The research continued, and what it uncovered would be a dire warning to cell phone users and the industry’s worst nightmare. When the findings were ready for release in 1998, the scientists were suddenly confronted with another challenge: the industry wanted to take over public dissemination of the information, and it tried everything it could to do so. It was faced with disaster and had a lot to lose.
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Cell phones emit low levels of radio frequency energy (i.e., radio frequency radiation) in the microwave range while being used. It is well known that high levels of RF can produce biological damage through heating effects (this is how your microwave oven is able to cook food). However, it is not known to what extent or through what mechanism, lower levels of RF might cause adverse health effects as well. Several research studies have shown that the radio frequency radiation from wireless phone antennae “appears to cause genetic damage in human blood,” while another case study uncovered a “statistically significant increase” in neuro-epithelial brain tumors among cell phone users. Other research has shown little or no adverse effects. ABC’s 20/20 News (May 26, 2000) took the five most popular phones sold in the US and tested them at a highly respected German laboratory. Four out of the five phones tested were above the SAR limit. One thing is for certain, similar to the case of cigarette smoking, it will take several tests and many years before the effects of radio frequency radiation on the human body are known.
Released in 1993 as a joint creation of IBM and BellSouth, this was the first smartphone. A fax machine, a PDA, a pager and a mobile phone, the IBM Simon featured no physical keys, but used a touchscreen and optional stylus. Amazingly, it included applications such as games, email, a notepad, calculator, world clock, address book and a calendar. It only sold in the United States, for $899.
The Specific Absorption Rate that the FCC, with input from many other government institutions, decided on, is defined using an average of a 30-minute phone call with the cell phone held directly to the ear. Since modern cell phones are used in all sorts of manners, ie speakerphone, scrolling through social media, browsing the web, etc, a base had to be set.
The studies are notable for their sizes. Researchers at the National Toxicology Program, a federal interagency group under the National Institutes of Health, tested 3,000 rats and mice of both sexes for two years—the largest investigation of RF radiation and cancer in rodents ever undertaken in the U.S. European investigators at the Ramazzini Institute in Italy were similarly ambitious; in their recent study they investigated RF effects in nearly 2,500 rats from the fetal stage until death.
Exposure to ionizing radiation, such as from x-rays, is known to increase the risk of cancer. However, although many studies have examined the potential health effects of non-ionizing radiation from radar, microwave ovens, cell phones, and other sources, there is currently no consistent evidence that non-ionizing radiation increases cancer risk in humans (2).