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Cell Phones Pose Health Risks, Says Devra Davis at UCSF Seminar

By Jeffrey Norris, UCSF Science Cafe | October 25, 2010

Heavy cell-phone use over many years may threaten one's health, according to well-known environmental activist, cancer epidemiologist, and author Devra Davis, MPH, PhD, who spoke recently at a seminar on the UCSF Parnassus campus.

Pressing a cell phone against the ear, day-after-day, year-after-year, and exposing oneself to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation at close range is not good for what's inside the head, Davis said, pointing to what she described as well-conducted, independent epidemiological studies of heavy cell phone use, and to animal experiments.

Cell phone use can increase risk for malignant brain cancer and other tumors, including acoustic neuromas and cancers of the salivary and parotid glands, according to Davis. She noted other studies that suggest cell phone use may be linked to memory loss, insomnia and inflammation, and to infertility in men. Cell phones alter brain waves in an electroencephalogram (EEG), a test that measures and records the electrical activity of the brain, Davis said.

A great percentage of the exposure to electromagnetic radiation could be eliminated by keeping the cell phone away from the body. Exposure falls exponentially with distance. Davis, who still uses her cell phone, advised using a headset and not carrying the cell phone in clothing pockets.

Davis, who earlier directed the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, where she was a professor of epidemiology in the Graduate School of Public Health, left the university in 2007 to found the Environmental Health Trust in Teton County, Wyoming.

Davis' Cell Phone Views Are Controversial
Davis' visit to UCSF on Oct. 8 coincided with the publication of her new book on cell phone risks, called "Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family." Davis was a National Book Award finalist for an earlier book, "When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution."

As that earlier book title suggests, Davis is no stranger to challenging what she believes are major corporations' manipulations of health-risk research and their interpretations of risk studies pertaining to their own products.

However, Davis' views on cell phone dangers are controversial. She acknowledged that most research has not found evidence for dangers due to cell phone use. But Davis argues that most of the research has been industry funded and biased, and that most of the studies have not tracked the kind of heavy, long-term cell phone use that is so common today.

Read more at Jeffrey Norris, UCSF Science Cafe