But not everyone is unconcerned. In May 2015, a group of 190 independent scientists from 39 countries, who in total have written more than 2,000 papers on the topic, called on the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and national governments to develop stricter controls on cell-phone radiation. They point to growing research—as well as the classification of cell-phone radiation as a possible carcinogen in 2011 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the WHO—suggesting that the low levels of radiation from cell phones could have potentially cancer-causing effects.
Several studies have investigated the other health effects (other than cancer) of mobile phone usage on human health. Hypotheses connecting mobile phone use to effects such as headaches, fatigue, sleep disorders, memory, vision or hearing impairment, have not been proven in established studies. A connection with reduced fertility has also not been scientifically proven.
“The evidence so far doesn’t prove that cell phones cause cancer, and we definitely need more and better research,” says Michael Hansen, Ph.D., a senior scientist at Consumer Reports. “But we feel that the research does raise enough questions that taking some common-sense precautions when using your cell phone can make sense.” Specifically, CR recommends these steps:
None of the three cases contain metallic parts, which are known to affect SAR, but all increased the user’s radiation exposure. The effect on radiation exposure would likely vary with each of the hundreds of cases on the market, and each would have to be tested individually to come up with an exact measure. The results in Table 1, however, are believed to reflect the range of radiation increases.
Current regulatory standards (SAR Test) only protect us from thermal or heating risks; yet, many hundreds of laboratory studies have found that low-intensity, non-thermal exposure to cell phone radiation can promote carcinogenic mechanisms. Moreover, research on humans has found that 25 years of mobile phone use is associated with a three-fold risk of brain cancer. –Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D. School of Public Health. University of California, Berkeley
Today’s report, the final one, was about a decade in the making and is the last of several versions that have been released since preliminary results were presented in May 2016. It represents the consensus of NTP scientists and a group of external reviewers, according to the release. In the future, the NTP plans to conduct studies in smaller exposure chambers and to use biomarkers such as DNA damage to gauge cancer risk. These changes in the experimental setup should mean that future studies will take less time.
Also noteworthy is that the studies evaluated radiation exposures in different ways. The NTP looked at “near-field” exposures, which approximate how people are dosed while using cell phones. Ramazzini researchers looked at “far-field” exposures, which approximate the wireless RF radiation that bombards us from sources all around us, including wireless devices such as tablet and laptop computers. Yet they generated comparable results: Male rats in both studies (but not mice or female animals) developed schwannomas of the heart at statistically higher rates than control animals that were not exposed.
"On the same [IARC] scale that said phone use was possibly carcinogenic, smoking is at the highest level. They are class 1 carcinogens; that's beyond doubt, they definitely do cause cancer ... There's an absolute difference between substances, where the evidence says that there is no doubt about the fact that they cause cancer, compared to mobile phones, where they say it is still possible because the data over ten years use still isn't in."
"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.
Stephen Chanock, who directs the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute, remains skeptical, however. Cancer monitoring by the institute and other organizations has yet to show increasing numbers of brain tumors in the general population, he says. Tracking of benign brain tumors, such as acoustic neuromas, was initiated in 2004 by investigators at the institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results program, which monitors and publishes statistics on cancer incidence rates. According to Chanock’s spokesperson, the acoustic neuroma data “haven’t accumulated to the point that we can say something meaningful about them.”
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When we think of harmful radiation, things like X-rays or gamma rays usually come to mind, but these types of radiation are different from mobile phone radiation in important ways. Radiation on the ultraviolet side of visible light, like those types just mentioned, has a wavelength that is short enough to alter some of the chemical properties of the objects it interacts with. It is referred to as ionizing radiation, for this reason. Non-ionizing radiation, which includes visible light, microwaves and radio waves, is typically regarded as harmless. Large amounts of it can produce a heating effect, like in a microwave oven, but no short-term damage has been linked to exposure to non-ionizing radiation.
Wi-Fi radiation, which falls into the RF category, is similarly damaging – particularly for men who stand to suffer reproductive damage when RF-emitting devices such as laptops are positioned too closely to the groin area. Like with the issues caused by cell phone radiation, it’s best to keep laptop computers off your lap and away from your body as much as possible.
2. Our products are designed to provide an anti-radiation barrier between the device and the body. This way, the devices are still usable and able to send and receive signal out of the non-shielded side while shielding the EMF away from the body. Because of this, you will only see a reduction in EMF levels on the shielded side of the device. The test you have conducted shows the highest levels from anywhere around the device.
SafeSleeve products are not tested by an FCC-approved lab. They have grossly mislead consumers. They only had tested one piece of material they claim is in their products. The consumer is given no proof that any of SafeSleeve products reduce any type of radiation. Do not bother testing their products with an RF meter because accurate testing requires a special lab that costs thousands of dollars. That’s why SafeSleeve has never had their products tested.
The studies are notable for their sizes. Researchers at the National Toxicology Program, a federal interagency group under the National Institutes of Health, tested 3,000 rats and mice of both sexes for two years—the largest investigation of RF radiation and cancer in rodents ever undertaken in the U.S. European investigators at the Ramazzini Institute in Italy were similarly ambitious; in their recent study they investigated RF effects in nearly 2,500 rats from the fetal stage until death.
In March, however, a peer-review panel of 11 experts from industry and academia voted to advise the agency that it should raise the confidence level from “equivocal evidence” to “some evidence” of a link between cellphone radiation and brain tumors in male rats. (The female rats did not show evidence of a link between the radiation and such tumors.) Two panel members, Lydia Andrews-Jones of Allergan and Susan Felter of Procter & Gamble, proposed the risk upgrade.
In a February 2 statement, Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, wrote that despite the NTP study’s results, the combined evidence on RF exposure and human cancer—which by now amounts to hundreds of studies—has “given us confidence that the current safety limits for cell phone radiation remain acceptable for protecting the public health.” Chonock says that for him, evidence from the Ramazzini study does not alter that conclusion. “We continue to agree with the FDA statement,” he says.
Cell-phone designs have changed a lot since the studies described above were completed. For example, the antennas—where most of the radiation from cell phones is emitted—are no longer located outside of phones near the top, closest to your brain when you talk, but are inside the phone, and they can be toward the bottom. As a result, the antenna may not be held against your head when you’re on the phone. That’s important because when it comes to cell-phone radiation, every millimeter counts: The strength of exposure drops dramatically as the distance from your body increases.
Experts suggest that mobile phone users can take a number of precautions to reduce any possible health risks. Almost all agree that the best step is to keep mobile phone conversations short and to a minimum. Many believe that so-called hands free kits reduce the risks by cutting the amount of electromagnetic radiation entering the brain. They also recommend that users buy phones with external aerials so that it is as far away from the head as possible when in use. Similarly, it is believed that phones with a long talk time are more efficient and produce less powerful emissions. Users are also advised against buying handsets with a high “SAR” value, which means it emits more radiation.
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.”
But scientists disagree on how real—or how serious—these risks really are, and studies have not established any definitive links between health problems and radiofrequency (RF) energy, the type of radiation emitted by cell phones. “This document is intended to provide guidance for people who want to reduce their own and their families’ exposure to RF energy from cell phones,” the guidelines state, “despite this uncertainty.”
Participation bias, which can happen when people who are diagnosed with brain tumors are more likely than healthy people (known as controls) to enroll in a research study. Also, controls who did not or rarely used cell phones were less likely to participate in the Interphone study than controls who used cell phones regularly. For example, the Interphone study reported participation rates of 78% for meningioma patients (range among the individual studies 56–92%), 64% for glioma patients (range 36–92%), and 53% for control subjects (range 42–74%) (6).