the meantime, we fully understand the need for cellular
phones. In fact we can only leave the inn because the staff
can reach us in case of emergencies through this technology
and we have all three major services, CDMA, TDMA and GSM. The
only system we are not signed up with is Nextel which is not
in many rural areas.
If guests have a cellular phone which is neither Edge or Cincular,
we suggest they try driving out onto the ridges. To accommodate
communications at the inn we have voice mail and offer free
local calls and long distance calls throughout the United States
cost only $0.30 a minute, about the same as within a cellular
Cellular Technology and Our Vision of an Organic Lifestyle
Cellular technology is not antithetical to organic farming.
We embraced natural lifestyles, low impact recreation, organics
many years ago, in fact long before terms such as "green hotels,"
"eco-tourism" were in the popular lexicon. When we embraced
cellular technology, we stunned local activists who understand
the difficulties they have encountered in their lives as the
result of modern lifestyles, in particular cellular radiation.
We chose to partner with a cellular telephone company understanding
that we would help to bring an important technology to Mendocino.
We intended to supply our staff with cell phones rather than
walkie talkies which, by the way, peaked radiation meters when
activated while cell phones were hardly measurable. With ten
acres, nine major structures, and very few phone lines, we embraced
cell phones as a better way to communicate.
Opponents of the technology wrote and called us telling us
to "stick with organic farming; something you know about!" We
also know about cell phones and in our intended use of the technology
we planned to supply headsets and a rule sheet regarding the
proper technical and cultural uses of the phones.
We use a backhoe to turn our compost, which is used throughout
the property for fertilizer, and diesel powered trucks fueled
with biodiesel made with deep fat frying oil, rather than spend
hundreds of grueling man hours in the compost piles and horses
and carriages for transportation. In other words, we have chosen
modern methods but have mitigated some of their harmful effects.
Cell phones have a similar place on an organic farm.