It also means regulators need to make sure their policies reflect new levels of exposure. The Federal Communications Commission currently oversees cellphone safety and sets the limits for how much radiation people should be exposed to. (This is measured by the specific absorption rate — the rate at which the body absorbs radio frequency energy — and the current limit for cellphones is 1.6 watts of energy per kilogram of tissue. The whole-body threshold is a SAR value of 0.08 watts per kilogram, and the tower radiation limit is 10 watts per square meter.)
Ideal for hands-free communication. Dramatically reduces microwave exposure by keeping the phone away from your head! Comfort-fit adjustable headband design. Reversible to use with either ear. Also features an adjustable boom microphone for optimum voice output and a four-foot cord. Can also be used with your tape or CD player, etc. Very comfortable, especially for long term wear. Better hold. Quicker to put on than ear bud style headsets. Add a ferrite bead for added protection.
That’s why the International EMF Scientist Appeal and a number of health and safety organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Environmental Health Trust, have called on the government to reassess the safe levels of exposure to cellphones and other wireless technology and then develop new consumer safety guidelines based on those assessments, Moskowitz said.
A recent small study in people has shown that cell phones may also have some other effects on the brain, although it’s not clear if they’re harmful. The study found that when people had an active cell phone held up to their ear for 50 minutes, brain tissues on the same side of the head as the phone used more glucose than did tissues on the other side of the brain. Glucose is a sugar that normally serves as the brain’s fuel. Glucose use goes up in certain parts of the brain when it is in use, such as when we are thinking, speaking, or moving. The possible health effect, if any, from the increase in glucose use from cell phone energy is unknown.
“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:
But the pair of studies by the US National Toxicology Program found “clear evidence” that exposure to radiation caused heart tumors in male rats, and found “some evidence” that it caused tumors in the brains of male rats. (Both are positive results; the NTP uses the labels “clear evidence,” “some evidence,” “equivocal evidence” and “no evidence” when making conclusions.)
As Jonathan Samet — the dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, who advised the World Health Organization on cellphone radiation and cancer — told me, you can argue anything based on the science we currently have “because there’s not enough evidence to start with.” Actually, there’s not enough high-quality evidence. Before we get into why, and what we know, we need a quick primer on cellphone radiation.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the intensity of radio frequency (RF) radiation from cell phones decreases exponentially the further the device is held away from the body. Therefore your safest bet it keep your cell phone as far away from your ear and body as possible at all times. Don’t carry it in your pocket, tucked into a bra strap, and definitely don’t sleep with it next to your head.
The guidelines, issued last week, note that “some laboratory experiments and human health studies have suggested the possibility that long-term, high use of cell phones may be linked to certain types of cancer and other health effects.” These include brain cancer, tumors of the acoustic nerve and salivary glands, lower sperm count, headaches and effects on learning, memory, hearing, behavior and sleep.
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.
And even with these unusually high levels of exposure, the links to cancer were still “mostly equivocal, or ambiguous,” according to the FDA’s statement. In fact, the rats exposed to cell phone radiation actually appeared to live longer than the ones that weren’t, a finding that the FDA’s Shuren says the agency is assessing. The difference could simply be the result of chance, STAT News reports.
That brings us back to the main question here: Do cellphones cause tumors? We chose to focus this story on cancer risk, since it seems like the most common health concern people have about cellphones. But before we get to the answers, we need to take another (brief) detour to explain how this science has been done with human subjects. To do that, we need to zoom in on a nerdy subject: research methods.
Finally, Brawley reminded me that cellphones kill humans in another way that we’re already certain about: because of inattention through distracted driving. In the US alone, there were 3,157 fatal crashes in 2016 that involved distracted driving, 14 percent of which included cellphone use, according to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s not the focus of this piece, but perhaps state and federal regulators could follow places like Washington state, California, New York, and Nevada and heavily crack down on distracted driving with bans or stricter laws.
But the results of these two rat studies align with those of the biggest cell phone-radiation human study to date, INTERPHONE. The INTERPHONE study, published in 2011, was a coordinated effort by researchers at 16 institutions across 13 countries, and found that the heaviest mobile phone users were more likely to develop glioma—the same type of brain cancer the NTP study found in the male rats. “So there’s a concordance between the animal and human data,” Melnick says.
“One thing all these conditions have in common is a disruption, to varying degrees, of intercellular communication. When we were growing up, TV antennas were on top of our houses and such waves were up in the sky. Cell phones and Wi-Fi have brought those things down to the street, integrated them into the environment, and that’s absolutely new. The recognition mechanism, where protein vibration sensors on the cell membrane pick up a signal and interpret it as an invader, only works because the body recognizes something it’s never seen before.”
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This is why it’s important to always use either your phone’s speakerphone or an appropriate wired earpiece whenever possible, avoiding direct contact between your phone and your ear or hand. The best earpieces are those equipped with hollow tubing between the antenna in the wire and the earpiece, as these help maximize the distance between the radiation-emitting antenna and your head.
The outside is made of a synthetic polyurethane that feels just like leather, although genuine leather will be available soon. The inside is made of a microfiber that won’t scratch the phone. The materials are also designed to protect your phone, should you drop it. Most importantly, an integrated FCC-certified lab tested radiation-shielding foil not only deflects and absorbs RF, ELF and Thermal radiation to greatly reduce your exposure, but it also blocks RFID signals, so that hackers cannot steal your credit card information by scanning it from afar. And no, the case will not affect phone or battery performance.
Users were defined as anyone who made at least one phone call per week for six months between 1982 and 1995. So any person who made 26 calls was a cell phone user and therefore considered exposed to radiation. Those with less than 26 calls were non-users. In reality, the radiation exposure between users and non-users defined in this manner is not discernable.
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.”
In 2011, researchers at the National Institutes of Health showed that low-level radiation from an activated cell phone held close to a human head could change the way certain brain cells functioned, even without raising body temperature. The study did not prove that the effect on brain cells was dangerous, only that radiation from cell phones could have a direct effect on human tissue.
We also spoke to experts and searched government reports to try to find any other high-quality evidence that may not have been published in an academic database. We included the National Toxicology Program’s animal studies, since they are considered some of the most important animal research that was funded by the government to help answer the question of whether cellphones cause cancer. We also included research on the fertility effects of cellphone radiation, since that was a concern many researchers in the field had.
There’s no question that portable phones and computers offer many conveniences and have made our lives easier in countless ways. For many people this convenience outweighs the worry of EMFs. My hope is that by becoming aware of the sources and dangers of cell phone radiation and EMFs, you’ll take steps to minimize exposure for both you and your family.