Health Highlights: Dec. 18, 2017

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Cellphone Radiation Safety Guidelines Released by California Health Officials

Guidelines about cellphone radiation and how to reduce your exposure have been released by the California Department of Public Health.

There is no conclusive medical evidence, but some research suggests that cellphone use may be linked with brain tumors, headaches, low sperm count, and memory, hearing and sleep problems, CBS News reported.

California public health officials note that there are concerns that “long-term high use may impact human health.”

“We recognize that there are a lot of people in the general public that have some concerns about their cellphones and whether using a cellphone is safe,” Dr. Karen Smith of the California Department of Public Health, told CBS News.

“When you sleep, you keep the cellphone at least arm’s length away from your body. And also, not carrying your cellphone in your pocket, having it either in your purse or not carrying it with you,” Smith added.

The new guidelines also advise: reducing cellphone use when the signal is weak; less use of cellphones to stream audio or video, or to download or upload large files; keeping cellphones away from the bed at night; taking off headsets when not on a call, CBS News reported.

But despite releasing the new guidelines, the state isn’t saying that cellphones are dangerous.

“Not at all,” Smith told CBS News. “Our position is that the science is evolving.”

One of the main reasons cited by state officials for releasing the guidelines is that new figures show that cellphone use is at an all-time high, with 95 percent of Americans using them on a regular basis, CBS News reported.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified radiofrequency radiation like that emitted by cellphones as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

Partial study results released last year by the U.S. National Toxicology Program showed that radiofrequency radiation was associated with a higher risk of two cancers in male rats. “Importantly, the study found a ‘dose/response’ effect: the higher the dose, the larger the effect, a key sign that this association may be real,” the American Cancer Society said of the findings.


HHS Not Banning Words at CDC: Official

In response to outrage at what some see as at attempt to muzzle federal agencies or censor their language, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not been barred from using certain words in the agency’s budget documents.

The seven words or phrases include “science-based,” “fetus,” “transgender” and “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” and “evidence-based,” The New York Times reported.

A Washington Post story published Friday said that senior officials who oversee the CDC’s budget outlined the forbidden words and phrases to CDC policy analysts at a meeting on Thursday.

Alternatives were suggested. For example, instead of “science-based,” or “evidence-based,” the Post reported that “the suggested phrase is ‘C.D.C. bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.'”

The story set off a storm of criticism from advocacy groups and some Democratic officials.

This is an unprecedented move, a former federal official, who did not want to be named, told The Times.

“It’s absurd and Orwellian, it’s stupid and Orwellian, but they are not saying to not use the words in reports or articles or scientific publications or anything else the CDC does,” the former official said. “They’re saying not to use it in your request for money because it will hurt you. It’s not about censoring what CDC can say to the American public. It’s about a budget strategy to get funded.”

“The assertion that HHS has ‘banned words’ is a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process,” agency spokesman Matt Lloyd said in an email to The Times.

“HHS will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans. HHS also strongly encourages the use of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions,” Lloyd said.

Some experts said that using certain language in the CDC budget proposals might make sense when seeking funding from Republican conservatives in Congress, The Times reported.


New Trump Administration Rules on Birth Control Blocked by Judge

The Trump administration cannot enforce new rules that could significantly limit women’s access to free birth control, a federal judge in Philadelphia has ruled.

The injunction issued Friday by Judge Wendy Beetlestone temporarily blocks the federal government from enforcing a policy change to an Affordable Care Act law that requires most companies to cover birth control at no additional cost, the Associated Press reported.

The current law does include exemptions for religious organizations, but the new rules would permit more businesses, including publicly traded companies, to opt out by claiming moral or religious objections.

The Trump administration’s new exemptions are “sweeping” and are the “proverbial exception that swallows the rule,” Beetlestone said in her ruling, the AP reported.

She said giving the power to object on moral grounds “conjured up a world where a government entity is empowered to impose its own version of morality on each one of us. That cannot be right.”

The new rules, issued in October, are about “protecting a narrow class of sincere religious and moral objectors from being forced to facilitate practices that conflict with their beliefs,” Trump administration lawyers said in court documents, the AP reported.

Trump broke the law to undermine women’s health, but this ruling will protect women, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat.

“This is just the first step, but today is a critical victory for millions of women and families and for the rule of law,” Shapiro said, the AP reported.