The guidelines, issued last week, note that “some laboratory experiments and human health studies have suggested the possibility that long-term, high use of cell phones may be linked to certain types of cancer and other health effects.” These include brain cancer, tumors of the acoustic nerve and salivary glands, lower sperm count, headaches and effects on learning, memory, hearing, behavior and sleep.
Dr. Carlo, however, refused to be an easy target. He quickly recruited a group of prominent scientists to work with him, bulletproof experts owning long lists of credentials and reputations that would negate any perception that the research was predestined to be a sham. He also created a Peer Review Board chaired by Harvard University School of Public Health’s Dr. John Graham, something that made FDA officials more comfortable since, at the time, the agency was making negative headlines due to the breast implant controversy. In total, more than 200 doctors and scientists were involved in the project.
What the study showed: Self-reported cell phone use was not associated with an increased risk of glioma, meningioma, or non-central nervous system tumors. Although the original published findings reported an association with an increased risk of acoustic neuroma (14), this association disappeared after additional years of follow-up of the cohort (15).
For example, cellphone manufacturers currently test these devices for compliance with FCC standards by placing them against the head, and near the torso with some separation. Just check out Apple’s iPhone manual: The company tests the specific absorption rate at a 5mm separation from the body. But if you wear your device in your pocket, you’re probably not going to have that 5mm separation, meaning you may be exposed to more radiation — perhaps enough to exceed current standards.
A decline in male sperm quality has been observed over several decades. Studies on the impact of mobile radiation on male fertility are conflicting, and the effects of the radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) emitted by these devices on the reproductive systems are currently under active debate. A 2012 review concluded that "together, the results of these studies have shown that RF-EMR decreases sperm count and motility and increases oxidative stress". A 2017 study of 153 men that attended an academic fertility clinic in Boston, Massachusetts found that self-reported mobile phone use was not related to semen quality, and that carrying a mobile phone in the pants pocket was not related to semen quality.
Like we talked about in the last section, SAR limits that are reported are the maximum possible radiation emitted from the device, however, this level is not what is common with the regular use of the device. Just because one cell phone has a higher maximum SAR level, doesn’t mean that the radiation level of normal use isn’t higher or lower than another device with a different maximum SAR level.
Says Dr. Carlo: “We also conducted four different epidemiological studies on groups of people who used cell phones, and we did clinical intervention studies. For example, studies of people with implanted cardiac pacemakers were instrumental in our making recommendations to prevent interference between cell phones and pacemakers. In all, we conducted more than fifty studies that were peer-reviewed and published in a number of medical and scientific journals.”
The Specific Absorption Rate that the FCC, with input from many other government institutions, decided on, is defined using an average of a 30-minute phone call with the cell phone held directly to the ear. Since modern cell phones are used in all sorts of manners, ie speakerphone, scrolling through social media, browsing the web, etc, a base had to be set.
The energy of electromagnetic radiation is determined by its frequency; ionizing radiation is high frequency, and therefore high energy, whereas non-ionizing radiation is low frequency, and therefore low energy. The NCI fact sheet Electromagnetic Fields and Cancer lists sources of radiofrequency radiation. More information about ionizing radiation can be found on the Radiation page.