Today, the computer and phone have merged into one device that fits in the palm of your hand. A smartphone is essentially a small computer, yet has many times the computing power of traditional computers. There are no cords to connect you to a base. When turned on in your pocket or being used against your head, the cell phone touches some of the most sensitive parts of the body. Although the cell phone produces lower levels of radiation then past computers, they are now used much closer to the body and for longer periods of time, thus creating more health risks than in the past.
That’s why randomized controlled trials (RCTs) often yield fairly clear answers about the effectiveness of treatments compared to other study designs. (Fun fact: Scottish doctor James Lind, a clinical trial pioneer, figured out that citrus fruits seemed to have an effect on scurvy using one of the earliest RCTs.) RCTs can also be used to study whether something, like cellphone radiation, can cause disease.
As a result, stories about a single nuclear meltdown or possible link between cellphone radiation and cancer will be amplified much more than news about the nine people who probably died today in the US from distracted driving. “This possible health effect from radiation is pretty esoteric at this point. If there is anything there, it seems to me like it’s going to be very, very small,” says Kenneth R. Foster, a bioengineering professor at the University of Pennsylvania who has been investigating whether there are biological effects from radio waves since the 1970s. “Driving and texting, people get killed doing that — but it’s not a very exciting risk to worry about.”
A study by the Corporate EME Research Laboratory and Motorola Florida Research Laboratories tested 9 different cell phone radiation shields, 5 of which claimed to block 99% of cell phone radiation. The other 4 shields tested claimed to emit a reverse radiation that would cancel out the harmful radiation from cell phones. The study found that all of the radiation shields had no effect on the amount of radiofrequency radiation a cell phone user is exposed to from their phone.