California Just Issued a Health Warning for Cell Phones—But It's Not as Scary as It Seems

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iStock

The cell phone's reputation as a health risk is nearly as old as the technology itself. Worried consumers have blamed the device for everything from cancer to infertility, but with little evidence to back up these claims, experts have been split on the issue. Now California has come out with a list of guidelines in response to these supposed risks, Forbes reports.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released the warning [PDF] earlier in December following a lawsuit from University of California-Berkeley researcher Joel Moskowitz. Moskowitz claimed that the state of California was putting citizens in danger by withholding information on the potential side effects of cell phone usage.

The newly released document focuses on avoiding radiofrequency (RF) energy specifically. Cell phone signals are one source of RF energy, and because it's a type of radiation, it's a common source of phone-related cancer fears. The CDPH recommends reducing exposure to the energy waves by sending text messages instead of making calls, using the speakerphone or a headset when talking on the phone, and carrying your phone in a bag rather than your bra, pocket, or belt holster. The department also suggests breaking the habit of sleeping with your phone in your bed, or at least turning it off or activating airplane mode before falling asleep.

Cell phones release more RF energy at some points than others, like when you're traveling in a vehicle, streaming or downloading content, or using a phone in an area where the signal is weak. But even when RF energy from cell phones is at its strongest, it's still not as great as the radiation from X-rays or ultraviolet rays from the Sun, and the jury's still out over whether it poses a threat to your DNA at all.

Past research linking RF energy to brain cancer has come with some major caveats: One study found that rats exposed to RF energy were more likely to develop brain tumors, but those rats were hit with seven times the radiation a person would get from a cell phone (and also they were rats, so not a perfect replacement for humans). Even the CDPH acknowledges the limits of the evidence in the studies it cites:

These studies do not establish the link definitely, however, and scientists disagree about whether cell phones cause these health problems and how great the risks might be.

So if it makes you comfortable, go ahead and sleep with your cell phone on your night stand instead of under your pillow. But maybe don't use the warning as an excuse to start declining all your calls. 

[h/t Forbes]

One Good Reason Not to Hold in a Fart: It Could Leak Out of Your Mouth

iStock/grinvalds
iStock/grinvalds

The next time you hold in a fart for fear of being heard by polite company, just remember this: It could leak out of your mouth instead of your butt. Writing on The Conversation, University of Newcastle nutrition and dietetics professor Clare Collins explains that pent-up gas can pass through your gut wall and get reabsorbed into your circulation. It's then released when you exhale, whether you like it or not.

“Holding on too long means the build up of intestinal gas will eventually escape via an uncontrollable fart,” Collins writes. In this case, the fart comes out of the wrong end. Talk about potty mouth.

A few brave scientists have investigated the phenomenon of flatulence. In one study, 10 healthy volunteers were fed half a can of baked beans in addition to their regular diets and given a rectal catheter to measure their farts over a 24-hour period. Although it was a small sample, the results were still telling. Men and women let loose the same amount of gas, and the average number of “flatus episodes” (a single fart, or series of farts) during that period was eight. Another study of 10 people found that high-fiber diets led to fewer but bigger farts, and a third study found that gases containing sulphur are the culprit of the world’s stinkiest farts. Two judges were tapped to rate the odor intensity of each toot, and we can only hope that they made it out alive.

Scientific literature also seems to support Collins’s advice to “let it go.” A 2010 paper on “Methane and the gastrointestinal tract” says methane, hydrogen sulfide, and other gases that are produced in the intestinal tract are mostly eliminated from the body via the anus or “expelled from the lungs.” Holding it in can lead to belching, flatulence, bloating, and pain. And in some severe cases, pouches can form along the wall of the colon and get infected, causing diverticulitis.

So go ahead and let it rip, just like nature intended—but maybe try to find an empty room first.

[h/t CBS Philadelphia]

A Chemical in Spider Venom Could Be a Key to Killing Skin Cancer Cells

Alan Couch, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Alan Couch, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Despite their formidable reputation in the eyes of arachnophobes, spiders contribute to human society in a number of positive ways. On a practical level, they can reduce the population of insects in your home by trapping them for meals. Outdoors, they keep pests from destroying gardens and crops, making sure we don't slip into a period of famine and anarchy. In the lab, scientists have identified a number of chemicals in their venom as possible building blocks for medicines treating everything from pain to muscular dystrophy.

That field of study has led to a promising discovery. In Australia, researchers have isolated one particular compound in a funnel-web spider's venom that can diminish skin cancer cells.

Scientists at QIMR Berghofer and the University of Queensland began studying the Australian funnel-web spider known as Hadronyche infensa after a similar Brazilian arachnid, Acanthoscurria gomesiana, was shown to carry a peptide in its venom called gomesin that has cancer-fighting properties. Identifying a similar peptide in the Australian spider, the researchers demonstrated that the chemical was effective in killing skin cancer cells while leaving healthy skin cells alone.

The peptide was tested on human melanoma cells, eradicating the majority of them. In mice, it also slowed the growth of the melanomas. The peptide was even effective in killing cells found in facial tumors of Tasmanian devils, a marsupial susceptible to an aggressive form of skin cancer transmittable through biting. The results were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

These peptides are able to be manipulated, taking on different properties as scientists alter amino acids to create new and potentially more potent versions. It’s hoped that this line of research will lead to the development of treatments for skin cancer in humans.

It's something to think about the next time you consider swatting a spider—though if you happen to reside in Australia and see the funnel-web variety, you might not have a choice. While there are 35 different species of funnel-webs of varying potency, some are so formidable that their fangs can pierce fingernails, and their venom is able to kill a human in less than 15 minutes.

[h/t New Atlas]

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