You’ll notice radiation is split into two categories here: ionizing and non-ionizing. The waves emitted from radios, cellphones and cellphone towers, Wi-Fi routers, and microwaves are referred to as “radio-frequency” radiation. That’s a type of “non-ionizing” radiation, since it doesn’t carry enough energy to “ionize” — or strip electrons from atoms and molecules. (Other sources of non-ionizing radiation, as you can see in our chart, include visible and infrared light.)
Pong Research also makes cases for the iPad and its technology is arguably better suited for that. Why? Because serving as a stand to prop up your iPad or tablet, it means you don’t really need to hold it. That’s an ideal setup because higher amounts of radiation are going out the back, versus the front of the screen which you are touching with your fingers and palms.
A few epidemiology studies have reported higher rates of tumors inside the skull among people who use cell phones heavily for 10 years or more. Of particular concern are benign Schwann cell tumors called acoustic neuromas, which affect nerve cells connecting the inner ear with structures inside the brain. These growths can in some instances progress to malignant cancer with time. But other studies have found no evidence of acoustic neuromas or brain tumors in heavy cell phone users.
It’s also possible that longer-term studies and cancer incidence tracking will find larger cancer effects in another five or 10 years — or that how we use cellphones is evolving such that the devices may cause cancer in ways these studies didn’t account for. (These days, many people text instead of talking, and hold their cellphones in their pockets but not on their heads and necks.) That’s why some people look to animal studies to supplement our understanding of the potential biological effects of cellphones.
4. For the reasons mentioned in #3 above, an at-home meter test is extremely inaccurate and unreliable. That said, a far field RF meter such as the one you are using is highly influenced by ambient RF levels that exist almost everywhere. Again, we do not aim to eliminate the radiation from the device, nor from your surroundings, but our technology does deflect the radiation away from the body.
Epidemiology studies investigating cell phone use patterns with human cancer risk have produced inconsistent results. Some studies enrolled people who already had tumors with suspected links to RF radiation, such as gliomas, acoustic neuromas and salivary gland tumors. Researchers compared the self-reported cell phone use habits of the cancer patients with those of other people who did not have the same diseases. Other studies enrolled people while they were still healthy, and then followed them over time to see if new cancer diagnoses tracked with how they used cell phones. All the epidemiology studies, however, have troubling limitations, including that enrolled subjects often do not report their cell phone use habits accurately on questionnaires.
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.
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.
First, studies have not yet been able to follow people for very long periods of time. When tumors form after a known cancer-causing exposure, it often takes decades for them to develop. Because cell phones have been in widespread use for only about 20 years in most countries, it is not possible to rule out future health effects that have not yet appeared.
Your phone sends radiofrequency, or RF, waves from its antenna to nearby cell towers, and receives RF waves to its antenna from cell towers when you make a call or text or use data. The frequency of a cell phone’s RF waves falls between those emitted by FM radios and those from microwave ovens, all of which are considered “non-ionizing” forms of radiation. That means that—unlike radiation from a nuclear explosion, a CT scan, or a standard X-ray—the radiation from your phone does not carry enough energy to directly break or alter your DNA, which is one way that cancer can occur. (FM radios and microwaves don’t raise alarms, in part because they aren’t held close to your head when in use and because microwave ovens have shielding that offers protection.)
Again, non-ionizing radiation — the radiation from cellphones — doesn’t have enough energy to break our DNA, and therefore, we have traditionally thought, it couldn’t cause cancer. But there is some question about whether it’s as harmless as was once believed, or whether there might be another mechanism at play, other than direct DNA damage, that could lead to cancer or other biological problems.
The frequency of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation ranges from 30 kilohertz (30 kHz, or 30,000 Hz) to 300 gigahertz (300 GHz, or 300 billion Hz). Electromagnetic fields in the radiofrequency range are used for telecommunications applications, including cell phones, televisions, and radio transmissions. The human body absorbs energy from devices that emit radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation. The dose of the absorbed energy is estimated using a measure called the specific absorption rate (SAR), which is expressed in watts per kilogram of body weight.