Last week, Berkeley passed the nation’s first cell phone “right to know” ordinance, requiring retailers to warn customers of potential radiation exposure. Industry groups are expected to sue to block the law. And while many scientists and medical professionals say evidence of harm is inconclusive, nearly 200 scientists have called on the United Nations and World Health Organization to adopt tougher regulations for phones and other products that emit electromagnetic fields.

Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley
Allan Balmain, professor in the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UCSF School of Medicine

  • Sean Dennehy

    This, like GMOs and Vaccines, is another case of the left putting unfounded fears ahead of science. This new fad of being fearful of electromagnetism (EM waves are literally all around us, we see using them, etc) has go to stop. There’s no peer-reviewed evidence that the EM waves from phones are harmful. The ‘nearly 200 scientists’ calling for tougher regulations are about the number of scientists around the world who don’t believe in global warming. I wouldn’t put stock in what 200 scientists say over the vast majority of the community. Furthermore, Mr Moskovitz is a psychologist parading as an expert on the topic of medicine and physics and peddling conspiracy theories about the cell phone industry.

    • Robert Thomas

      The aluminum hat people have been around since before my grandmother’s Theosophist Society and Pyramid Power meetings I once attended, that were held at her friends’ home near Garberville in the 1960s. They were fun folks! One lady made great cookies. As a kid, I cherished my subscription to Verne L. Cameron’s Pyramid Guide.

      I recommend:

      “Verne L. Cameron”

      “Mr. Cameron first discovered Dowsing in 1926. Within a year he had located several water well sites and springs for neighbors. His astounding professional work brought him international fame. Also, his writings on the subject of Dowsing and energies have continued to be in demand since his passing in 1970.
      “He invented his first original Cameron Aurameter, which he called a ‘Water Compass’ in 1930. It was finally perfected in 1952 and incorporated the dowsing capabilities of five major locating devices. Tens of thousands of Aurameters are in use throughout the world by Master Dowsers and practitioners. They share an unanimous opinion that the Original Cameron AURAMETER is the most sensitive of all Dowsing instruments.
      “[Cameron poses, inset] with his older style water-compass, forerunner of the invention of his Original Cameron Aurameter. His Dowsing instruments were among the first to outline and measure the natural force-fields (form-energy) auras, emanating from both animate and inanimate shapes during the late 1920s and before WWII.
      “Cameron’s findings, were later verified by skeptical scientists and serious energy-of-form researchers, leading to Cameron’s remarkable cone-coil discoveries now reported in the Pyramid Guide.

      “Verne L. Cameron (1896-1970)”

    • Greg

      There’s no peer reviewed science showing the EMR is safe


    I spend 13 years at U C Berkeley studying Physics and Nuclear engineering ,I also from my early childhood had electronics as a hobby .I spend tens of years studying high frequency electromagnet waves both in theory and experimental ,in my early experiments I noticed that the skin on my fingers would burn near high frequency transmision antennas without actually touching it…High frequency electromagnetic waves are skin waves ,which means most of the conduction occurs on the outer surface of the conductor which could be the antenna ,or any surface near by the transcievers including cell-phones…The effect of the EMF on human cells is two folds ,one it transmits dangerous ionization effect on the cell nucleus ,the other effect is it will change the shape of the cell from healthy spherical shape to elongated or oval shape which makes more prone to abnormal divisions which can lead to cancer.

    • Robert Thomas

      It seems another thirteen years may be profitable.

    • microlith

      one it transmits dangerous ionization effect on the cell nucleus

      Non-ionizing radiation is called that precisely because it does not do this, and you don’t hit ionizing radiation until you reach (at a minimum) ultraviolet frequencies.

      This is why you wear sunscreen and limit your time under the sun. The frequencies and energies from your cellphone are below IR, and barely enough to elicit a 1deg C change.

  • Robert Thomas

    In the United States, there practically speaking is a Right to Know high school chemistry and physics; with slight effort anyone can avail themselves of a couple of semesters of both undergraduate, community college physics and of elementary analysis that are required to pass first year “E & M”.

    With somewhat more labor, modest four-year institutions also include Programs for Writing and Rhetoric in their sciences curricula.

    I’m very doubtful that people who are burdened with setting public policy in such demandingly progressive locales as the Berkeley municipality have found the time in their busy lives to attend to either of these paths of study.

  • Sam Badger

    Radio waves are among the least energetic forms of EM radiation. Why would cellphones be so dangerous in a world doused not only with radio waves, but visual light? EM radiation can be dangerous, and I wouldn’t want to talk into an x-ray machine every day, but X-rays are far more energetic than the kind of EM radiation we run into every day.

    Not that cellphones are necessarily safe either, but I have yet to hear a convincing explanation of this.

  • Robert Thomas

    What is “The American Academy of Environmental Medicine”?

    Quackwatch is dubious. WP:

    “Quackwatch lists the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) as a questionable organization, and its certifying board, the American Board of Environmental Medicine as a dubious certifying board. They are not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.”

  • Sanfordia113

    Moskowitz has concocted quite a theory to propagate a career of research funding. Csn you please reveal the nature of peer-reviewers’ comments at journals where he presumably attempts to publish his work?

  • Robert Thomas

    “…[P]enetration of the blood/brain barrier…”


    Mr. Moskowitz is an idiot.

    What a sad day for the University of California.

  • Grainger

    Not sure if this was brought up, but if the industry put in such a warning with their products, wouldn’t that open them up to questionable litigation?

  • Robert Thomas

    I’ll bet Mr. Moskowitz being doing this “pro bono”.

    What a relief, for every California taxpayer.

  • Ben

    I play in the wireless communication industry and I was wondering if the manuals and data cover the power levels these devices under test transmit at.

    I know with a lot of new devices, when they are far away from a cell tower, they will automatically adapt and transmit more power to try to reach. That is why batteries get low fast, or sometimes your device will be warm for no reason.

    That cant be good when the device is near me, say in my pocket…


    • microlith

      To harm you the level of energy would need to be much, much higher. You’re more likely to be harmed by the battery catastrophically failing than you are by what’s emitted by the antenna.

  • ck

    The lack of hard physical science in Moskowitz’s background gives me some pause. The only thing science-like is the “Evaluation Research and Methodology” postdoc at Northwestern, but that sounds incredibly vague. If there’s a legitimate concern, surely they can find somebody with a medical/hard-science background to argue his points better?


    Professor Alan Balmain response to my comment about the ionizing effect of EMF is out of order ,…professor Balmain must have a hidden agenda ..he so strongly object to even label warning ,perhaps he is a spokesman for the cellphone industries .

  • Doug F

    When I got my 1st smartphone, a big 2yr ago, I bought a Bluetooth headset (with 1 earpiece & a boom mike, not one of the unintelligible tiny ones) for it. When I can plan to make an outgoing call, at home or walking the dog, I use it. Seems like a reasonable precaution in light of the incomplete evidence. Even if this turns out to be no concern, I get higher-fi calls. And I’ve always had male phone conversations, i.e. short & to the point, just long enough to convey essential information & hang up.

    Those interested in even less EMR than a low-power Bluetooth headset can use a wired one, if the phone has a mic input.

    • microlith

      in light of the incomplete evidence

      The evidence is not incomplete. It is simply people who panic at the use of the word “radiation” without understanding what it means.

      • Doug F

        It is incomplete–there haven’t been any decades-long longitudinal studies, with accurate records of how much cell use each participant did. I’m not particularly worried; using a headset just seems like a reasonable precaution & also gives better fidelity & hands-free convenience.

  • joelmoskowitz

    If you are interested in learning more about the scientific and policy developments regarding electromagnetic fields, including updates on the Berkeley cell phone “right to know” ordinance see my EMR Safety web site at

    This law can serve as a model for other cities around the country. It
    was drafted by Professor Lawrence Lessig from Harvard Law School and Robert Post Dean of the Yale School of Law. to withstand legal challenges from
    the wireless industry. Moreover, Professor Lessig has offered to defend
    pro bono any municipality or state that adopts this law.

    More information about the International EMF Scientist Appeal is available at The Appeal is a wake-up call to government leaders in
    light of the substantial scientific evidence of risk to living organisms
    from the rapid growth of EMF exposure worldwide due to electrical and
    wireless devices.

    The Appeal encourages the adoption of precautionary
    measures to limit EMF exposure and to educate the public about health
    risks, particularly to children and pregnant women. The petition has been signed by 205 experts on electromagnetic fields (EMF) from 40 countries — each has published
    peer-reviewed research on non-ionizing EMF and biology or
    health — a conservative estimate exceeds 2,000 papers in all.

  • bascientist

    Three comments

    1. The comments about RF being non ionizing radiation are false. In our work on
    plasma enhanced atomic layer deposition we routinely use RF radiation to generate plasma. By multiphoton processes this radiation breaks chemical bonds and ionizes the resulting atoms to produce a plasma i.e. a mixture of positive ions and electrons. In this plasma very reactive species exist e.g. for O2 we have evidence for O2 singlet sigma g and O atom singlet D states. In biological systems singlet oxygen is very damaging. For example in photosynthesis at high light intensities the antenna system is detuned to reduce production of singlet oxygen.

    2. One person mentioned the change in shape of cells in the presence of electric fields.
    In experiments at Stanford where stem cells were subjected to time varying electric fields the cells elongated perpendicular to the electric field. They appear to recognize the electric field as harmful and are trying to reduce the voltage drop across them.

    3. The evidence for a link between glioma and cell phones is actually quite solid. In a recent article while the experiment was clearly biased toward a null result the correlation between regular cell phone use for up to ten years and an increased
    risk for glioma was statistically significant. Due to interference by the cell phone industry these results had to be hidden in the body of the paper but the journal editor
    wrote an editorial explaining how remarkable these results were given that at this
    length of exposure the link between cigarette smoking and cancer would not have been evident.

    • microlith

      we routinely use RF radiation to generate plasma

      RF radiation at what frequency and what energy?

      Phones tend to work within a set of ranges between 800MHz and 2.1GHz, while WiFi and Bluetooth work around 2.4GHz to 5GHz. Microwaves work in this range, but pump out a ton more energy.

      So to cause the process you describe, what frequency is it working at and how much energy are you dumping into it? I’ll wager it’s well below what a cell phone is capable of putting out at it maximum.

      The evidence for a link between glioma and cell phones is actually quite solid. In a recent article while the experiment was clearly biased toward a null result the correlation between regular cell phone use for up to ten years and an increased risk for glioma was statistically significant

      If it’s so solid then why can’t you link

      Due to interference by the cell phone industry these results had to be hidden

      Oh right, because IT’S A CONSPIRACY!

      • bascientist

        Cell phones currently are in the higher energy of the range up around 2 GHz which is normally referred to as microwave not RF.
        I recall T-mobile is at about 1.8 GHz.

        I will check on the frequency and power level but it’s usually described as RF.

        I believe you mean to say the power level we use is much higher than what a cell phone produces though the power density of course decreases as 1/R**2. So if the phone is held close to the head there is a substantial dose.

        The study I quoted is the interphone study. I will look up the reference. I recall discussing this with some cell phone industry representative who would only quote the fake conclusion of the paper that they had not proven that cell phones cause cancer (
        and of course that isn’t proven only that there is a correlation) but
        wasn’t aware of the data quoted in the body of the paper which
        showed a greater than two fold increase in glioma rates among the group which had been exposed for 10 years or longer.

        There is no doubt that the cell phone industry is trying to cover up the hazard of cell phone radiation very much the way the tobacco companies deny the hazards of their products.

        • microlith

          which is normally referred to as microwave not RF

          It’s still electromagnetic radiation. Of course this makes me wonder what your definition of “RF” is.

          So if the phone is held close to the head there is a substantial dose.

          Depends on what the phone’s output is at the antenna, then the losses through the skin and bone. Typical transmission power is in the milliwatt range, so I’m hard pressed to believe it’s substantial.

          showed a greater than two fold increase in glioma rates among the group which had been exposed for 10 years or longer.

          Twofold, but what’s the average rate of glioma development? What other factors have cropped up in that time that may not have been accounted for?

          There is no doubt that the cell phone industry is trying to cover up the
          hazard of cell phone radiation very much the way the tobacco companies
          deny the hazards of their products.

          I’m merely skeptical, but you seem to have utterly convinced yourself, sans any factual basis.

          At least with cigarettes it was plainly obvious that inhaling the smoldering gases of combustion into your lungs was bad. But this is an area filled with fluoride paranoiacs and those who think they can feel when a wifi access point is on.

      • bascientist

        The study I referenced is given here along with references.

        It does mention that the study was clearly poorly designed and
        biased toward a null result, but among the group that used cell phones
        regularly for ten years there was clear evidence of increased glioma risk. It also mentions the editorial which points out at this length of exposure the correlation between cigarettes and cancer wouldn’t have been evident. I suspect in another decade the correlation between cell phone use and glioma will be much clearer.

        • microlith

          So you’ve come to an earth shattering conclusion based off people’s criticism of a poorly conducted study?

          John Niederhuber, the then-director of the National Cancer Institute,
          said that Interphone “illustrates how difficult it is to identify and
          corroborate, or definitively rule out, any possible association between
          the two [i.e. cell phones and cancer]”

          So it’s still up in the air, and given we don’t exactly have an epidemic of brain cancer on our hands right now, I’ll be interested to see what the results of the next study are.

          • bascientist

            Perhaps you should tell that to Ted Kennedy’s family. He was a regular cell phone user who died from glioma.

            Seriously you should read the paper. It illustrates very well how the research results showed a positive correlation, in spite of an attempt by the researchers to bias the outcome, then they tried
            to think of reasons to discard the result, because they didn’t want to believe it.

          • microlith

            Perhaps you should tell that to Ted Kennedy’s family. He was a regular cell phone user who died from glioma.

            And people who drink water die of cancer. Correlation is not causation, we know this.

            But you assume “it’s caused by it and they’re conspiring to suppress it!”

          • bascientist

            I didn’t say his brain cancer was caused by cell phone use.
            My point was that you made the statement that brain cancer was an insignificant issue, but that’s not the case if it affects you or your family.

            And yes a correlation doesn’t prove causation. I have been making a plausibility argument for how RF/microwave radiation
            could cause cancer e.g. by breaking chemical bonds in DNA
            (for which there is experimental evidence by the way) or by ionizing DNA bases which then leads into the mechanism by which UV light causes cancer. But this is speculation.

          • microlith

            My point was that you made the statement that brain cancer was an insignificant issue, but that’s not the case if it affects you or your family.

            Emotional arguments are the worst and least relevant one you can make.

            But this is speculation.

            And speculation is simply that. Certainly not basis for laws or claims that cellphones are as bad as tobacco.

          • bascientist

            In fact, in the editorial on the inter phone study, it is stated that, since the link between cell phones and glioma showed up much earlier in the exposure curve than for cigarettes and cancer, cell phones ARE likely worse than tobacco.

    • Robert Thomas

      1) In the context, the entire universe of those who teach and work in the physical sciences conventionally construe “ionizing electromagnetic radiation” to refer to photons of a wavelength lower than 10nm or so which individual quanta have enough energy (~33eV) to liberate an electron from an atom.

      Shuffling across a carpet or petting the cat may result in a discharge sufficient to ionize some atoms but this isn’t due to impingement of ionizing photons from an externals source.

      “Radiation that has enough energy to move atoms in a molecule around or cause them to vibrate, but not enough to remove electrons, is referred to as ‘non-ionizing radiation.’ Examples of this kind of radiation are sound waves, visible light, and microwaves.” [emphasis added]
      “Radiation that falls within the ‘ionizing radiation’ range has enough energy to remove tightly bound electrons from atoms, thus creating ions. This is the type of radiation that people usually think of as ‘radiation.’ We take advantage of its properties to generate electric power, to kill cancer cells, and in many manufacturing processes.”

      “Ionizing & Non-Ionizing Radiation”
      Radiation Protection

      2) I expect that some of your cells and some of my cells change shape all of the time.

      3) Dismiss.

      • bascientist

        The claim that RF radiation is not ionizing is simply wrong since it is

        routinely used to generate plasma. A lot of what is taught or put in
        text books is wrong also.

        This is important because the FCC standard is based on the assumption that the only thing that happens when living organisms
        are exposed to RF is a temperature increase but many other chemical
        processes are happening. These include bond breaking in DNA and ionization of DNA bases. These processes are well documented
        to cause cancer in the case of ionization by UV light.

        • Robert Thomas

          No. The texts are not wrong. You are wrong.

          “Ionizing EM radiation” is defined as EM radiation whose individual quanta – single photons – are energetic enough to liberate an electron and ionize an atom. This assertion is distinct from “atoms may be ionized by many superposed bosons of longer wavelength”, or some similar claim.

          A sneeze will probably ionize some atoms. This doesn’t alter the definition of “ionizing EM radiation”.

          E = hν = ħω ∝ ν = 1/λ, right?

          Even considering the energy required to ionize atmospheric O2 to have an absolute floor of 300nm (more like 200nm)

          300nm ➔ 1,000,000GHz ➔ 4.1eV
          6cm ➔ 5GHz ➔ 0.000021eV

          A “low-energy” ionizing photon has, at the very least, two hundred thousand times the energy of a photon in these microwave RF bands. This is just incontrovertible.

          • bascientist

            If you want to define ionizing radiation in the way you do,
            I guess you can say RF is not ionizing radiation within the limits of that definition, but that is pointless. It DOES cause ionization just by multi photon processes. Perhaps I should say it is multi
            photon ionizing radiation to distinguish it from the process you are talking about.

          • Robert Thomas


            Irrespective of any preference of mine, when the term is used with respect to electromagnetic radiation, this is what it means universally, to all technical workers – scientists and engineers and educated lay people – around the world.

            Plasma torches most often employ DC arcs to produce plasma jets, so obviously, ionization of a carrier fluid can proceed at any frequency of source energy as long as enough energy is dissipated.

            I agree that in a private context, informed interlocutors can agree to use such a term in an unorthodox way for special purposes. But when, as in the context of this discussion page, the term is written and read by persons some of whom are educated in the subject and by many who are not, its usage is misleading and confusing – even if not deliberately intended to confuse – when invoked to signal other than its well-accepted meaning.

            Whatever has been intended here, it’s an often-encountered phenomenon that those seeking to promote an ideologically charged position will fall into unorthodox or imprecise usage of technical terms and garbled jargon if this will further an audience’s acceptance of dubious, poorly supported assertions.

    • Ellie Kroichick Marks

      THANK YOU. Are you with Stanford?

      • bascientist

        Your welcome. Yes I work at Stanford.

  • MattCA12

    Bezerkeley. Thanks for the comedy hour!

    • Ellie Kroichick Marks

      Brain tumors are not a laughing matter but unless it happens to you I suppose one is insensitive.

  • Another Mike

    The FCC has left RF transmitter safety up to the states, and by extension, localities, unless such regulation hinders the cellular telephone industry, in which case it can preempt such local regulation.

  • Ellie Kroichick Marks

    Dr. Moskowitz is a public health expert. May be best if you do your homework prior to posting.

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