Cell Phone Radiation, Cigarettes, and other Household Toxins with Harmful Effects

Last Updated on October 3, 2023

Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) in the home

The explosive growth in use of mobile devices like cell phones over the last two decades has been astounding, and continues to increase at an unprecedented rate.

As a society, we started to feel comfortable with electronics because they are so common now and we see everyone around us using them, daily, so it must be safe, right? But, we had that same mindset about smoking and fast food, and now those two habits are the leading causes for most chronic diseases!

Like many other toxic products we know to stay away from now, the long-term effects of cell phone radiation can take years to appear and sometimes decades to be understood.

We must take care to remember that we still know little about the long-term effects of Electromagnetic Radiation (EMF) radiation from cell phones.

Lead was used in paint until we found it made people sick and caused cancer. How long did it take for us to realize x-rays can kill? Pioneer radioactivity researcher Madam Curie herself died of long-term exposure to radiation because the dangers were not yet known.

Many other unhealthy toxins were used extensively for years, and were quite commonplace before research showed adverse health effects.

Historical Toxins Considered to be “Healthy” or “Safe”

  • Mercury – Mercury was once used to make felt hats from animal fur in the mid-1800s. Ever wondered where the phrase “Mad as a Hatter” came from? The chemical was found to be very dangerous and deadly, and when inhaled as a vapor led to muscle tremors, delirium, shyness and dementia.
  • Radioactive elements – just 100 years ago, people thought radiation was good for you! People infused pendants, blankets, and even drinking water with radium, uranium, and other radioactive elements to heal the body, from arthritis to rheumatism.
  • Heroin Cough Syrup – This “healing” cough syrup was developed by Bayer Laboratories in 1898, but discontinued by 1910 when research found out how highly addictive Heroin was. Other addictive drugs like  have also been used extensively for health purposes throughout history, before their brain-altering characteristics had been proven.
  • Fen-Phen – Fen-phen used to be a popular dietary supplement until findings showed it can cause fatal heart problems and it was pulled by the FDA.
  • Thalidomide – Thalidomide was a popular treatment for morning sickness until thousands of babies were born with horrific birth defects and it was banned for pregnant women after the fact.
  • Trans Fats – Trans fats became popular in the 1980s as a partially hydrogenated oil that is made artificially by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils to make them more solid. This makes foods with trans Fats last a long time, and gives it an addictive taste. They are easy, inexpensive, and can be used over and over again in commercial fryers. Margarine used to contain a lot of trans fats, as a replacement for real butter, which has a high saturated fat content (used to be thought of as unhealthy). However, very little was known about how trans fat can harm your health until the 1990s, when research found that trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels, increasing risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
  • Tobacco – In the 1400s, tobacco was actually used to treat infections, relieve headaches and colds, ward off disease and fatigue, and even as an anesthetic. It was called the “holy herb” or “God’s remedy”, which is why it was so popular as a crop in the New World. Tobacco toothpaste was even thought to help whiten teeth in India.
  • Cigarettes – Cigarettes were extremely popular until people studied it and found out they contain 69 carcinogens and over 4,000 chemicals. Doctors actually used to prescribe cigarettes to patients to keep them healthy and thin. It took decades for the public to become aware of their many adverse effects, and even longer for them to be regulated. The cigarette industry is finally in decline, but was huge just 10-20 years ago. It managed to keep the public ignorant of the toxic effects of smoking, thanks to exemplary public relations practices. 

Similarly, the extremely popular use of electronics comes with scientifically-researched adverse health effects, which include cancer, chronic disease, DNA damage and neurological disorders. But as an even bigger industry than cigarettes, cell phone and telecom companies have much more at stake if these effects become as widely known.

Similarities Between Cigarettes and Cell Phones

There are two industries who may be using similar public relations practices, which, it seems, may be masking public health risks.

The Tobacco Industry

Similarities Between Cigarettes and Cell Phones

In 2004, Robert N. Proctor gave the expert testimony Tobacco and Health report for “The United States of America v. Philip Morris” federal court case. In a time window he refers to as “time lag,” Proctor says that there is clear evidence that cancer and other health issues related to cigarette smoking might take 20, 30 or even 40 plus years to appear.

This explains why earlier in the twentieth century there wasn’t a massive increase diagnoses of lung cancer due to cigarette smoking until many, many years later. There were several decades of exposure to cigarette carcinogens during which doctors had little familiarity with the disease symptoms.

Tobacco companies were eventually found responsible for withholding knowledge of the grave health issues caused by cigarettes, but it took decades for any kind of public acknowledgement.

In fact, it was not until 1966 that the FDA required warning labels on cigarettes packs in the U.S. Even after the labels were added, tobacco companies continued to deny any risks.

In 1971 for instance, the British Research Council concluded that pregnant mothers who smoked gave birth to underweight babies and higher than average mortality rates.

Unbelievably, Joseph Cullman, Philip Morris’s chairman at that time, actually responded to the council on Face the Nation by declaring “we do not believe that cigarettes are hazardous” and admitting that women smoking during pregnancy have smaller babies, adding, “some women would prefer having smaller babies.”

When asked “What about the higher rate of death?” Cullman replied, “I’m not familiar with that.”

Over the past 70 years, these companies have argued that tobacco was not a source of cancer, while the scientific community was compiling significant evidence to the contrary.

There were vast amounts of money spent by the tobacco industry campaigning deception on a grand scale, while generating scientific research that was misleading and often times absolutely incorrect.

These companies widely advertised in all media outlets, such as TV, radio, magazines and newspapers using movie stars, sports figures and well know personalities espousing the smoking benefits and never mentioning the dangers.

The Mobile Industry

While the tobacco industry had its share of deception, so did the wireless industry which is covered in the 2001 book Cell Phones: Invisible Hazard in a Wireless Age written by noted epidemiologist Dr. George Carlo.

In his book, Carlo reviews his six years as chief scientist for the Wireless Trade Association (CTIA), where he was hired to oversee studies investigating the safety of cell phones and their possible relationship to brain tumors. What Carlo found, however, was not good news for the wireless industry.

Dr. Carlo discovered that 2.4 GHz microwave radiation (used with cell phones, WiFi, and other devices) appears to cause micronuclei in human blood samples. This was important because other studies during the same time period showed a strong correlation between micronuclei and cancer, with children at particularly high risk.

As far back as 1975, Dr. Allen Frey reported microwaves (mobile radiation) could cause leakage in the blood-brain barrier. Dr. Carlo’s new data confirmed Frey’s findings — there is strong evidence that cell phone radiation can cause cancer.

With Dr. Carlo’s findings in conflict with the interests of the CTIA, tension grew between him and Tom Wheeler, then president and chief lobbyist for the organization. In fact, Wheeler publicly discredited his findings and even went so far as to go on ABC’s 20/20 aggressively arguing that was no linkage between health risks and the use of wireless phones.

Carlo claims that Wheeler intentionally redirected funding originally set for the project and there was a lack of wireless public safety governess. “Despite evidence that the direct exposure to low-level microwave radiation might not be safe, the FDA exempted cell phones from pre-market testing in 1984, allowing them to be released to the public without any FDA oversight” says Carlo.

This means that any new wireless product released into the US is not obligated to substantiate product claims or demonstrate compliance to standards.

In recent years activists have pushed for the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to create stricter standards for mobile devices, but hope has faded. In May 13, 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Tom Wheeler to head the FCC. This is the same Wheeler who hired Dr. Carlo in 1993 and the same man that discredited research on the safety risks associated with use of cell phones.

EMF Radiation Warning Labels

Many products found on today’s market come with warning labels that advise of the health hazards linked with their use, but many do not. From microwaves to household chemicals, it should be the company’s legal responsibility to warn the public about their product’s potential health risks.

Most portable electronic devices do not carry EMF warning labels even though evidence of potential harms continues to grow. Like tobacco products in the past, it may take many years even after health impacts are completely understood and before warning labels appear on product packaging.

The reason you are not told EMF radiation may be harmful is because pervasive use of cell phones, tablets and laptops only occurred within the last two decades, and the dangers are still emerging. Companies may have already found, or will discover, the health risks associated with EMF radiation earlier than the general public, but it is unlikely that this knowledge will be freely shared.

Despite the World Health Organization (WHO) previously stating that cell phone radiation is possibly carcinogenic to humans, warning labels have not been required. Unless obligated, it is highly unlikely for manufacturers to place EMF radiation warning labels on the outside of packages any time soon.

The only place you might find any safety warnings is in the small print of package inserts. How many customers actually read the inserts though?

Most disheartening is that electronic device manufacturers, like tobacco companies, don’t necessarily need to worry about liability. The statistical nature of cancer and other health issues their products may cause leaves them with them nearly untouchable.

This is what enabled the tobacco industry to fight off lawsuits for so long, despite overwhelming evidence against them. And since we use numerous electronic devices throughout or lives (we change phones every two years for example), it is nearly impossible to pin down which device the health issue came from.

Cell Phone Radiation and Common Sense

Extensive research investigating the relation of cell phone radiation to cancer, chronic disease, DNA damage, cell mutation, anxiety and neurological disorders is still ongoing.

We might not see EMF warning labels on portable devices anytime soon, but it still makes sense to be cautious while using cell phones and other electronic devices close to the body.

What may have seemed harmless now, may be unacceptable twenty years from now. With the past serving as a reminder, proactive EMF safety measures should be implemented early to avoid problems in the future.

When using portable electronic devices, apply common sense and consider using some form of EMF radiation protection. It is also wise to put a safe distance between yourself and the device as a way to minimize EMF exposure. Protection and a little bit of distance may go a long way.

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Daniel T. DeBaun

Daniel T. DeBaun is an internationally recognized and influential expert in Electromagnetic Radiation (EMF) and shielding electronic emissions, with a particular focus on the effect of exposure from mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and cell phones. Daniel’s concern regarding the health impact of electronic radiation emissions grew from over 30 years of engineering experience in the telecommunications industry, where he held a variety of leadership and executive positions at Bell Labs, AT&T, SAIC and Telcordia. Daniel is co-author of recent bestseller, Radiation Nation: The Fallout of Modern Technology, a complete guide to EMF radiation safety and protection. Daniel is also a highly regarded industry consultant, speaker as well as frequent guest national radio and television programs discussing EMF health issues.