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Multitasking, I scanned the CNN headlines when one caught my eye: WHO: Cell phone use can increase possible cancer risk. To paraphrase the story, the World Health Organization says that the radiation emitted from cell phones is a “possible carcinogen.” Crap.

I was an early cell phone adopter, spending hours on the phone as I traveled to and from grad school. I was on the cell phone for about an hour during my trip from Penn Station to my stop on the Long Island Railroad. So yes, I’m a little freaked out.

What makes it worse is that the the research has been mounting for a while, and I chose to ignore it. In February, for example, Queen’s University released a study that found a link between male fertility and cell phone use. From the report text:

“Men who have been diagnosed with poor sperm quality and who are trying to have children should limit their cell phone use. Researchers have found that while cell phone use appears to increase the level of testosterone circulating in the body, it may also lead to low sperm quality and a decrease in fertility.”

Another study — also released in February — out of the University of Washington, Seattle and University Hospital in Orebro, Sweden found that there was an “increased brain glucose metabolism (a marker of brain activity) in the region closest to the phone antenna, but the finding is of unknown clinical significance.”

And a June 2010 study out of the University of South Florida found that “long-term exposure to electromagnetic waves associated with cell phone use may actually protect against, and even reverse, Alzheimer’s disease.” Wow. There are plenty more. All you need to do is search PubMed or Eurekalert.

Bottom line: Any way you slice it, it’s clear that cell phones are doing something to our brains and bodies. Uggg. So what can we do?

Well, experts tell us to limit cell phone use. Also, to use a headset whenever possible, and one that’s preferably wired. Speakerphone is a wonderful thing, too, as long as you hold it away from your body. (If the radiation hurts our brains, it stands to reason it can affect whatever body part it’s pointed at, right?) Oh, and texting and email are two other options since both are better for you than using a phone near your head. If you must hold a phone near your ear, it should be at least a quarter-inch or so away, according to manufacturers.

The solution, I guess, is that there is no solution short of throwing away your phone. And as a parent, I’ll be making sure that my girls don’t have access to a phone until they are much older — probably 14 or 15 at the least. It might be too late for me, but I’m going to try and protect my kids.

Are you worried about radiation? How many minutes are you on your cell phone each month? I’d love to know.

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