If you're looking for ways to limit your exposure to the electromagnetic emissions from your cell phone, know that, according to the FTC, there is no scientific proof that so-called shields significantly reduce exposure from these electromagnetic emissions. In fact, products that block only the earpiece – or another small portion of the phone – are totally ineffective because the entire phone emits electromagnetic waves. What's more, these shields may interfere with the phone's signal, cause it to draw even more power to communicate with the base station, and possibly emit more radiation.
There are fears that the electromagnetic radiation emitted from mobile phone handsets may harm health. In particular, there have been claims that it could affect the body’s cells, brain or immune system and increase the risk of developing a range of diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s. Laboratory tests on mice have shown that radiation from mobile phones can have an adverse effect on their overall health. It is still not clear whether those findings can be applied directly to humans. A study by scientists in Finland, published in 2002, suggested that the electromagnetic radiation did affect human brain tissue. But they played down their findings saying more research was needed to see if the effects were the same in living people. Another study by scientists in Sweden, also published in 2002, claimed to have found a link between analogue mobile phones and brain tumours. It suggested users of “first generation” phones had a 30% higher risk of developing tumours than people who did not. However, the findings were controversial and there have been no similar studies into the effects of modern GSM phones. There have also been reports of people suffering from headaches, fatigue and loss of concentration after using their mobile phones. However, these claims have not been scientifically substantiated.
The authors found a consistent effect, in both types of studies, that cellphone radiation leads to decreased sperm motility (ability to swim) and viability, but not a decrease in overall concentration. While it’s unclear if these specific changes are enough to affect men’s fertility, the authors wrote, “mobile phone exposure may form part of a cumulative effect of modern day environmental exposures, that collectively reduce sperm quality and explain current trends in infertility.”
The research continued, and what it uncovered would be a dire warning to cell phone users and the industry’s worst nightmare. When the findings were ready for release in 1998, the scientists were suddenly confronted with another challenge: the industry wanted to take over public dissemination of the information, and it tried everything it could to do so. It was faced with disaster and had a lot to lose.
Changing technology and methods of use. Older studies evaluated radiofrequency radiation exposure from analog cell phones. Today, cell phones use digital technology, which operates at a different frequency and a lower power level than analog phones. Digital cell phones have been in use for more than two decades in the United States, and cellular technology continues to change (3). Texting and other applications, for example, are common uses of cell phones that do not require bringing the phone close to the head. Furthermore, the use of hands-free technology, such as wired and wireless headsets, is increasing and may reduce exposure by distancing the phone from the body (36, 37).
The Stewart report recommended that children should only use mobile phones in emergencies. The recommendation was based on the theory that children could be more at risk from the radiowaves emitted by mobile phones. This is because their brains are still developing and their skulls are thinner, making it easier for the radiowaves to penetrate them. Also if they start using mobiles at a young age, their cumulative lifetime use will be higher than adults. According to the Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation, “little has been published specifically on childhood exposures” since 2000. As a result, children are still advised only to use mobile phones in emergencies. However, surveys suggest that many children are ignoring the advice. A survey of 1,000 British children, carried out in 2001, found 90% of under-16s own a mobile and one in 10 spends more than 45 minutes a day using it.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that the IARC classification means that there could be some risk associated with cancer, but the evidence is not strong enough to be considered causal and needs to be investigated further. Individuals who are concerned about radiofrequency exposure can limit their exposure, including using an ear piece and limiting cell phone use, particularly among children. (5)
What the study showed: Most published analyses from this study have shown no statistically significant increases in brain or central nervous system cancers related to higher amounts of cell phone use. One analysis showed a statistically significant, although modest, increase in the risk of glioma among the small proportion of study participants who spent the most total time on cell phone calls. However, the researchers considered this finding inconclusive because they felt that the amount of use reported by some respondents was unlikely and because the participants who reported lower levels of use appeared to have a slightly reduced risk of brain cancer compared with people who did not use cell phones regularly (4–6).