CLOSE
iStock
iStock

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

iStock
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]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
language
The Surprising Link Between Language and Depression
iStock
iStock

Skim through the poems of Sylvia Plath, the lyrics of Kurt Cobain, or posts on an internet forum dedicated to depression, and you'll probably start to see some commonalities. That's because there's a particular way that people with clinical depression communicate, whether they're speaking or writing, and psychologists believe they now understand the link between the two.

According to a recent study published in Clinical Psychological Science, there are certain "markers" in a person's parlance that may point to symptoms of clinical depression. Researchers used automated text analysis methods to comb through large quantities of posts in 63 internet forums with more than 6400 members, searching for certain words and phrases. They also noted average sentence length, grammatical patterns, and other factors.

What researchers found was that a person's use (or overuse) of first-person pronouns can provide some insight into the state of their mental health. People with clinical depression tend to use more first-person singular pronouns, such as "I" and "me," and fewer third-person pronouns, like "they," "he," or "she." As Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Reading and the head of the study, writes in a post for IFL Science:

"This pattern of pronoun use suggests people with depression are more focused on themselves, and less connected with others. Researchers have reported that pronouns are actually more reliable in identifying depression than negative emotion words."

What remains unclear, though, is whether people who are more focused on themselves tend to depression, or if depression turns a person's focus on themselves. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people with depression also use more negative descriptors, like "lonely" and "miserable."

But, Al-Mosaiwi notes, it's hardly the most important clue when using language to assess clinical depression. Far better indicators, he says, are the presence of "absolutist words" in a person's speech or writing, such as "always," "constantly," and "completely." When overused, they tend to indicate that someone has a "black-and-white view of the world," Al-Mosaiwi says. An analysis of posts on different internet forums found that absolutist words were 50 percent more prevalent on anxiety and depression forums, and 80 percent more prevalent on suicidal ideation forums.

Researchers hope these types of classifications, supported by computerized methods, will prove more and more beneficial in a clinical setting.

[h/t IFL Science]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Health
Just 5 Alcoholic Drinks a Week Could Shorten Your Lifespan
iStock
iStock

Wine lovers were elated when a scientific study last year suggested that drinking a glass of wine a day could help them live longer. Now a new study, published in The Lancet, finds that having more than 100 grams of alcohol a week (the amount in about five glasses of wine or pints of beer) could be detrimental to your health.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the British Heart Foundation studied the health data of nearly 600,000 drinkers in 19 countries and found that five to 10 alcoholic drinks a week (yes, red wine included) could shave six months off the life of a 40-year-old.

The penalty is even more severe for those who have 10 to 15 drinks a week (shortening a person’s life by one to two years), and those who imbibe more than 18 drinks a week could lose four to five years of their lives. In other words, your lifespan could be shortened by half an hour for every drink over the daily recommended limit, according to The Guardian, making it just as risky as smoking.

"The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines [the equivalent of drinking three glasses of wine in a night] has roughly two years' lower life expectancy, which is around a 20th of their remaining life," David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge who was not involved with the study, tells The Guardian. "This works out at about an hour per day. So it's as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette."

[h/t The Guardian]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios