But, like the human studies, one can pick apart the NTP studies too. For one thing, the animals experienced cell phone radiation that was different from what humans live with. As Bucher said in a statement, “In our studies, rats and mice received radio frequency radiation across their whole bodies. By contrast, people are mostly exposed in specific local tissues close to where they hold the phone. In addition, the exposure levels and durations in our studies were greater than what people experience.”

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The study specifically used 2G and 3G frequencies — not the frequencies used on more advanced 4G or 5G networks. Researchers exposed the rodents’ entire bodies to the radiowaves for more than nine hours per day, for up to two years. (“A rat that is 2 years old is roughly equivalent to a 70-year-old person,” STAT News reports.) These exposure levels were much higher than what people would experience, John Bucher, senior scientist with the NTP, says in a statement. “So, these findings should not be directly extrapolated to human cell phone usage,” he says.

The energy of electromagnetic radiation is determined by its frequency; ionizing radiation is high frequency, and therefore high energy, whereas non-ionizing radiation is low frequency, and therefore low energy. The NCI fact sheet Electromagnetic Fields and Cancer lists sources of radiofrequency radiation. More information about ionizing radiation can be found on the Radiation page.

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