For decades, health experts have struggled to determine whether or not cellphones can cause cancer. On Thursday, a federal agency released the final results of what experts call the world’s largest and most costly experiment to look into the question. The study originated in the Clinton administration, cost $30 million and involved some 3,000 rodents.
Did you watch any of the videos? A healthy amount of skepticism is appropriate but be careful about just being a Debbie Downer. Admittedly, you haven’t tried all the products and probably aren’t even familiar with them yet quickly offer blanket assessments that it’s all marketing hype perpetuated by an evil Monopoly-man looking guy who just wants to take your money and snicker about what a sucker you are. Good luck with that.
But according to the FCC, comparing SAR values between phones can be misleading. The listed SAR value is based only on the phone operating at its highest power, not on what users would typically be exposed to with normal phone use. The actual SAR value during use varies based on a number of factors, so it’s possible that a phone with a lower listed SAR value might actually expose a person to more RF energy than one with a higher listed SAR value in some cases.
I also searched around to see if cell phone radiation was anything to worry about anyway. I turned up enough information from a lot of different credible sources to convince me it was worth protecting against the possible damaging effects of this radiation. IF there is no real health impact, then having a protective device would be overkill, but I figured better overkill than discover in time people started developing problems as a result of heavy cell phone use.
That brings us back to the main question here: Do cellphones cause tumors? We chose to focus this story on cancer risk, since it seems like the most common health concern people have about cellphones. But before we get to the answers, we need to take another (brief) detour to explain how this science has been done with human subjects. To do that, we need to zoom in on a nerdy subject: research methods.
To answer this question, Lloyd uses an analogy of “smoke and a chimney” to explain how a Pong case works. It is unfortunate — given Lloyd’s personal experience with electrohypersensitivity and his straightforward knowledge of how to measure RF exposure — that pure “smoke and mirrors” clouded his better judgement when reviewing the Pong case for cell phone radiation safety.
In conclusion: It is still unclear whether use of cellular technology is associated with an increased risk to develop malignant and benign tumors, but taking into account the results of recent studies, the Ministry of Health adopts the precautionary principle and follows the recommendations listed in the “Ministry of Health Recommendations” (below).
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.
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A large prospective (forward-looking) study of nearly 800,000 women in the UK examined the risk of developing brain tumors over a 7-year period in relation to self-reported cell phone use at the start of the study. This study found no link between cell phone use and brain tumors overall or several common brain tumor subtypes, but it did find a possible link between long-term cell phone use and acoustic neuromas.
*SAR values are from tests conducted by Pong Research Corp on March 29, 2012 and submitted to the FCC on May 31, 2012. Because the SAR values were submitted to the FCC in graph form, EWG estimated numerical SAR values based on the chart available in WT Docket 11-186 (http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7021921006). Pong’s filing to the FCC did not indicate whether SAR measurements were done at the head or in a body-worn configuration. In a personal communication, Pong informed EWG that the SAR measurements were done in a body-worn configuration, with the same distance from the test mannequin used by the phone manufacturer. Tests in the body-worn configuration were done at a 10 millimeter separation distance.
Instead of more animal and even epidemiological studies, he thinks researchers should focus on finding the mechanisms by which cellphone radiation may affect human health. Since we’ll never have an RCT on cellphones and cancer, he added, studies should measure actual cellphone use and exposure to radio-frequency radiation, instead of estimations of how much people are exposed (which most studies currently do).
The FCC provides information about the specific absorption rate (SAR) of cell phones produced and marketed within the last 1 to 2 years. The SAR corresponds with the relative amount of radiofrequency radiation absorbed by the head of a cell phone user (47). Consumers can access this information using the phone’s FCC ID number, which is usually located on the case of the phone, and the FCC’s ID search form.
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.
The FCC has yet to implement GAO’s recommendations to more closely reflect real-life use. For a narrow subset of smartphones – those sold with lanyards or straps – the FCC advises manufacturers to test phones at a distance of no more than 5 mm from the body (FCC 2014). Yet the FCC has done nothing to ensure more realistic testing of most other smartphones or to account for the widespread use of accessories such as cases, which many different manufacturers produce with both metallic and non-metallic components.
When the draft results of the papers were published earlier this year, all results were labeled “equivocal,” meaning the study authors felt the data weren’t clear enough to determine if the radiation caused the health effects or not. But the panel of peer reviewers (among them brain and heart pathologists, toxicologists, biostaticians, and engineers) re-evaluated the data and upgraded several of the conclusions to “some evidence” and “clear evidence.”
When we think of harmful radiation, things like X-rays or gamma rays usually come to mind, but these types of radiation are different from mobile phone radiation in important ways. Radiation on the ultraviolet side of visible light, like those types just mentioned, has a wavelength that is short enough to alter some of the chemical properties of the objects it interacts with. It is referred to as ionizing radiation, for this reason. Non-ionizing radiation, which includes visible light, microwaves and radio waves, is typically regarded as harmless. Large amounts of it can produce a heating effect, like in a microwave oven, but no short-term damage has been linked to exposure to non-ionizing radiation.
Since use of mobile phones by children began at a later stage compared to use by adults, the effects of exposure to mobile phones in this population have not yet been investigated. Considering their health sensitivity, the long life expectancy in the young population (probably involving the accumulation of significant exposure and development of morbidity in the long-run), and ethical issues involved in decision making regarding the population of minors, additional precaution is required in this population. Therefore, the Ministry of Health advises parents to reduce children’s exposure to mobile phones as much as possible, consider the age they start using them, reduce the amount of time mobile phones are used, and in any event, make sure they use earphones (not wireless) or a speaker when using the mobile phone.
California officials issued the new report in response to increasing smartphone use in the United States, especially among children. About 95% of Americans own a cell phone, according to a press release from the California Department of Public Health, and the average age for a first cell phone is now 10 years old. About 12% of people use their smartphones for daily Internet access.
Just as inevitably, worries about brain cancer spawned a market for products that supposedly protect cell phone users. For $62, you can order a Delta Shield, a thin polyester patch that contains a microchip that allegedly renders cell phones harmless. Users are instructed to place the patch on their cell phone battery. The similar BIOPRO Cell Chip, sold online for $35, attaches to the outside of the phone. The penny-size WaveShield 2000 Gold, selling for about $25, fits on the earpiece.
Transmitters, including cell phones, emit radio signals on more than the assigned frequency. These other signals on other frequencies are “harmonics” and/or “noise” and/or “dirty” signals from less than optimal transmitters, antennae, and/or resonating frequencies emitted from metallic objects in close proximity to the transmitter, like the other components of the cell phone.
While the Federal Communication Commission limits how much radiofrequency radiation can come out of your cellphone, the Food and Drug Administration can have a say about whether those limits are safe. So the FDA asked the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a division within the National Institutes of Health, to investigate. Based on the NTP’s results, as well as hundreds of other studies, the FDA is still confident that the current limits on cellphone radiation are safe, according to a statement from Jeffrey Shuren, the director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
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.