All cell phones emit Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR). Most people are aware of Radio Frequency (RF) (also known as Microwave) signals that connect your cell phone to a cell tower, a WiFi router and Bluetooth devices. These cell phone signals are always on. But did you know that cell phones also emit Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) radiation produced by the cell phone’s internal components?
The guidelines created a measure of the rate that body tissue absorbs radiation during cell phone use called the specific absorption rate (SAR). The SAR for cell phone radiation was set at a maximum of 1.6 watts of energy absorbed per kilogram of body weight. The limit was set due to the thermal effects of cell phone radiation (all RF radiation can heat human body tissue at high enough levels) - it was not set to mitigate other biological effects cell phone radiation might have such as DNA damage or cancer.
As a rule, modern medical equipment is well protected against exposure to radiowave radiation. Therefore, there is generally no need for concern regarding the effects of mobile phones on the normal function of the equipment. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Health recommends not to have a mobile phone in the immediate proximity (a distance of 30-50 cm from the portable medical equipment or from medical equipment implanted in the patient's body).
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.
In fact, nobody can really explain how exactly cellphone radiation could cause cancer, says Christopher Labos, a cardiologist and biostatistician at McGill University. “You don’t necessarily have to understand how something works to prove that it’s dangerous, but it would certainly make the case more compelling,” says Labos, who wrote a detailed analysis for Science-Based Medicine about the recent government cellphone radiation study.
Among the hundreds of smartphone cases available for iPhone and a bevy of popular Android phones, there are some that claim to reduce the amount of radiation your body absorbs when you have the handset close to your body. Pong Research is a US brand that offers a range of products fitting this description, as is Cellsafe, a company based in Victoria, Australia.
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.
Over time, the number of cell phone calls per day, the length of each call, and the amount of time people use cell phones have increased. Because of changes in cell phone technology and increases in the number of base stations for transmitting wireless signals, the exposure from cell phone use—power output—has changed, mostly lowered, in many regions of the United States (1).