The pacemaker studies were a harbinger of bad things to come. Results showed that cell phones do indeed interfere with pacemakers, but moving the phone away from the pacemaker would correct the problem. Amazingly, the industry was extremely upset with the report, complaining that the researchers went off target. When Dr. Carlo and his colleagues published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997,11 the industry promptly cut off funding for the overall program. It took nine months for the FDA and the industry to agree on a scaled-down version of the program to continue going forward. Dr. Carlo had volunteered to step down, since he was clearly not seeing eye-to-eye with the industry, but his contract was extended instead, as no one wanted to look bad from a public relations standpoint.
The electromagnetic spectrum is broken up into two parts based on whether small doses of that radiation can cause harm: ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation—UV, x-rays, and gamma rays—has enough energy in one photon (quantized minimum packet of light) to remove electrons from atoms or break apart chemical bonds. It is because of this potential for cancer-causing DNA damage that you wear a lead vest when you get x-rays at the dentist and you are advised to wear sunblock when you go out in the sun. One can’t avoid natural (radon, cosmic rays when you are up in an airplane) and man made (diagnostic x-rays) sources of ionizing radiation completely, but it is reasonable advice to minimize exposure when possible.
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Exposure to ionizing radiation, such as from x-rays, is known to increase the risk of cancer. However, although many studies have examined the potential health effects of non-ionizing radiation from radar, microwave ovens, cell phones, and other sources, there is currently no consistent evidence that non-ionizing radiation increases cancer risk in humans (2).
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