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.
We tested a variety of cellphone cases and garment shielding products including the Safe Sleeve, Defender Shield, RF Safe cellphone “flip” cases, and the Pong cellphone case which does not have a cover over of the face of the phone. We also tested the Belly Armor blanket, nursing cover and boxers as well as an anti-radiation tank top sold by OurSure on Amazon.
Manufacturers conduct government-required certification tests using a bare phone, set to transmit at maximum power, with no accessories. The recorded maximum SAR is reported to the FCC and listed in the phone’s manual. A phone tested with accessories under the same conditions can produce a higher SAR because the materials surrounding the antenna can affect the amount of radiation that reaches and is absorbed by the user’s body. A case can influence both the overall amount of emitted radiation and how it is directed.
A recent large study by the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) exposed large groups of lab rats and mice to RF energy over their entire bodies for about 9 hours a day, starting before birth and continuing for up to 2 years (which is the equivalent of about 70 years for humans, according to NTP scientists). The study found an increased risk of tumors called malignant schwannomas of the heart in male rats exposed to RF radiation, as well as possible increased risks of certain types of tumors in the brain and adrenal glands. But some aspects of this study make it hard to know just how well these results might be applied to cell phone use in people. For example, there was no clear increased risk among female rats or among male or female mice in the study. The doses of RF radiation in the study were also generally higher than those used in cell phones (ranging from 1.5 W/kg to 6 W/kg in rats, and 2.5 W/kg to 10 W/kg in mice), the animals’ entire bodies were exposed, and the amount of time they were exposed was longer than most people typically spend on the phone each day. The male rats in the study exposed to RF waves also lived longer, on average, than the rats who were not exposed, for unclear reasons. Because of this, the NTP has noted that the study results cannot be directly applied to humans. Still, the results add to the evidence that cell phone signals might potentially impact human health.
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The tricky part about measuring the radiation from a cell phone is that the emission strength varies widely over time. There will be strong bursts of varying intensity, followed by quiet periods. This makes it hard to compare "apples to apples". Also, because you are measuring up close to the source, you must use a near field meter AND you must maintain the position of the meter very precisely.
The use of "hands-free" was not recommended by the British Consumers' Association in a statement in November 2000, as they believed that exposure was increased. However, measurements for the (then) UK Department of Trade and Industry and others for the French Agence française de sécurité sanitaire environnementale [fr] showed substantial reductions. In 2005, Professor Lawrie Challis and others said clipping a ferrite bead onto hands-free kits stops the radio waves travelling up the wire and into the head.
Searching PubMed for studies published in the past 10 years, we found 102 studies that ultimately resulted in 12 relevant systematic reviews. To limit bias in our assessment of the literature, we used a validated critical appraisal tool called AMSTAR to determine the quality of each review. Eight of the reviews were critically low quality, two were low quality, and two were moderate quality.
While talking on your cell phone, prefer to position the cell phone away from your body as far as possible. Whenever possible, use the speakerphone mode or an airtube wired headset (not a wireless headset, not a wireless earpiece). The electromagnetic field (radiation) is one-fourth the strength at a distance of two inches and fifty times lower at three feet.
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.
Our recommendation is to reduce your exposure from wireless sources. We advocate what’s referred to as the Precautionary Principle. Basically, this means that because there’s research, lots of it actually, saying the energy that powers our cellphones (RF radiation) could be causing health concerns like tumors and cancer. We ought to take care when using our cell phones and all devices that emit RF, using them mindfully.
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.
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.