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High Tech Gadgets: Distance Is Your Friend

Apr 18, 2012


“We don’t want to believe that our new toys to which we are so attached—and which bring in enormous profits—could also cause our demise or that of our children.  But science is not about belief.  Governments’ responsibility to their citizens should not be either.”
-David Servan-Schreiber, MD PhD,  1951-2011, preface to Disconnect

When the talented physician-author Servan-Schreiber wrote those prophetic words, it had been eighteen years since an MRI had found his tiny early stage brain tumor.   Most brain tumors remain hidden and are only detected after metastasizing into seizures or strokes.  David ‘s luck ran out last year, when he died of a glioblastoma—spreading malignant tumor of the brain.   Was it merely a coincidence that he had used three cellphones regularly for more than a decade before developing this fatal brain tumor?  The World Health Organization thinks not—having recently declared cellphone and other wireless radiation a “possible human carcinogen.”—along with a number of other agents that are not kids’ toys, including some pesticides, engine exhausts, and solvents.
In America today, about twenty million children under the age of fourteen have cellphones, and the Centers for  Disease Control reports that a fifth of all two year olds reportedly spend two hours a day in front of a screen.   Increasingly, scientists and policy makers in tech savvy nations like Israel and Finland are concerned that the ways these devices are used imperil the brain.   The iPhone plastic baby rattle case protects the phone’s glass screen from cracking when dropped or chomped on by teething inquisitive babies,  but does not protect the infant’s young brain from the phone’s pulsed digital microwave radiation.
The proliferation of wireless gadgets overlooks a critical health issue –non-ionizing or microwave radiation damages the brain and sperm of experimental animals.  A cellphone is a two-way microwave radio with intermittent and destabilizing pulses, unlike microwave ovens that steadily operate at the same frequencies at much greater power.  The weak and erratic microwave radiation from cellphones and tablets cannot directly break the bonds that hold molecules together, but does disrupt DNA,  weakens the brain’s protective barrier, and releases highly reactive and damaging free radicals.  A five-year old’s brain, healthy or otherwise, is encased in a thinner skull and contains more fluid than an adults.  The bone marrow of a child’s head absorbs  10 times more  radiation than an adult, while those of infants and toddlers will absorb even more.
Few parents appreciate that infant apps of One Fish Two Fish, Peekaboo Farm, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star may do much more than amuse and distract babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics cautions that children need more real face time than screen time, more laps than apps.

Most disconcerting are findings from Prof. Nesrin Seyhan, at Gazi University in Ankara, Turkey, whose studies repeatedly show that prenatally exposed rats and rabbits have fewer brain cells — and those that survive sustain more damage to their  brain, liver, reproductive system and eye.   Other research carried out by the dozen laboratory collaborative of the European Union Reflex project found that exposures to cellphone radiation directly impaired human brain cells.   Despite highly publicized charges of fraud against that work, the Reflex project has been exonerated and others have since independently confirmed their findings.   

Experimental work
 completed by teams working with Prof. Ashok Agarwal of the Cleveland Clinic and by Sir Robert John Aitken of Australia’s Newcastle University, have shown that cellphone radiation exposed human sperm die three times faster, swim significantly more poorly, become more deformed and develop significantly more damage to sperm DNA.  With one in every five couples having problems reproducing when they chose to do so, the wisdom of the fine print warnings that come with all smartphones to not keep phones in the pocket  and avoid contact with the pregnant abdomen or those of teenagers should become standard medical advice.


Cell phones are the only wireless devices that are designed to be held directly next to the brain and are just one source for microwave radiation exposure. iPads and other wireless tablet systems emit radiation as well,  although the former comes with automatic proximity sensors that reduce radiation whenever the device comes close to the body. The safety material that comes with an iPad recommends users hold it eight inches from an adult body—a distance far greater than most toddlers arms.  Yet nowadays even babies and toddlers are learning to read from wired devices and falling asleep to white noise played from phones placed under their pillows and connected to wireless routers.

What can you do to protect yourself from radiation emitted from high tech gadgets?  When it comes to using electronic devices, those hidden safety warnings have it right, so remember: distance is your friend.

  • Don’t hold a cell phone directly up to your head. Use a headset or speakerphone to talk on the phone.
  • Pregnant women should keep cell phones away from their abdomen and men who wish to become fathers should never keep phones on in their pocket.
  • Don’t allow children to play with or use your cell phone. Older children should use a headset when talking on a cell phone.
  • Turn off your wireless router at night to minimize exposure to radiation.
  • Eat green vegetables and get a good night’s sleep in a dark room to enhance natural repair of DNA that may have been damaged by radiation.


For more information, including a Doctors’ Pamphlet about the need to Practice Safe Phone, written by Charlie Teo, one of the world’s top neurosurgeons, and other experts in the field see


To be seen on John Hopkin’s Magazine.