In 1993, the cell phone industry was pressured by Congress to invest $28 million into studying cell phone safety. The cause of this sudden concern was massive publicity about a lawsuit filed by Florida businessman David Reynard against cell phone manufacturer NEC. Reynard’s wife, Susan, died of a brain tumor, and he blamed cell phones for her death. Reynard revealed the suit to the public on the Larry King Live show, complete with dramatic x-rays showing the tumor close to where Susan held her cell phone to her head for hours each day.
For decades, health experts have struggled to determine whether or not cellphones can cause cancer. On Thursday, a federal agency released the final results of what experts call the world’s largest and most costly experiment to look into the question. The study originated in the Clinton administration, cost $30 million and involved some 3,000 rodents.
The amount of RF energy absorbed from the phone into the user’s body is known as the specific absorption rate (SAR). Different cell phones have different SAR levels. Cell phone makers are required to report the maximum SAR level of their product to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This information can often be found on the manufacturer’s website or in the user manual for the phone. The upper limit of SAR allowed in the United States is 1.6 watts per kilogram (W/kg) of body weight.
The device comes in a variety of forms ranging from the $39 Aries Shield ("a silicon based micro processor that ... decomposes oscillations of electromagnetic fields") to the $249 Aires Defender Utility (which "has two next generation 9 core silicon based micro processor (sic) that provide universal protection from electromagnetic smog of the broadband frequencies").
"Possibly carcinogenic" was a phrase that may media outlets pulled out of the release, but it's a dangerous takeaway for consumers, out of context. "Possibly carcinogenic to humans", or group 2B, is a sub-classification or monograph, applied to agents by the IARC. Other agents (or items of everyday life) in Group 2B include pickled vegetables, lead and Potassium bromate — an oxidising additive common in flour. In all, there are 272 agents listed as possibly carcinogenic.
The electromagnetic spectrum is broken up into two parts based on whether small doses of that radiation can cause harm: ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation—UV, x-rays, and gamma rays—has enough energy in one photon (quantized minimum packet of light) to remove electrons from atoms or break apart chemical bonds. It is because of this potential for cancer-causing DNA damage that you wear a lead vest when you get x-rays at the dentist and you are advised to wear sunblock when you go out in the sun. One can’t avoid natural (radon, cosmic rays when you are up in an airplane) and man made (diagnostic x-rays) sources of ionizing radiation completely, but it is reasonable advice to minimize exposure when possible.
As a good thing to keep in mind, there are hundreds of thousands of people suffering from EHS in the world. Some of them live in forests, tents, and anywhere they can get away from society and EMFs because their symptoms are so bad when exposed. I have not heard one single EHS person claim that any of these types of devices work. They sure don’t for me. Most EHS sufferers are so desperate that they have researched and tried just about everything. Getting away from EMFs, or blocking them with material that does actually block them, like as a Faraday cage, is what works. And this is clearly what the scientific evidence shows. If these devices worked, that would be fabulous. One could spend $100 and be well, instead of having their life turned upside down, and in the worst cases as with some, committing suicide due to complete hopelessness and helplessness.. However, that is not the case. To further prove whether they work or not, one could wear one, and measure with a meter designed to measure EMF absorption in the body (they exist now). Has the manufacturer had this done, and is their evidence of it? An EHS person can tell without a meter anyway, but to prove to others, this might be a good idea.
That’s because cell phones emit electromagnetic fields (EMFs) or electromagnetic radiation, which has the potential to damage the cells in the body. In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies EMFs from cell phones as possible carcinogens. EMFs can interfere with the body’s natural electrical system and disrupt sleep, immune system function, hormone production, and the healing process. Kevin Byrne, president of EMF Solutions, also points out the simultaneous increase in conditions such as chronic pain, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, and Alzheimer’s disease and the significant rise in EMF exposure.
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.
“I think the overall evidence that wireless radiation might cause adverse health effects is now strong enough that it’s almost unjustifiable for government agencies and scientists not to be alerting the public to the potential hazards,” says David O. Carpenter, M.D., director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany in New York and one of the authors of the recent letter to the U.N. and WHO.
As in the NTP study, Ramazzini investigators detected statistically elevated rates of heart schwannomas in male rats at the highest dose. They also had weaker findings linking RF exposure to cancer of glial cells in the brain, which were limited to females. Ronald Melnick, a retired NTP toxicologist who designed the NTP study, says a measure of consistency between the two studies is important, because “reproducibility in science increases our confidence in the observed results.”
For now, it’s probably better not to spend too much of your time worrying: you’re surrounded by cellphone signals, Wi-Fi signals, and all other kinds of radio frequency radiation day in and out — not just when you put your phone up to your face. And until the evidence suggests otherwise, all of this is still considered less of a cancer risk than eating red meat (which you shouldn't freak out about that much either).
A series of studies testing different scenarios (called simulations by the study authors) were carried out using incidence data from the Nordic countries to determine the likelihood of detecting various levels of risk as reported in studies of cell phone use and brain tumors between 1979 and 2008. The results were compatible with no increased risks from cell phones, as reported by most epidemiologic studies. The findings did suggest that the increase reported among the subset of heaviest regular users in the Interphone study could not be ruled out but was unlikely. The highly increased risks reported in the Swedish pooled analysis were strongly inconsistent with the observed glioma rates in the Nordic countries (24).