The exact source of radiation in a cell phone is from the transmitter, a device located near the antenna that converts audio data into electromagnetic waves. The amount of radiation a cell phone can emit is limited by legal restrictions in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Additionally, the average radiation levels of most mobile phones are available to the public, courtesy of the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S.
Another part of the INTERPHONE study compared more than 1,000 people with acoustic neuromas to more than 2,000 people without tumors, who served as matched controls. As with gliomas and meningiomas, there was no overall link between cell phone use and acoustic neuromas. There was again a suggestion of a possible increased risk in the 10% of people who used their cell phones the most, but this was hard to interpret because some people reported implausibly high cell phone use, as well as other issues.
“It’s quite informative that the NTP data found evidence of an increased tumor risk in the male rats for glial cells and in the [heart] Schwann cells,” said Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the Berkeley School of Public Health (who writes about electromagnetic radiation here). “That’s compelling evidence that what we’re seeing in humans — even though the signal is not clear — is highly suggestive, and that there is indeed something real going on with regard to tumor risk in humans.”
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).
For example, cellphone manufacturers currently test these devices for compliance with FCC standards by placing them against the head, and near the torso with some separation. Just check out Apple’s iPhone manual: The company tests the specific absorption rate at a 5mm separation from the body. But if you wear your device in your pocket, you’re probably not going to have that 5mm separation, meaning you may be exposed to more radiation — perhaps enough to exceed current standards.
Specific Absorption Rate is an indicator of how much EMF radiation body tissue absorbs when you’re using a cell phone and is one way to measure and compare the harm of different devices. In this article, I wanted to provide a resource to compare and contrast the SAR levels of many popular phones and talk a bit about what Specific Absorption Rate is, and how we can use it.
Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) is an indicator for calculating the level of radiation absorbed in the body. This indicator represents the rate of energy absorption by the tissue and is expressed in units of Watt/kg. The Consumer Protection Regulations (information on non-ionizing radiation from mobile phones) of 2002, stipulate the duty to label the product, specifying the radiation level of the phone’s model and the maximum permitted radiation level. This regulation allows to compare the emitted radiation level between different instruments and to take this into consideration when weighing the factors determining the choice of a new instrument at the time of its purchase.
That’s because of a new anti-radiation phone case from SafeSleeve, a small company that started making anti-radiation laptop cases roughly three years ago. "I was using my laptop computer on my lap, and a friend of mine told me I shouldn’t,” says company co-founder Cary Subel. “His dad was a urologist, who had told him that the effects of the radiation and heat can affect your fertility and potentially cause all sorts of other issues. So it was in the back of my mind. When I went to college, I was always using my laptop on my lap more and more, but I was hesitant. I figured there was something out there to block the radiation and heat. But I looked it up and there wasn’t much.” He says he developed a case for the laptop that did the job. From there, the cell phone cases became a natural progression, and through a 2014 Kickstarter campaign became reality.
Read the “fine print” from the manufacturer’s instruction manual which tells users to put a distance between the phone and your head and body. These fine print warnings range from a few millimeters to almost an inch. The fine print warnings on other wireless devices (such as Wi-Fi routers, wireless printers, home cordless phone base stations and baby monitors) generally state the distance should be at least 20 cm, or about 8 inches. If people are closer than the manufacturer stated separation distance, then they can be exposed to RF levels that violate the US government FCC limits for this radiation.
Unfortunately, however, we’ll probably never have an RCT on cellphones and cancer in humans. It’d be too difficult and too expensive to randomly assign particular levels of cellphone use to thousands of people and have them stick with those plans for enough time (we’re talking at least five years) to figure out whether certain types of phones or phone use patterns cause cancer to develop. That’s not to mention the fact it’d be nearly impossible to find a group of people willing to not use cellphones and then make sure they actually stick to their promise.
The FCC provides information about the specific absorption rate (SAR) of cell phones produced and marketed within the last 1 to 2 years. The SAR corresponds with the relative amount of radiofrequency radiation absorbed by the head of a cell phone user (47). Consumers can access this information using the phone’s FCC ID number, which is usually located on the case of the phone, and the FCC’s ID search form.
The next scientific step will be to determine what this means for humans. The peer-reviewed papers will be passed on to the US Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for determining human risk and issuing any guidelines to the public, and the Federal Communications Commission, which develops safety standards for cell phones. The FDA was part of the group of federal agencies who commissioned the studies back in the early 2000s.
EWG is calling on the FCC to update its testing guidelines to take account of the widespread use of smartphone cases. Such action is critical because mounting scientific studies have raised serious questions about the safety of cell phone radiation exposure over the short and long term. In the absence of meaningful action by the Commission, EWG offers consumers tips on how to reduce their exposure to cell phone radiation.
Studies in people: Another type of study looks at cancer rates in different groups of people. Such a study might compare the cancer rate in a group exposed to something like cell phone use to the rate in a group not exposed to it, or compare it to what the expected cancer rate would be in the general population. But sometimes it can be hard to know what the results of these studies mean, because many other factors that might affect the results are hard to account for.
The authors of these studies noted that the results were preliminary and that possible health outcomes from changes in glucose metabolism in humans were unknown. Such inconsistent findings are not uncommon in experimental studies of the biological effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation in people (4). Some factors that can contribute to inconsistencies across such studies include assumptions used to estimate doses, failure to consider temperature effects, and lack of blinding of investigators to exposure status.