RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—At a time when cellphones can do everything from finding the closest Ethiopian restaurant to telling you how to navigate around a traffic jam, no one wants to hear that the phones could also be messing with our brains or damaging our long-term health. But the reality is, that a growing number of studies are turning up evidence that they're doing just that. And the data goes beyond questions about whether cellphones cause brain cancer (questions that have already prompted Senate hearings and international research studies). New evidence published in last month's issue of the Journal of Craniofacial Research suggests that where you carry your cellphone could lead to bone loss and related conditions like osteoporosis.
THE DETAILS: Forty-eight men participated in the study, 24 of whom had used a cellphone for at least a year and 24 who had never owned a cellphone. The cellphone users were an average of 10 years younger than the nonusers, and all of them carried their cellphones on their right hips in a pouch or on a belt. Each person carried his cellphone there for an average of 11 hours per day. After having body weight, height, and body mass index measured, each participant's bone mineral density was measured. While both groups had higher bone density in their left hips than in their right, the difference in bone density was greater among cellphone users than nonusers, suggesting that carrying a cellphone on one's right hip might play a role in lower bone density there. The larger difference was consistent across all cellphone users, regardless of age, weight or body mass index, all of which can play a role in bone density loss.
WHAT IT MEANS: Like most scientists who study the impact of cellphones on health, Fernando Saravi, MD, PhD, professor at the School of Nuclear Medicine and department of morphology and physiology at the National University of Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina, and author of the study, is cautious in interpreting his results, calling them "interesting" but noting the study's small size and the need for larger studies to confirm what he found. "Having said that, I think that cellphones should be kept as far away from the body as possible most of the time," he says. "I'm particularly concerned with children, who will presumably be exposed to cellphone radiation for decades, giving time for possible adverse effects to develop."