Health department to you: Step away from your smartphone

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The California Department of Public Health is urging you to keep your smartphone away from your body and out of your pocket as much as possible.

Smartphones emit radiation when they send and receive signals to and from cell towers. And, according to some scientists and health officials, research suggests long-term, heavy use may impact your health.

"Although the science is still evolving, there are concerns among some public health professionals and members of the public regarding long-term, high use exposure to the energy emitted by cell phones," said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. "We know that simple steps, such as not keeping your phone in your pocket and moving it away from your bed at night, can help reduce exposure for both children and adults."

About 95 percent of Americans own a cell phone, according to CDPH, and 12 percent use their smartphones for everyday internet access. Kids are also getting their first smartphones around age 10, often keeping them by their beds at night and nearby most of the day.

"Children's brains develop through the teenage years and may be more affected by cell phone use," said Smith. "Parents should consider reducing the time their children use cell phones and encourage them to turn the devices off at night."

The scientific community has not yet reached a consensus on the risk, but the health department has issued guidelines to reduce risk of radiation exposure.

They include:
  • Keep your cell phone away from your bed at night.
  • Reduce cell use when the signal is weak.
  • Remove your headset when you're not on a call.
  • Reduce use of cell phones for streaming audio or video.
  • Avoid products that claim to block radio frequency energy. The health department says those products may actually increase exposure.

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