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and Health - Draft and Not for Public Release
Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control
• California Department of Public Health
Cell phones, like other electronic devices, emit a kind of energy called radiofrequency EMFs (electromagnetic
fields). Health officials are concerned about possible health effects from cell phone EMFs because some
recent studies suggest that long-term cell phone use may increase the risk of brain cancer and other
health problems. For those concerned about possible health problems, this fact sheet provides information
about how to lower exposure to EMFs from cell phones.
What do we know about cell phones and health?
Several studies have found that people with certain kinds of
brain cancer were more likely to have used cell phones for 10 years or more. Most of the cancers were
on the same side of the head that people usually held their phones. Although the chance of developing
brain cancer is very small, these studies suggest that regular cell phone use increases the risk of
developing some kinds of brain cancer. Some studies have also linked exposure to EMFs from cell phones
to fertility problems. As more studies are done and we learn more about possible risks for cancer and
other health problems linked to cell phone use, the recommendations on this fact sheet may change.
EMF exposure from cell phones
Your exposure to cell phone EMFs depends mostly on your distance from the phone, the strength of
the EMF, and how long and how often you use the phone. The farther away the phone is from your body,
the lower the exposure. Your cell phone produces stronger EMFs at the start of a call, when it is trying
to connect to a cell tower, and also when only one or two bars are showing. Your phone also emits stronger
EMFs when used in a moving car, bus, or train, as the phone switches connections from one cell tower
to another. Finally, some phones produce stronger EMFs than others.
What can I do to reduce my exposures to EMFs from cell phones?
To lower your exposure to EMFs from cell phones:
Increase the distance between you and your phone by:
- Using the speaker phone.
- Sending text messages.
- Use a headset and carry your phone away from your body. EMFs from wireless (Bluetooth) and wired
headsets are usually weaker than those from a cell phone.
- Keep your phone away from your body. A cell phone that is on can emit EMFs even when it is not being
used. Do not sleep with your cell phone near you or carry it in a pocket or directly on your body unless
the phone is turned off.
Limit your cell phone use when reception is weak or increase the distance between
you and the phone. When your phone shows only one or two bars, it is emitting stronger EMFs than when
three, four, or five bars are showing.
Reduce the amount of time spent talking on a cell phone.
- Keep cell phone calls short, even when using a wireless or wired headset.
- Use speaker phone mode or a corded phone for longer conversations. Corded phones produce very weak
Take off your headset when you’re not on a call. Wireless and wired headsets emit
EMFs even when you are not using your phone.
Do not rely on devices that claim to shield or neutralize EMFs from cell phones.
These devices have not been shown to reduce exposures.
What about cell phone EMFs and children?
EMFs can pass
deeper into a child’s brain than an adult’s. Also, the brain is still developing through the teen years,
which may make children and teens more sensitive to EMF exposures. For these reasons, parents may want
to limit their child’s cell phone use to texting, important calls, and emergencies. Pregnant women,
children, and teens can also follow the tips for reducing exposure listed above.
Where can I get more information?
For more information about EMF exposures and cell phones, please send an email to:
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