A carrier wave oscillates at 1900 megahertz (MHz) in most phones, which is mostly invisible to our biological tissue and doesn’t do damage. The information-carrying secondary wave necessary to interpret voice or data is the problem, says Dr. Carlo. That wave cycles in a hertz (Hz) range familiar to the body. Your heart, for example, beats at two cycles per second, or two Hz. Our bodies recognize the information-carrying wave as an “invader,” setting in place protective biochemical reactions that alter physiology and cause biological problems that include intracellular free-radical buildup, leakage in the blood-brain barrier, genetic damage, disruption of intercellular communication, and an increase in the risk of tumors. The health dangers of recognizing the signal, therefore, aren’t from direct damage, but rather are due to the biochemical responses in the cell.
The RF waves from cell phones come from the antenna, which is part of the body of a hand-held phone. The waves are strongest at the antenna and lose energy quickly as they travel away from the phone. The phone is typically held against the side of the head when in use. The closer the antenna is to the head, the greater a person’s expected exposure to RF energy. The body tissues closest to the phone absorb more energy than tissues farther away.
Mobile devices work by sending radio waves in the air. And while the National Cancer Institute has pointed out that the radio-frequency (RF) energy cell phone emits is low, it does not discount the possible long term health risks it poses. Some of the most recent smartphones (such as the iPhone 7 in particular), release a higher level of radiation than older cellphones; and with people spending more and more time on their devices, it’s only a matter of time before adverse effects might catch up.
Can cellphone radiation cause cancer in humans? There’s no scientific consensus on this issue, but there is “some evidence” that exposure to radiation equivalent to that emanating from 1990s-era cellphones is associated with brain tumors in male rats, according to results of a US National Toxicology Program (NTP) study released last week (November 1).
The city council of Berkeley, Calif., has also acted. In May 2015, it approved a “Right to Know” law that requires electronics retailers to notify consumers about the proper handling of cell phones. CTIA-The Wireless Association, a trade group, is now trying to block that law from going into effect, as it successfully did after San Francisco passed its own Right to Know law five years ago.
Epidemiology studies investigating cell phone use patterns with human cancer risk have produced inconsistent results. Some studies enrolled people who already had tumors with suspected links to RF radiation, such as gliomas, acoustic neuromas and salivary gland tumors. Researchers compared the self-reported cell phone use habits of the cancer patients with those of other people who did not have the same diseases. Other studies enrolled people while they were still healthy, and then followed them over time to see if new cancer diagnoses tracked with how they used cell phones. All the epidemiology studies, however, have troubling limitations, including that enrolled subjects often do not report their cell phone use habits accurately on questionnaires.
Cellsafe backs its claims by publishing independent test results on its site. These test reports are detailed, complex and confusing, but the results are available for you to interpret. For example, their tests found that an iPhone 4S produced a SAR of 1.069 W/kg on the 3G 2100Mhz frequency without a case, and 0.267 W/kg with a Cellsafe case. But what in the world does that actually mean? Is a SAR of 1 W/kg dangerous? Is a reduction to 0.267 W/kg actually better, or are we just splitting hairs?
But scientists disagree on how real—or how serious—these risks really are, and studies have not established any definitive links between health problems and radiofrequency (RF) energy, the type of radiation emitted by cell phones. “This document is intended to provide guidance for people who want to reduce their own and their families’ exposure to RF energy from cell phones,” the guidelines state, “despite this uncertainty.”
California officials issued the new report in response to increasing smartphone use in the United States, especially among children. About 95% of Americans own a cell phone, according to a press release from the California Department of Public Health, and the average age for a first cell phone is now 10 years old. About 12% of people use their smartphones for daily Internet access.
In this frequency range, the interaction between matter and light is via the electric field component of light (totally different from how ionizing radiation messes you up). In particular, an oscillating electric field causes polar molecules to rotate or attempt to rotate, and the lag between the applied field and the response of the molecules manifests as dissipation—i.e. heating . This is the same dielectric heating which is the operating principle behind microwave ovens (which operate at 2450 MHz  similar to wifi). So if cell phones were to cause damage to tissue, the mechanism would be the same as what happens in a microwave oven—boiling the water in your head/body.
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The phone is placed in various positions on the head and body, including held to both ears, and all measurements are taken and reported to the FCC when the manufacturer is seeking approval. However, it should be noted that only the very highest SAR values for each type of radiation are included in final consideration for compliance with the FCC’s guidelines.
An analysis of data from all 13 countries participating in the Interphone study reported a statistically significant association between intracranial distribution of tumors within the brain and self-reported location of the phone (7). However, the authors of this study noted that it is not possible to draw firm conclusions about cause and effect based on their findings.