But scientists disagree on how real—or how serious—these risks really are, and studies have not established any definitive links between health problems and radiofrequency (RF) energy, the type of radiation emitted by cell phones. “This document is intended to provide guidance for people who want to reduce their own and their families’ exposure to RF energy from cell phones,” the guidelines state, “despite this uncertainty.”
The European Union is currently running the Mobi-Kids, a case-control study in 14 countries, to better understand the effects of electromagnetic fields radiation on children and adolescents. One of the early publications from the project, looking at data on the use of wireless devices among 10- to 25-year-olds in France, found that kids are started to rely on these devices earlier and earlier in life. But the researchers are still analyzing the main results on any health impacts, and haven’t yet published their findings.
A cellular phone is basically a radio that sends signals on waves to a base station. The carrier signal generates two types of radiation fields: a near-field plume and a far-field plume. Living organisms, too, generate electromagnetic fields at the cellular, tissue, organ, and organism level; this is called the biofield. Both the near-field and far-field plumes from cell phones and in the environment can wreak havoc with the human biofield, and when the biofield is compromised in any way, says Dr. Carlo, so is metabolism and physiology.
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.
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 a result, stories about a single nuclear meltdown or possible link between cellphone radiation and cancer will be amplified much more than news about the nine people who probably died today in the US from distracted driving. “This possible health effect from radiation is pretty esoteric at this point. If there is anything there, it seems to me like it’s going to be very, very small,” says Kenneth R. Foster, a bioengineering professor at the University of Pennsylvania who has been investigating whether there are biological effects from radio waves since the 1970s. “Driving and texting, people get killed doing that — but it’s not a very exciting risk to worry about.”
When it comes to ionizing radiation — which we’re exposed to in X-rays, in CT scans, and during air travel — we know it’s powerful enough to damage the DNA, and that repeated DNA damage over time can cause cancer. That’s why, for example, you’re not supposed to get too many X-rays in your lifetime. (In case you were wondering, there’s no precise number on how many X-rays are too many — but the Food and Drug Administration suggests keeping track and avoiding any that seem unnecessary.)
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.
We did not simply measure energy coming from the front of the case which is the area of the case where the phone would be "shielded" from radiation. If we had taken readings with a directional meter, specifically measuring energy coming from only the front or flap cover where the shielding material is, we assume as the manufacturers claim, that we would have seen a drop in the radiation readings.
Generally speaking, the near-field refers to the RF field close to the antenna and the far-field is the RF field further away from the antenna. Often times when you use your cell phone, your body is often located in the near-field (one wavelength or less) of the cell phone antenna. It is especially concerning when you hold your phone next to your head or wear it on your body as you can be exposed to very intense near-field radiation from the phone.
As far as which of those match your device, that really depends on your carrier. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile all have different frequencies. To further complicate things, in one geographic region of the country they may use one frequency, while another is used elsewhere. It all depends on which FCC licenses they have the rights to in each region.
In a February 2 statement, Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, wrote that despite the NTP study’s results, the combined evidence on RF exposure and human cancer—which by now amounts to hundreds of studies—has “given us confidence that the current safety limits for cell phone radiation remain acceptable for protecting the public health.” Chonock says that for him, evidence from the Ramazzini study does not alter that conclusion. “We continue to agree with the FDA statement,” he says.
Dr. Carlo, however, refused to be an easy target. He quickly recruited a group of prominent scientists to work with him, bulletproof experts owning long lists of credentials and reputations that would negate any perception that the research was predestined to be a sham. He also created a Peer Review Board chaired by Harvard University School of Public Health’s Dr. John Graham, something that made FDA officials more comfortable since, at the time, the agency was making negative headlines due to the breast implant controversy. In total, more than 200 doctors and scientists were involved in the project.
What the study showed: Self-reported cell phone use was not associated with an increased risk of glioma, meningioma, or non-central nervous system tumors. Although the original published findings reported an association with an increased risk of acoustic neuroma (14), this association disappeared after additional years of follow-up of the cohort (15).