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 is a degree of controversy surrounding the implications of cell phone radiation, and what it means to our health. Some research has suggested that the type of radio frequencies used by cell phones can speed up the progression of cancer in laboratory test animals, but it has proven difficult to replicate these results. It is known that radiation from cell phones can affect pacemakers, but the main concern is related to the fact that most cell phone users hold the phone against their ear. If significant levels of radiation enter the tissues of the head in this way over time, some worry that this can increase the likelihood of brain tumors and related conditions.
Several national and international agencies study different exposures and substances in the environment to determine if they can cause cancer. (Something that causes cancer or helps cancer grow is called a carcinogen.) The American Cancer Society looks to these organizations to evaluate the risks based on evidence from laboratory and human research studies.
This substantially changes the debate on whether cell phone use is a cancer risk. Up until this point, the federal government and cell phone manufacturers operated on the assumption that cell phones cannot by their very nature cause cancer, because they emit non-ionizing radiation. Whereas ionizing radiation—the kind associated with x-rays, CT scans, and nuclear power plants, among others—definitely causes cancer at high enough doses, non-ionizing radiation was believed to not emit enough energy to break chemical bonds. That meant it couldn’t damage DNA, and therefore couldn’t lead to mutations that cause cancer.
Several studies that will provide more information are under way. Researchers from the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Spain are conducting another international case–control study—Mobi-Kids—that will include 2000 young people (aged 10–24 years) with newly diagnosed brain tumors and 4000 healthy young people. The goal of the study is to learn more about risk factors for childhood brain tumors.
We asked Dr. George Carlo his thoughts on EMF cases and shielding products, “most offer some protection, some of the time, to some people, because they can alter the immediate electromagnetic field environment around the person,” and immediately emphasizes the importance of “some,” which seems to tell us that it’s vastly unpredictable. “All waveforms in the environment are highly variable and they interact with other factors in the environment that make them even more variable.” This pretty much sums up that the artificial electromagnetic energy universe is vastly unpredictable.
Let’s say you are in class, or at the movies, and you don’t want your phone to ring. Slip it into the fully shielded slot. In this position, RF signals in or out will be reduced almost to zero, which is enough to stop the phone from ringing in most circumstances unless you have an especially good connection. You can also store chipped cards (like credit cards) in here to prevent unintentional reading.
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.
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.
EWG believes that cell phone testing procedures should include cases and other accessories, whether supplied by the phone manufacturer or a third party. Since these cases and accessories have no other use and have the potential to influence the phone’s transmitting and receiving activity and the amount of radiation that a user might encounter, they fall within FCC’s authority.
In one type of study, called a case–control study, cell phone use is compared between people with these types of tumors and people without them. In another type of study, called a cohort study, a large group of people who do not have cancer at study entry is followed over time and the rate of these tumors in people who did and didn’t use cell phones is compared. Cancer incidence data can also be analyzed over time to see if the rates of brain tumors changed in large populations during the time that cell phone use increased dramatically. These studies have not shown clear evidence of a relationship between cell phone use and cancer. However, researchers have reported some statistically significant associations for certain subgroups of people.