A few other health concerns have been raised about cell phone use. One has been whether the RF waves from cell phones might interfere with medical devices such as heart pacemakers. According to the FDA, cell phones should not pose a major risk for the vast majority of pacemaker wearers. Still, people with pacemakers may want to take some simple precautions to help ensure that their cell phones don’t cause a problem, such as not putting the phone in a shirt pocket close to the pacemaker.
In this frequency range, the interaction between matter and light is via the electric field component of light (totally different from how ionizing radiation messes you up). In particular, an oscillating electric field causes polar molecules to rotate or attempt to rotate, and the lag between the applied field and the response of the molecules manifests as dissipation—i.e. heating [3]. This is the same dielectric heating which is the operating principle behind microwave ovens (which operate at 2450 MHz [4] similar to wifi). So if cell phones were to cause damage to tissue, the mechanism would be the same as what happens in a microwave oven—boiling the water in your head/body.
But, like the human studies, one can pick apart the NTP studies too. For one thing, the animals experienced cell phone radiation that was different from what humans live with. As Bucher said in a statement, “In our studies, rats and mice received radio frequency radiation across their whole bodies. By contrast, people are mostly exposed in specific local tissues close to where they hold the phone. In addition, the exposure levels and durations in our studies were greater than what people experience.”
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.

EWG is calling on the FCC to update its testing guidelines to take account of the widespread use of smartphone cases. Such action is critical because mounting scientific studies have raised serious questions about the safety of cell phone radiation exposure over the short and long term. In the absence of meaningful action by the Commission, EWG offers consumers tips on how to reduce their exposure to cell phone radiation.


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).
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