"Are they safe? No, I don't think we can say that at this time," says Dr. Henry Lai.
The new study, conducted by Dr. Lai of the University of Washington, finds microwave radiation similar to the kind used in cell phones caused long-term memory loss in rats.
Lai taught lab rats to memorize the route to a platform in a pool, as though they had an internal map. He then exposed them to relatively low doses of radiation and found they were unable to find their way back to the platform.
Earlier this year, the cell phone industry itself funded a $27 million study looking into possible health risks, especially cancer. The findings were inconclusive, but industry watchdogs say the new research is another red flag.
"The new University of Washington study is yet another piece of the puzzle that tells us that we have a potential problem on our hands," says Louis Slesin, editor of "Microwave News."
"Every millimeter you move the phone antenna away makes a big difference," Slesin says.
The industry says it designs phones for convenience and performance and insists all cell phones are safe.
With as many as 30,000 new cell phone users signing on every day, it's clear the technology isn't going away, all the more reason scientists say to come up with ways to make it safer soon.
For the present, Slesin offers some tips on how you can protect yourself:
|DAILY CELL PHONE TIPS|
|Use hands-free headset.|
|Use land lines.|
|Don't give one to children.|
|Use in open spaces.|
|Pull antenna out.|
|Use side antenna phone.|
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