The tricky part about measuring the radiation from a cell phone is that the emission strength varies widely over time. There will be strong bursts of varying intensity, followed by quiet periods. This makes it hard to compare "apples to apples". Also, because you are measuring up close to the source, you must use a near field meter AND you must maintain the position of the meter very precisely.
But the pair of studies by the US National Toxicology Program found “clear evidence” that exposure to radiation caused heart tumors in male rats, and found “some evidence” that it caused tumors in the brains of male rats. (Both are positive results; the NTP uses the labels “clear evidence,” “some evidence,” “equivocal evidence” and “no evidence” when making conclusions.)
The use of "hands-free" was not recommended by the British Consumers' Association in a statement in November 2000, as they believed that exposure was increased. However, measurements for the (then) UK Department of Trade and Industry and others for the French Agence française de sécurité sanitaire environnementale [fr] showed substantial reductions. In 2005, Professor Lawrie Challis and others said clipping a ferrite bead onto hands-free kits stops the radio waves travelling up the wire and into the head.
When turned on, cell phones and other wireless devices emit RF radiation continually, even if they are not being actively used, because they are always communicating with cell towers. The dose intensity tails off with increasing distance from the body, and reaches a maximum when the devices are used next to the head during phone calls or in front of the body during texting or tweeting.
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The following is an excerpt of a typical conclusion published in a scientific journal about the links between EMFs, cell phones and health: "Epidemiologic research shows a low degree of association, inconsistency and missing dose-effect relations. A biologic mechanism of action is still debatable. No harm to human health has been shown. Conclusion: There is no scientific basis as to the harmful effects of EMFs on human health."
It'd be wrong to say that there is no evidence of harm at all. In fact, the re-classification by the IARC came about in the first place because the Working Group contributing to the Interphone study acknowledged "limited evidence" of an increase in glioma (a type of tumour, commonly found in the brain) among phone users in one of the studies. In this study, which concluded in 2004, researchers found that participating phone owners who had used their handsets for calls for more than 30-minutes a day, over a period of ten years, had an increase incidence of glioma.
These cases work by redirecting the electromagnetic radiation (EMR) that is produced by phones, away from the user. All phones produce EMR when connected to the mobile network, and the effect of this energy is measured as a Specific Absorption Rate, or SAR: a measurement describing the radiation absorbed by kilogram of tissue. Government regulations in Australia dictate that all phones in Australia must emit a SAR less than 2 W/kg under the worst case scenario, and while all phones comply, most modern phones emit, at most, only half of this safe level, or approximately 1 W/kg.
The studies are notable for their sizes. Researchers at the National Toxicology Program, a federal interagency group under the National Institutes of Health, tested 3,000 rats and mice of both sexes for two years—the largest investigation of RF radiation and cancer in rodents ever undertaken in the U.S. European investigators at the Ramazzini Institute in Italy were similarly ambitious; in their recent study they investigated RF effects in nearly 2,500 rats from the fetal stage until death.
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An analysis of data from NCI's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program evaluated trends in cancer incidence in the United States. This analysis found no increase in the incidence of brain or other central nervous system cancers between 1992 and 2006, despite the dramatic increase in cell phone use in this country during that time (22).