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Many respected scientists join them. “We found no evidence of an increased risk of brain tumors or any other form of cancer” from cell-phone radiation, says John Boice Jr., Sc.D., president of the National Council on Radiation Protection & Measurements and a professor of medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn. “The worry should instead be in talking or texting with your cell phone while driving.”
In order to protect the population living around base stations and users of mobile handsets, governments and regulatory bodies adopt safety standards, which translate to limits on exposure levels below a certain value. There are many proposed national and international standards, but that of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) is the most respected one, and has been adopted so far by more than 80 countries. For radio stations, ICNIRP proposes two safety levels: one for occupational exposure, another one for the general population. Currently there are efforts underway to harmonise the different standards in existence.
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.”
Among the hundreds of smartphone cases available for iPhone and a bevy of popular Android phones, there are some that claim to reduce the amount of radiation your body absorbs when you have the handset close to your body. Pong Research is a US brand that offers a range of products fitting this description, as is Cellsafe, a company based in Victoria, Australia.
"Possibly carcinogenic" was a phrase that may media outlets pulled out of the release, but it's a dangerous takeaway for consumers, out of context. "Possibly carcinogenic to humans", or group 2B, is a sub-classification or monograph, applied to agents by the IARC. Other agents (or items of everyday life) in Group 2B include pickled vegetables, lead and Potassium bromate — an oxidising additive common in flour. In all, there are 272 agents listed as possibly carcinogenic.
Still, despite the odds, these fears could be around for a while — because it’s hard to prove that cellphone radiation doesn’t cause harm. There are just too many combinations of genes, environmental exposures, patterns of cellphone use, plus a healthy helping of random chance to consider. It’s why we’re still having the conversation about whether coffee, for example, is good or bad for us. So while the bulk of evidence points to no health effects from cellphone radiation, the scientific literature is still somewhat mixed, Foster says. “Someone who wants to worry can pick and choose and find a lot of evidence that would support their theories.”
W. Kim Johnson, a retired physicist and past president of the New Mexico Academy of Science, reviewed the Aires web site for Discovery News and described the material as gibberish, saying that the authors "of the technical description of the ‘Aires' device reads like a random selection of technical terminology. The working description for this device is made up of jargon that, in the end, really says nothing."
Use the speaker mode on the phone or a hands-free device such as a corded or cordless earpiece. This moves the antenna away from your head, which decreases the amount of RF waves that reach the head. Corded earpieces emit virtually no RF waves (although the phone itself still emits small amounts of RF waves that can reach parts of the body if close enough, such as on the waist or in a pocket). Bluetooth® earpieces have an SAR value of around 0.001 watts/kg (less than one thousandth the SAR limit for cell phones as set by the FDA and FCC).
The European Union is currently running the Mobi-Kids, a case-control study in 14 countries, to better understand the effects of electromagnetic fields radiation on children and adolescents. One of the early publications from the project, looking at data on the use of wireless devices among 10- to 25-year-olds in France, found that kids are started to rely on these devices earlier and earlier in life. But the researchers are still analyzing the main results on any health impacts, and haven’t yet published their findings.
"Someone claiming they need to reduce [the safe SAR level of 2 W/kg] by 90-percent — they just have no evidence to make that claim, and they are actually playing on the fact that people will be concerned enough about the possible cancer risk, although they don't understand that there's no sufficient data yet to make a statement about an actual cancer risk," said Professor Olver.
Researchers need funding to move fast to study the potential health effects of 5G networks and how they might change our exposures to radiation. “So far, we’ve got research that’s done on 3G and 4G but not 5G,” said Brawley of the American Cancer Society. “We do think the answers [about cell radiation’s cancer effects] for 5G may be different from the answers for 4G or 3G. ... As these types of radio waves and energy change over time, the answers [about their health effects] may change.”
The guidelines created a measure of the rate that body tissue absorbs radiation during cell phone use called the specific absorption rate (SAR). The SAR for cell phone radiation was set at a maximum of 1.6 watts of energy absorbed per kilogram of body weight. The limit was set due to the thermal effects of cell phone radiation (all RF radiation can heat human body tissue at high enough levels) - it was not set to mitigate other biological effects cell phone radiation might have such as DNA damage or cancer.
Leibovich was very careful to point out in our interview that Cellsafe is not claiming that the radiation absorbed by the body during phone use leads to health issues like brain tumours, male infertility or damage to unborn babies. But the Cellsafe website strongly suggests these links. Its homepage (image below) leads with the phrase "You should be concerned!" in an eye-catching red, and there is as much screen real estate on the site dedicated to information about the dangers of radiation, as there is for descriptions of the Cellsafe products. This information refers to "high levels of RF radiation" in several places, but it doesn't say whether this describes radiation from phone use.
The frequency of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation ranges from 30 kilohertz (30 kHz, or 30,000 Hz) to 300 gigahertz (300 GHz, or 300 billion Hz). Electromagnetic fields in the radiofrequency range are used for telecommunications applications, including cell phones, televisions, and radio transmissions. The human body absorbs energy from devices that emit radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation. The dose of the absorbed energy is estimated using a measure called the specific absorption rate (SAR), which is expressed in watts per kilogram of body weight.