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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Health Hazards of Cell Phone Radiation and How to Minimize Your Exposure

For the first time in our evolutionary history, we are surrounded by a sea of radiofrequency radiation. It is used by meteorologists, astronomers, air traffic control, global positioning systems, microwaves, cordless phones, cell phones, wireless devices and wi-fi “hot spots.” We can’t see or hear or feel radiowaves, but they can affect our bodies.

Hundreds of studies on the health effects of radiofrequency radiation in general, and cell phones in particular, have shown mixed results. Those sponsored by the cell phone industry consistently find no evidence of harm while independent researchers consistently report cause for concern. But one thing is clear: The longest studies, those that have followed cell phone users for ten years or more, have found an increased risk of brain cancer.

Cell phones are here to stay, but there are several simple steps that everyone can take to minimize their exposure to radiofrequency radiation and even prevent some of the damaging effects.

Radiofrequency Radiation

Cell phones are radios that convert data, sound and pictures into pulsed signals of radiofrequency radiation, a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation. These signals are absorbed by the tissues they come into contact with. The closer you are to the source, the stronger the radiation and the deeper the penetration. A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that radiofrequency fields from cell phones held next to the head can penetrate four to six centimeters into the brain.

Radiofrequency signals are dangerous because, as research has shown, they can disturb DNA, damage chromosomes, alter gene expression, induce abnormal brain waves, change blood flow patterns and glucose metabolism in the brain, and create free radicals in the body. Free radicals can damage cells and compromise the blood-brain barrier, a system of capillaries designed to keep potentially harmful substances away from sensitive brain tissues. Once this barrier is breached, toxins can enter the brain and cause damage.

Radiofrequency radiation has not been well studied in children but it is well accepted that because their brains are still developing, their tissues are thinner, and their heads are smaller, they are especially vulnerable to the effects of cell phone signals. Experts estimate that the brains of children absorb twice as much radiation, or more, than those of adults.

This is especially concerning given the extensive use of cell phones by young people. A 2009 survey found that 75 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds own cell phones. One in three sends more than 100 text messages each day or 3000 texts each month, and more than four out of five sleep with their cell phones under their pillow, or on or next to their bed.

Harmful Health Effects

Researchers that followed regular cell phone users for ten years or more found an increased risk of developing brain tumors, both benign and malignant. Shorter studies have associated heavy use of cell phones with

•    Parotid gland tumors in the cheek
•    Acoustic neuromas, tumors of the nerve connecting the inner ear to the brain
•    Altered electrical activity in the brain
•    Hearing loss
•    Impaired vision
•    Neurological problems
•    Behavioral problems
•    Headaches
•    Increased blood pressure
•    Heart rate variability
•    Disrupted sleep
•    Fatigue
•    Increased release of mercury from dental amalgams
•    Fertility problems in men

Cell phone exposure in utero has been shown to increase heart rates and decrease cardiac output in fetuses, and cause developmental problems in children. A study at the University of Los Angeles, California followed more than 13,000 children from pregnancy through age seven. They found that prenatal and postnatal exposure to cell phone radiation was associated with behavioral problems, emotional difficulties and hyperactivity, and that prenatal exposure was a greater risk factor than postnatal exposure. Other research has linked cell phone signals to memory and learning difficulties in children.

Minimizing Exposure

To minimize exposure to radio frequency radiation, take these precautions:

•    Use a corded land line whenever possible.

•    Before you buy a cell phone or other wireless device, consider the SAR, or specific absorption rate, which indicates the relative amount of radiofrequency energy absorbed by the body when using a given product. The Federal Communications Commission allows wireless phones to have a maximum SAR level of 1.6 watts per kilogram, but studies show that biological effects occur well below this level. Researchers in Sweden that analyzed the cell phone use of more than 2400 people found that negative health effects started when the SAR was greater than 0.5 watts per kilogram, especially when phone calls were long.

•    Read all of the materials that come with your cell phone or other wireless device. If there is no retractable antenna, it is embedded in the phone and you will likely find, in the fine print, that the manufacturer warns against placing the phone next to your head. Many new models are tested with a “spacer” that prevents the cell phone from coming within a half inch (or so) of the ear and greatly increases the amount of allowable radiation. This small space really makes a big difference because signal strength drops off dramatically with distance. Experts estimate that for every millimeter a cell phone is held away from the head, the brain is exposed to ten percent less radiation.

•    Keep cell phone antennas away from pregnant women, babies and children.

•    Do not keep wireless devices in your pockets or next to your body when they are turned on. Do not sleep next to your cell phone if it is turned on.

•    Use a headset, wireless headphone (like Bluetooth) or speaker whenever possible. When you can’t use a hands-free device, regularly change the ear you listen with.

•    Keep calls short and when you don’t need to speak in person, send text messages instead.

•    Use your cell phone only when the signal strength is strong. Weak signals increase the output of radiofrequency radiation.

•    Avoid using your cell phone inside spaces enclosed by metal, like elevators, subways, trains, planes and cars.

•    If you have a Wi-Fi transmitter, keep it in a location away from where you work and sleep.

Antioxidant Protection

Free radicals produced by radiofrequency radiation are unstable molecules missing an electron. They readily react with other molecules in order to gain an electron, causing those molecules to become unstable free radicals themselves. This starts a chain reaction that damages cells and tissues in the body.

Studies show that free radicals from cell phone radiation can be countered with antioxidants. Researchers have found that vitamin C, vitamin E, Ginkgo biloba, melatonin, and a compound found in honeybee propolis (caffeic acid phenethyl ester or CAPE) can prevent or diminish oxidative damage from cell phones.

A multivitamin can provide adequate amounts of antioxidant vitamins C and E, but these nutrients can also be found in food. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C, and vitamin E is found in raw nuts and seeds, yogurt, tofu and tempeh, and leafy greens like spinach and wild purslane. Eating these foods regularly can provide natural protection.

For some people, supplements are also useful. But before taking any new medicine, natural or not, always talk to your doctor about the possibility of interactions and adverse effects, and the best dosage for you.

References:

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Campisi A et al. Reactive oxygen species levels and DNA fragmentation on astrocytes in primary culture after acute exposure to low intensity microwave electromagnetic field. Neuroscience Letters. 2010 Mar 31; 473(1):52-5.

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Christensen HC et al. Cellular telephone use and risk of acoustic neuroma. American Journal of Epidemiology.  2004 Feb 1; 159(3):277-83.

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Monfrecola G et al. Non-ionizing electromagnetic radiations, emitted by a cellular phone, modify cutaneous blood flow. Dermatology. 2003; 207(1):10-4.

Mortazavi SM et al. Mercury release from dental amalgam restorations after magnetic resonance imaging and following mobile phone use. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences. 2008 Apr 15; 11(8):1142-6.

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Nittby H et al. Increased blood-brain barrier permeability in mammalian brain 7 days after exposure to the radiation from a GSM-900 mobile phone. Pathophysiology.  2009 Aug; 16(2-3):103-12.

Oktay MF and Dasdag S. Effects of intensive and moderate cellular phone use on hearing function. Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine. 2006; 25(1):13-21.

Oral B et al. Endometrial apoptosis induced by a 900-MHz mobile phone: preventive effects of vitamins E and C. Adances in Therapy. 2006 Nov-Dec; 23(6):957-73.

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Ozguner M et al. Biological and morphological effects on the reproductive organ of rats after exposure to electromagnetic field. Saudi Medical Journal. 2005 Mar; 26(3):405-10.

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Ozguner F et al. Mobile phone-induced myocardial oxidative stress: protection by a novel antioxidant agent caffeic acid phenethyl ester. Toxicology and Industrial Health. 2005 Oct; 21(9):223-30.

Pacini S et al. Exposure to global system for mobile communication (GSM) cellular phone radiofrequency alters gene expression, proliferation, and morphology of human skin fibroblasts. Oncology Research. 2002; 13(1):19-24.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Home-Made Ear Ache Oil

About one in five kids with an upper respiratory infection will also develop an ear infection, according to a new study published in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. 

Whenever your child has ear pain, she or he should be examined by a doctor. An infection is likely, but it could also be related to ear wax, injury, a foreign object or even meningitis.

If your doctor determines that the problem is only an ear infection and can confirm that the ear drum has NOT ruptured, consider treating it naturally with this home-made Ear Ache Oil. The main ingredient is garlic, which has been proven to be an effective anti-microbial agent.

A study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine followed more than 100 children with ear infections and ear pain for 3 days. The children were randomly assigned to two groups. One was treated with ear drops containing garlic in olive oil while the other group received standard treatment with prescription analgesic ear drops. All kids experienced significant improvement and researchers concluded that the garlic oil was as effective as the prescription ear drops.

If you're not the DIY type or don't have time to make it yourself, you can purchase Mullein and Garlic Oil Compound, made by Wise Woman Herbals. (Get it from Emerson Ecologics.)

Ear Ache Oil

Materials:

5 cloves fresh garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 glass bottle with a glass dropper lid
Funnel (preferably stainless steel)

Method:

In a pot of boiling water, carefully sterilize the bottle, lid and funnel. Set all parts aside and allow them to air dry completely. (You may want to do this one day in advance to make sure that they are completely dry. A single small drop of water can cause the oil to spoil prematurely.)

Mince the garlic. Add it to a small skillet or saucepan with the olive oil. Warm the mixture gently over low heat for 15 minutes, then set it aside to cool to room temperature.

Once cool, strain the oil into the dry, sterilized bottle and discard the garlic solids. Label the bottle with the contents and date. Store it in the fridge.

CAUTION: If you're not certain that your child's ear drum is intact, do not put anything in the ear.

Before use, warm the oil. Add an inch or two of water to a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat and place the bottle of Ear Ache Oil in the water long enough to warm it. Then place 2 to 3 drops of the warm oil in each ear, every 4 waking hours, followed by a small, easily removable piece of cotton.

Talk to your naturopathic doctor about other natural ear ache remedies, like vitamins, probiotics, plant medicines and homeopathic remedies.

If your child develops a stiff neck or becomes unusually lethargic, seek medical treatment immediately.

References:

Sarrell EM et al. Efficacy of naturopathic extracts in the management of ear pain associated with acute otitis media. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. 2001 Jul;155(7):796-9.

Klein JO. Management of acute otitis media in an era of increasing antibiotic resistance. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology. 1999 Oct 5;49 Suppl 1:S15-7.

Marinov T. [Treatment of chronic otitis with garlic phytoncides]. Khirurgiia (Sofiia). 1957;10(3):233-6.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Selecting the Healthiest Chocolate


If you want to treat your sweetheart this Valentine's Day, you can never go wrong with chocolate.

Good chocolate.

The best chocolate is dark chocolate, made from cacao beans, one of the richest natural sources of antioxidants.

Cacao beans are roasted, fermented and crushed to make chocolate liquor, which is separated into cocoa butter and cocoa mass, which is crushed into cocoa powder. These components, in varying amounts, are used to make chocolate.

Not all chocolate is good for you and the ingredients make all the difference. The best bars have a high cocoa content, because it’s the cocoa powder that contains healthy polyphenols, flavonols, proanthocyanidins, and catechins shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke and cancer.

Follow these guidelines to select the healthiest chocolate:

1.  Avoid white chocolate. It doesn’t contain any cocoa powder at all.

2.  Avoid milk chocolate. It contains less cocoa powder and more sugar than dark varieties.

3.  Even dark chocolate contains some sugar, but it should be one of the last ingredients. Look for products that list cocoa powder, cocoa mass, chocolate liquor and/or cocoa butter before sugar.

4.  The only fat should be cocoa butter.

5.  Look for chocolate that is 70% to 85% dark. The darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of cocoa powder and flavonols (and the more bitter the flavor).

6.  Avoid chocolate that contains Dutch-process or alkalinized cocoa powder. It is made from cacao beans that have been treated with an alkalizing agent to neutralize natural acidity. Some manufacturers favor Dutch-process or alkalinized cocoa powder because it is more soluble, milder in flavor and darker in color. However, alkalizing agents destroy healthy antioxidants, so always opt for chocolate made with natural unsweetened cocoa powder instead.

7.  Avoid products that contain agave, artificial sweeteners, corn syrup, vegetable oil, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated ingredients of any kind, and anything you can’t pronounce or easily identify.

Enjoy dark chocolate by itself, pair it with red wine, or use it to make a special dessert like my Dreamy Dark Chocolate Mi-Cuits.






Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chromium-6 in Tap Water

Chromium-6, also called hexavalent chromium, is a cancer-causing chemical discharged from steel and pulp mills, metal-plating and leather-tanning facilities. It was found in the tap water of 89 percent of cities tested by the Environmental Working Group.

Chromium-6 raises everyone's risk of developing cancer, but some individuals are especially vulnerable to its carcinogenic effects:
  • People with low stomach acid
  • Fetuses
  • Infants
  • Children
According to the National Toxicology Program, chromium-6 in drinking water shows “clear evidence of carcinogenic activity” in animals, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract, and the EPA stated that it is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

Read the full report here.