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The cell phone industry is fully aware of the dangers. In fact, enough scientific evidence exists that some companies’ service contracts prohibit suing the cell phone manufacturer or service provider, or joining a class action lawsuit. Still, the public is largely ignorant of the dangers, while the media regularly trumpets new studies showing cell phones are completely safe to use. Yet, Dr. Carlo points out, “None of those studies can prove safety, no matter how well they’re conducted or who’s conducting them.” What’s going on here? While the answer in itself is simplistic, how we got to this point is complex.
We’re also exposed to radio-frequency radiation from the networks that connect our phones. And while the coming rollout of 5G, or fifth-generation, wireless networks is expected to transmit data faster than ever, it will also increase the number of antennas sending signals to mobile devices, and potentially our exposure to radiation, with unclear health effects.
Mobile phones emit radiofrequency energy, a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, which can be absorbed by tissues close to the phone. The amount of radiofrequency energy a mobile phone user is exposed depend on many factors as the technology of the phone, the distance between the phone and the user, the extent and type of mobile phone use and the user’s distance from cell phone towers. (2)
The first one is easy, cellular frequencies vary between 450–2000MHz, but 800 or 900 MHz is the most common. The power emitted by a cell phone varies over the course of the call (higher when making initial contact, which lasts a few seconds). It can go up to 2 Watts at the start of a call, and can go down to .02 Watts during optimal operation . Of course, most people barely use cell phones for calls, but I am using this example as a worst case scenario, because the phone is not right by your head when you are browsing Tinder.
Over time, the number of cell phone calls per day, the length of each call, and the amount of time people use cell phones have increased. Because of changes in cell phone technology and increases in the number of base stations for transmitting wireless signals, the exposure from cell phone use—power output—has changed, mostly lowered, in many regions of the United States (1).