There are fears that the electromagnetic radiation emitted from mobile phone handsets may harm health. In particular, there have been claims that it could affect the body’s cells, brain or immune system and increase the risk of developing a range of diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s. Laboratory tests on mice have shown that radiation from mobile phones can have an adverse effect on their overall health. It is still not clear whether those findings can be applied directly to humans. A study by scientists in Finland, published in 2002, suggested that the electromagnetic radiation did affect human brain tissue. But they played down their findings saying more research was needed to see if the effects were the same in living people. Another study by scientists in Sweden, also published in 2002, claimed to have found a link between analogue mobile phones and brain tumours. It suggested users of “first generation” phones had a 30% higher risk of developing tumours than people who did not. However, the findings were controversial and there have been no similar studies into the effects of modern GSM phones. There have also been reports of people suffering from headaches, fatigue and loss of concentration after using their mobile phones. However, these claims have not been scientifically substantiated.
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.
That’s why randomized controlled trials (RCTs) often yield fairly clear answers about the effectiveness of treatments compared to other study designs. (Fun fact: Scottish doctor James Lind, a clinical trial pioneer, figured out that citrus fruits seemed to have an effect on scurvy using one of the earliest RCTs.) RCTs can also be used to study whether something, like cellphone radiation, can cause disease.
The device comes in a variety of forms ranging from the $39 Aries Shield ("a silicon based micro processor that ... decomposes oscillations of electromagnetic fields") to the $249 Aires Defender Utility (which "has two next generation 9 core silicon based micro processor (sic) that provide universal protection from electromagnetic smog of the broadband frequencies").
Researchers have carried out several types of epidemiologic studies in humans to investigate the possibility of a relationship between cell phone use and the risk of malignant (cancerous) brain tumors, such as gliomas, as well as benign (noncancerous) tumors, such as acoustic neuroma (tumors in the cells of the nerve responsible for hearing that are also known as vestibular schwannomas), meningiomas (usually benign tumors in the membranes that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord), and parotid gland tumors (tumors in the salivary glands) (3).