There was also “equivocal” evidence that it raised the risk of heart conditions, and led to evidence of DNA damage. Baby rats born to mothers during the trial had lower birth weights. The scientists also found a statistically significant increase in lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes) among female mice and heightened rates of liver cancer in the male mice. All those findings were labeled “equivocal.”
Since 2001, the FCC has allowed manufacturers to test phones at a distance of up to one inch from the body to account for the use of a holster. In a 2012 report, however, the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional watchdog agency, noted that many cell phone owners actually keep and use their phones right next to the body, so these outdated testing policies could result in radiofrequency (RF) radiation exposure greater than the FCC’s legal limit (GAO 2012). The GAO report concluded:
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.”
But there is also some ambiguity about cellphone radiation’s health effects. As Dr. John Bucher, a senior scientist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and a co-author of the NIH studies, told me, “[Our results] go against the notion that non-ionizing radiation is completely harmless.” In other words, he’s found that the type of radiation cellphones give off could cause biological changes, like promoting tumors, at least in animals.
Mobile phone use and the development of tumors in the exposure area. Accordingly, Dr. Elisabeth Cardis from the International Agency for Research on Cancer - IARC, started organizing a study (the INTERPHONE) with the participation of 16 sites worldwide, in the purpose of assessing whether use of mobile phones is connected with an increased risk for developing brain tumors (benign and malignant), auditory nerve tumor and salivary gland tumors. The purpose of the cooperation was to reach a satisfactory sample size that could answer the question from the statistical aspect and also to establish a situation where the study represents enough subjects who have used the mobile phone over a relatively long period (at least 10 years). In Israel, the study was conducted by Dr. Siegal Sadetzki, Director of the Cancer Epidemiology and Radiation Unit at the Gertner Institute, Sheba Hospital.
This 2009 meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, looked at 23 case-control studies of the risk of both malignant and benign tumors from mobile phone use. When the authors included all 23, they found no increased risk of tumors. When they crunched certain subsets of the data — like looking only at studies that were blinded, or people who used cellphones for 10 or more years — they did find increases in tumor risks. Confusingly, when they divided up the analysis by tumor type, they found no increase in risk for glioma and acoustic neuroma, and a decrease in risk of meningioma.
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.
Pong’s claims for its case have stood up to the scrutiny of Wired magazine and the Better Business Bureau (Advertising Self-Regulation Council 2012; Ganapati 2009). In tests conducted by Cetecom, a cell phone radiation certification lab, and observed by a reporter from Wired magazine, an iPhone 3G tested without a case had a maximum SAR of 1.18 W/kg when held at the ear. The same phone tested with a Pong case had a maximum SAR of 0.42 W/kg (Ganapati 2009).
Take a closer look at the product claims. Many refer to their “shielding technology” and not the product itself. In many cases, the “FCC Certified” labs they cite are actually testing how much RF the raw shielding material can block. They’re testing the materials used in the products. They’re not testing how much RF the actual products block while on a real-world phone.
Pong’s research indicates that badly designed cell phone cases can partially block a phone’s antenna, making the device work harder to transmit signals. Due to gaps in the FCC’s cell phone regulations, a phone worn right next to the body and enclosed by a case that obstructs the antenna could expose the user to more radiation than the FCC’s legal limit.
The peer reviewers did have some quibbles with the study; some wished it could have lasted longer (the rodents were exposed to radiation for two years) to catch later-developing tumors, for example, but others on the panel noted that the longer a rodent lives, the more likely it is to develop tumors regardless of radiation, making it harder to find the signal in the noise. Others wanted the researchers to have dissected the rodent brains more than they did, to seek hard-to-find tumors. But they noted that science is an iterative process; the study wasn’t perfect, but it’s better than anything that’s been done so far.
It’s true that cellphones do emit radiation. And radiation is a scary word for a lot of people, thanks in part to the horrific aftermath of nuclear accidents and photographs of victims of the nuclear bombs the US dropped on Japan in World War II. People hear radiation and they associate it with nuclear radiation and the bomb, says Geoffrey Kabat, a cancer epidemiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and author of the book Getting Risk Right. “There are all these associations and those are deeply ingrained in people. But it doesn’t apply here.”
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).