Karen Smith
Dr. Karen Smith

Keep cellphones away from your body and don’t sleep near one at night, says the California Dept. of Public Health.

 “Although the science is still evolving, there are concerns among some public health professionals and members of the public regarding long-term, high use exposure to the energy emitted by cell phones,” said a statement Dec. 13 by CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith.

“Research suggests long-term, high use may impact human health,” she said.

The finding was in a 2009 document of the CDPH Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control. It was published following an order of the Sacramento Superior Court.

Cell phones emit radio frequency energy when they send and receive signals to and from cell towers, and some scientists and public health officials believe this energy may impact human health, she noted.

Cellphone use in the U.S. has increased dramatically in recent years. About 95 percent of Americans own a cellphone, and 12 percent rely on them for everyday Internet access. The average age when children get their first phone is now just 10 years old, and a majority of young people keep their phones on or near them most of the day and while they sleep, said CDPH.

“Children’s brains develop through the teenage years and may be more affected by cell phone use,” said Dr. Smith. “Parents should consider reducing the time their children use cell phones and encourage them to turn the devices off at night.”

The new CDPH guidance includes practical steps both adults and children could take to reduce exposure to radio frequency energy from cell phones. That includes: 

• Keeping the phone away from the body

• Reducing cell phone use when the signal is weak

• Reducing the use of cell phones to stream audio or video, or to download or upload large files

• Keeping the phone away from the bed at night

• Removing headsets when not on a call

• Avoiding products that claim to block radio frequency energy. These products may actually increase your exposure.

Moskowitz Sued for Release of Document

The Sacramento Superior Court in March ordered the CDPH to release the draft documents to Dr. Joel Moskowitz, the plaintiff in a law suit filed under the California Public Records Act by the Environmental Law Clinic at UC Berkeley Law and the First Amendment Project. 

To comply with the court order, CDPH released 27 versions of the document and reimbursed legal expenses. The most recent draft, dated January, 2015, contained a bold watermark, "Draft and Not for Public Release" and a footnote, "Document released pursuant to Moskowitz v. CDPH, Sac. Super. Ct. No. 34-2016-80002358." 

In July, the California Brain Tumor Association held a demonstration in Sacramento outside of CDPH to call for the public release of the cell phone warning document.

The safety recommendations in the document released Dec. 13 by CDPH are similar to those issued by the Connecticut Department of Public Health in May, 2015.

The preponderance of the research, said Moskowitz, indicates that cell phone radiation poses a major risk to health. The recommendations of state and federal health agencies have not kept up with the research. The Federal Communications Commission, the agency responsible for regulating cell phones, relies on industry-generated guidance that is two decades old.

More than 230 scientists who have published peer-reviewed research on electromagnetic fields and health have signed a petition calling on all nations to adopt stronger regulations and disclosure to the public about the health risks of electromagnetic fields.

For the history of this document and the public records lawsuit see http://bit.ly/CDPHsafer.