At high power levels, RF waves can heat up water molecules (which is how microwave ovens work). Scientists used to focus their concerns on the possibility that such heating of human tissue, which is mostly water, might damage cells. In fact, the FCC’s test of cell-phone emissions—which was set in 1996 and which all phones must pass before being allowed on the market—is based on that effect.
Yes, cell phones emit Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) and direct exposure to these emissions can be a health risk. There are two types of EMF radiation emitted from cell phones: Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) radiation and Radio Frequency (RF) radiation (which includes cellular signals, WiFi and Bluetooth). More and more, particularly in recent years, scientific studies have confirmed that these EMF exposure can adversely modify the biological operations of the body. In more serious cases, exposure to EMFs can lead to tumors, reduce sperm count and other serious health concerns.
When called to help with the cell phone issue, Dr. Carlo was working with the FDA on silicone breast implant research. The choice of Dr. Carlo to head WTR seemed unusual to industry observers. An epidemiologist whose expertise was in public health and how epidemic diseases affect the population, he appeared to lack any experience in researching the effects of EMR on human biology. Based on this, a premature conclusion was drawn by many: Dr. Carlo was an “expert” handpicked by the cell phone industry, and therefore his conclusions would only back up the industry’s claim that cell phones are safe.
In this frequency range, the interaction between matter and light is via the electric field component of light (totally different from how ionizing radiation messes you up). In particular, an oscillating electric field causes polar molecules to rotate or attempt to rotate, and the lag between the applied field and the response of the molecules manifests as dissipation—i.e. heating [3]. This is the same dielectric heating which is the operating principle behind microwave ovens (which operate at 2450 MHz [4] similar to wifi). So if cell phones were to cause damage to tissue, the mechanism would be the same as what happens in a microwave oven—boiling the water in your head/body.
The World Health Organization states that "A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use."[2] In a 2018 statement, the FDA said that "the current safety limits are set to include a 50-fold safety margin from observed effects of radiofrequency energy exposure".[3]
Finally, Brawley reminded me that cellphones kill humans in another way that we’re already certain about: because of inattention through distracted driving. In the US alone, there were 3,157 fatal crashes in 2016 that involved distracted driving, 14 percent of which included cellphone use, according to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s not the focus of this piece, but perhaps state and federal regulators could follow places like Washington state, California, New York, and Nevada and heavily crack down on distracted driving with bans or stricter laws.
Scientists have reported adverse health effects of using mobile phones including changes in brain activity, reaction times, and sleep patterns. More studies are underway to try to confirm these findings. When mobile phones are used very close to some medical devices (including pacemakers, implantable defibrillators, and certain hearing aids) there is the possibility of causing interference with their operation. There is also the potential of interference between mobile phones signals and aircraft electronics. Some countries have licensed mobile phone use on aircraft during flight using systems that control the phone output power.
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).
Radio base licensing procedures have been established in the majority of urban spaces regulated either at municipal/county, provincial/state or national level. Mobile telephone service providers are, in many regions, required to obtain construction licenses, provide certification of antenna emission levels and assure compliance to ICNIRP standards and/or to other environmental legislation.
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.
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).
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