Of course, scientific seesawing like that doesn’t provide a lot of clarity or confidence for the 90 percent of American adults and roughly 80 percent of teens who report having a cell phone. So how concerned should you be about cell-phone radiation? Consumer Reports’ health and safety experts conducted a thorough review of the research and offer some guidance.
Yes, the information transferred between the base unit (the phone’s stationary unit) and the wireless phone’s mobile unit is transferred as radiowave radiation. Therefore, the “precautionary principle” should also be adopted regarding wireless phones. In addition to the guidelines regarding mobile phones, the Ministry of Health recommends regarding wireless phones:
Anti-radiation or radiation blocking or phone shield cases. Do they Work? SafeSleeve, DefenderShield, Vest, Alara, Pong, Reach and ShieldMe and other EMF protection phone cases claim to block the radiation from your cellphone or smartphone. Anti-radiation cellphone case brands make enticing claims like this: ". . .eliminate up to 99% of the harmful radiation coming from the phone!"
The guidelines created a measure of the rate that body tissue absorbs radiation during cell phone use called the specific absorption rate (SAR). The SAR for cell phone radiation was set at a maximum of 1.6 watts of energy absorbed per kilogram of body weight. The limit was set due to the thermal effects of cell phone radiation (all RF radiation can heat human body tissue at high enough levels) - it was not set to mitigate other biological effects cell phone radiation might have such as DNA damage or cancer.
Finally, the measurement of cell phone use in most studies has been crude. Most have been case-control studies, which have relied on people’s memories about their past cell phone use. In these types of studies, it can be hard to interpret any possible link between cancer and an exposure. People with cancer are often looking for a possible reason for it, so they may sometimes (even subconsciously) recall their phone usage differently than people without cancer.
Leibovich was very careful to point out in our interview that Cellsafe is not claiming that the radiation absorbed by the body during phone use leads to health issues like brain tumours, male infertility or damage to unborn babies. But the Cellsafe website strongly suggests these links. Its homepage (image below) leads with the phrase "You should be concerned!" in an eye-catching red, and there is as much screen real estate on the site dedicated to information about the dangers of radiation, as there is for descriptions of the Cellsafe products. This information refers to "high levels of RF radiation" in several places, but it doesn't say whether this describes radiation from phone use.
Okay, so Antenna Search isn't really a device but it is a handy service that will tell you how close you are to cellular towers. I punched in my address and found there are SEVENTY-TWO cellular towers and antennas within a 4 mile radius. It lists all the details for each tower – owner, coordinates, installation date, etc. It's a really useful tool for finding out the surrounding risks.
The following charts list SAR levels for the Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy S, as well as 20 of the highest SAR level cellphones and 20 of the lowest SAR level cellphones. The list provides the maximum possible SAR level from the phone (many phones have differing SAR levels depending on where and how the phone is used). If your phone is not on either list, you can find the SAR level for your specific phone by checking the online FCC database.
The base station is equipped with antennas for reception and transmission. In order to communicate, the mobile phones and the antennas at the base station emit radiowave radiation (see below). The mobile phone instrument transmits a lower amount of radiation than the one transmitted by the transmission center (cell site), but because the instrument is near the body, the body directly absorbs the energy from the instrument’s antenna.
Most cellphone shielding products are designed to reduce radiation to the user while still allowing the phone to function. This means that some radiation can still get to the phone… and some radiation can still get out of the phone! But sometimes you need to completely kill the signal. The RF Kill Box is a full-metal shielding jacket with very high shielding performance.
For those of you who experience (or want to prevent) ES symptoms in your hands when using a computer keyboard, laptop, cell phone or other electronic devices, these gloves form a conductive enclosure and effectively shield radiowaves and electric fields. Soft, light weight, with ribbed cuff, and offering good tactile sensitivity. Polyester fiber is twisted with pure Silver fibers, then knit into a stretchy glove shape in basic gray color. Each glove has a 1.7 mm snap for a ground cord. Fully hand washable and tested for 50 cycles with no appreciable loss of conductivity. All fibers are conductive, achieving resistivity of less than 10 Ohm/sq. These gloves are also used in industry for static control when working with delicate static sensitive components and can even be used for TENS applications. Grounding is not necessary for Faraday Cage shielding effect, but is necessary for static control. Also useful on touch screens like an iGlove. We do not have the ground cord which fits this snap on these gloves. Shielded Gloves:
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.
Educate yourself about the RF sources in your home, and replace the devices that you can with non-wireless alternatives, and replace the wireless connections that you can with wired ethernet or other cord/cable connections. Note: most wireless devices can connect non-wirelessly, sometimes an easy-to-find adaptor accessory is required to use cords/cables.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes that studies reporting biological changes associated with radiofrequency radiation have failed to be replicated and that the majority of human epidemiologic studies have failed to show a relationship between exposure to radiofrequency radiation from cell phones and health problems. The FDA, which originally nominated this exposure for review by the NTP in 1999, issued a statement on the draft NTP reports released in February 2018, saying “based on this current information, we believe the current safety limits for cell phones are acceptable for protecting the public health.” FDA and the Federal Communications Commission share responsibility for regulating cell phone technologies.
The authors found a consistent effect, in both types of studies, that cellphone radiation leads to decreased sperm motility (ability to swim) and viability, but not a decrease in overall concentration. While it’s unclear if these specific changes are enough to affect men’s fertility, the authors wrote, “mobile phone exposure may form part of a cumulative effect of modern day environmental exposures, that collectively reduce sperm quality and explain current trends in infertility.”
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.
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The program began, but Dr. Carlo soon discovered that everyone involved had underlying motives.“The industry wanted an insurance policy and to have the government come out and say everything was fine. The FDA, which looked bad because it didn’t require pre-market testing, could be seen as taking steps to remedy that. By ordering the study, law makers appeared to be doing something. Everyone had a chance to wear a white hat.”
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).
According to the WHO, the "precautionary principle" is "a risk management policy applied in circumstances with a high degree of scientific uncertainty, reflecting the need to take action for a potentially serious risk without awaiting the results of scientific research." Other less stringent recommended approaches are prudent avoidance principle and as low as reasonably practicable. Although all of these are problematic in application, due to the widespread use and economic importance of wireless telecommunication systems in modern civilization, there is an increased popularity of such measures in the general public, though also evidence that such approaches may increase concern. They involve recommendations such as the minimization of cellphone usage, the limitation of use by at-risk population (such as children), the adoption of cellphones and microcells with as low as reasonably practicable levels of radiation, the wider use of hands-free and earphone technologies such as Bluetooth headsets, the adoption of maximal standards of exposure, RF field intensity and distance of base stations antennas from human habitations, and so forth. Overall, public information remains a challenge as various health consequences are evoked in the literature and by the media, putting populations under chronic exposure to potentially worrying information.
There are fears that the electromagnetic radiation emitted from mobile phone handsets may harm health. In particular, there have been claims that it could affect the body’s cells, brain or immune system and increase the risk of developing a range of diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s. Laboratory tests on mice have shown that radiation from mobile phones can have an adverse effect on their overall health. It is still not clear whether those findings can be applied directly to humans. A study by scientists in Finland, published in 2002, suggested that the electromagnetic radiation did affect human brain tissue. But they played down their findings saying more research was needed to see if the effects were the same in living people. Another study by scientists in Sweden, also published in 2002, claimed to have found a link between analogue mobile phones and brain tumours. It suggested users of “first generation” phones had a 30% higher risk of developing tumours than people who did not. However, the findings were controversial and there have been no similar studies into the effects of modern GSM phones. There have also been reports of people suffering from headaches, fatigue and loss of concentration after using their mobile phones. However, these claims have not been scientifically substantiated.
These cases work by redirecting the electromagnetic radiation (EMR) that is produced by phones, away from the user. All phones produce EMR when connected to the mobile network, and the effect of this energy is measured as a Specific Absorption Rate, or SAR: a measurement describing the radiation absorbed by kilogram of tissue. Government regulations in Australia dictate that all phones in Australia must emit a SAR less than 2 W/kg under the worst case scenario, and while all phones comply, most modern phones emit, at most, only half of this safe level, or approximately 1 W/kg.
Experts consulted by France considered it was mandatory that the main antenna axis should not to be directly in front of a living place at a distance shorter than 100 metres. This recommendation was modified in 2003 to say that antennas located within a 100-metre radius of primary schools or childcare facilities should be better integrated into the cityscape and was not included in a 2005 expert report. The Agence française de sécurité sanitaire environnementale (fr) as of 2009, says that there is no demonstrated short-term effect of electromagnetic fields on health, but that there are open questions for long-term effects, and that it is easy to reduce exposure via technological improvements.
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.
A 2010 review stated that "The balance of experimental evidence does not support an effect of 'non-thermal' radiofrequency fields" on the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, but noted that research on low frequency effects and effects in humans was sparse. A 2012 study of low-frequency radiation on humans found "no evidence for acute effects of short-term mobile phone radiation on cerebral blood flow".
The U.S. government doesn’t seem very troubled, either. The Food and Drug Administration says on its website that research generally doesn’t link cell phones to any health problem. And although the Federal Communications Commission requires manufacturers to include information in user manuals about cell-phone handling, that’s often buried deep in the fine print.
As to increases in brain tumors tied to cell phone use, it’s too early to tell due to a lack of hard data, says Dr. Carlo. “We’re never going to see that in time to have it matter. Here in the US, we’re six years behind in getting the brain tumor database completed, and currently the best data are from 1999. By the time you see any data showing an increase, the ticking time bomb is set.”
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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.
Protect your brain from RF (radio-frequency) pollution with this handsome baseball style hat. Specially designed to shield the head from frequencies from below AM through microwave, including cellular phone frequencies. Lined with sophisticated Staticot fabric woven from ployester/cotton with an ultrathin stainless steel fibers excellent radiation protection. This gives this unique fabric a truly comfortable, natural feel and the durability and washability of cotton, but with exceptional reflective characteristics.
The pacemaker studies were a harbinger of bad things to come. Results showed that cell phones do indeed interfere with pacemakers, but moving the phone away from the pacemaker would correct the problem. Amazingly, the industry was extremely upset with the report, complaining that the researchers went off target. When Dr. Carlo and his colleagues published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997,11 the industry promptly cut off funding for the overall program. It took nine months for the FDA and the industry to agree on a scaled-down version of the program to continue going forward. Dr. Carlo had volunteered to step down, since he was clearly not seeing eye-to-eye with the industry, but his contract was extended instead, as no one wanted to look bad from a public relations standpoint.
In fact, nobody can really explain how exactly cellphone radiation could cause cancer, says Christopher Labos, a cardiologist and biostatistician at McGill University. “You don’t necessarily have to understand how something works to prove that it’s dangerous, but it would certainly make the case more compelling,” says Labos, who wrote a detailed analysis for Science-Based Medicine about the recent government cellphone radiation study.
The government, however, does not require phone manufacturers to consider the effect of cases when they conduct compliance tests to meet the FCC’s allowable radiation exposure limits. The significance of this omission was underscored by tests commissioned by case-maker Pong Research and submitted to the FCC in May 2012. Those tests showed that three models of cases made by competing companies and used with an iPhone4 increased the phones’ Specific Absorption Rate, or SAR – the amount of radiation absorbed by the user’s body – by 20-to-70 percent (Table 1).
“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:
The BlocSock is a small, 3”x5½”, lightweight case that's only designed for cell phones, not tablets or laptops. One side is a normal fabric to ensure reception. The other side has a rectangular, metallic mesh to shield RF radiation. It's recommended that you keep the side with the shielding material between the phone and your body. When making or receiving calls, keep the shielding between your head and the phone. It can also be moved into a smaller “kangaroo style” pouch during calls. It's effective, and tests show that it reduces RF exposure 96%. For more information, check out the SAR research test or watch this video.
In 2011, two small studies were published that examined brain glucose metabolism in people after they had used cell phones. The results were inconsistent; whereas one study showed increased glucose metabolism in the region of the brain close to the antenna compared with tissues on the opposite side of the brain (26), the other study (27) found reduced glucose metabolism on the side of the brain where the phone was used.