Cellphones ‘Possibly Carcinogenic,’ WHO says; plus 5 Tips to Limit Your Risk

Three years ago, Climate Progress published “Should you or your kids keep a cell phone pressed against your heads for hours?” My answer back then was “no.” It still is.

A year ago, I published, “Are cell phones safe? The verdict is still out.” It still is out.

The Washington Post reported yesterday:

An international panel of experts has weighed in on the controversy about cellphone safety — and come to a conclusion that falls far short of recommending that consumers put down the devices, although it may make them more anxious.

Cellphones are “possibly carcinogenic” to humans, according to the panel organized by the World Health Organization. But an exhaustive, eight-day review of hundreds of studies concluded that the existing evidence is insufficient to know for sure. And because cellphones are so popular, further research is urgently needed, the experts said.

“Possibly carcinogenic” is the WHO’s third-highest rating, falling below “carcinogenic” and “probably carcinogenic” but above “not classifiable” and “probably not carcinogenic.” …

The panel … did [not] estimate how much cellphone use might be safe or risky, make any recommendations about whether cellphones should be regulated more strictly, or recommend what steps consumers should take. But one panel member said users might consider common-sense precautions such as texting more instead of talking and using a headset to keep the phone farther from the head to minimize exposure.

“This is the first formal acknowledgment that we may have a problem on our hands — and it could be a very big problem,” said Louis Slesin, editor of Microwave News, a trade publication. “The IARC decision, surely, is a wake-up call that people, especially children, should take sensible precautions.”

A number of phone manufacturers, including Apple, recommend that you do not keep phones pressed against your heads for hours. And that goes double for your kids who have thinner skulls and developing brains.


I have followed this very intermittently — this is my 3rd post out of 7000 — because my Louis Slesin is my cousin. Three years ago I noted that CNN’s medical correspondent interviewed a number of experts, including Slesin, and offered “5 tips to limit your cell phone risk,” which I excerpt:

1. Use the speakerphone

This was, without question, the favorite alternative of the experts I talked to….

2. Use a wired headset with a ferrite bead

No, this is not a piece of jewelry. A ferrite bead is a clip you put on the wire of a headset….

3. Use a Bluetooth earpiece

A Bluetooth earpiece still has radiation, but it’s at least 100 times less than the radiation you get when you hold a cell phone to your head…. [And don’t keep it on your ear all the time since,] “when you’re not talking; it still sends out a signal.”

4. Use a “hollow tube” earpiece

It’s just like a regular wired earpiece, except the last six inches or so — the part next to your ear — is a hollow tube. There’s no wire under the plastic.

5. Get a phone with less radiation

Phone radiation is measured in specific absorption rate, or SAR. To look up the SAR for your phone, check

I would also recommend switching ears from time to time if you do have the phone pressed against your head.

I am fortunate in that I work at home, so I don’t need to use a cell phone very often.

As I wrote three years ago, “You can choose to ignore the risks, of course, but from my perspective, I think the science is more than strong enough to raise concerns, and the measures needed to minimize risk are trivial.”

That is obviously even more true today.

For more information or to stay up to date on all things microwave, go to “Microwave News: A report on non-ionizing radiation,” which Time magazine has called “meticulously researched and thoroughly documented,” and Fortune magazine has called “the most authoritative journal on ELF fields and health.”