Week of 12/01/2003

From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Do cell phones cause cancer?
—Anjan Bhullar, Leawood, KS

Cell phones certainly do emit low levels of electro-magnetic radiation. While it is widely known that sufficient levels of non-ionizing radiation heat up body tissue and increase the risk for tumor growth, no conclusive link between cell phones and cancer has been found. "It’s difficult to collect reliable data on the potential harm caused by cell phone use," Libby Kelley, executive director of the Council on Wireless Technology Impacts, says, "because of the newness of the devices."

In 2001, a study of 420,000 cell phone users in Denmark was published in the U.S. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The researches concluded that there was no link "between the use of [cellular] phones and brain tumors and cancers of the brain or salivary gland or leukemia." They noted that a typical cell phone functions at a low power level, resulting in "a very low rise in brain temperature." However, in a report published in the June 2002 issue of European Journal of Cancer Prevention, Swedish scientist Lennart Hardell made a link between brain cancer and older analog cell phones used for at least eight years.

If you don’t want to wait for widely accepted scientific evidence, and would rather be safe than sorry, Kelley says, "Cell phone users can limit their calls to less than two minutes. Don’t drive and talk, and use a hands-free kit to decrease the amount of radiation."

CONTACT: Council on Wireless Technology Impacts, (415) 892-1863, www.energyfields.org

From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Some art supplies, like glues and markers, can be quite toxic, especially to children. Are there eco- and health-friendly alternatives out there?
—Frances Goulart, Austin, TX

An excellent resource on the potential toxicity of art supplies is the Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI). ACMI also maintains a certification process through which materials and ingredients are inspected and then approved or rejected by a toxicology team. The group’s seal of approval certifies that a product "contains no material in sufficient quantities to be toxic or injurious to humans, including children, or to cause acute or chronic health problems."

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act was signed into federal law in 1988, stipulating that all art materials be reviewed for toxicity. Those products found to pose a chronic health threat are to be clearly labeled, while non-hazardous materials are marked "conforms to ASTM D-4236." The federal government has long required labeling of acutely toxic art supplies (those which could cause immediate harm). Concerned consumers can also request a detailed "Material Safety Data Sheet" for a specific product from a retailer or manufacturer.

A number of companies also provide environmentally friendly art materials. Eco House’s paints and wood finishes are all free of aromatic and chlorinated hydrocarbons, which are potentially problematic. D"UVA Fine Artists Materials produces powder-based acrylics that use heat as a fixative, replacing the need for conventional aerosol-based spray fixatives, which often rely on flammable, potentially toxic and ozone-destroying chemicals.

CONTACT: Eco House, (506) 366-3529, www.eco-house.com; D"UVA Fine Artists Materials, (877) 277-8374, www.lithocoal.com; Art and Creative Materials Institute, (781) 293-4100, www.acminet.org