The World Health Organization (WHO) says the intensity of radio frequency (RF) radiation from cell phones decreases exponentially the further the device is held away from the body. Therefore your safest bet it keep your cell phone as far away from your ear and body as possible at all times. Don’t carry it in your pocket, tucked into a bra strap, and definitely don’t sleep with it next to your head.
To find out about the state of research on the link between phones and cancer, we spoke with Jonathan Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health and an expert in phone radiation who led a World Health Organization working group on the subject. In 2011, the WHO group deemed phone radiation “possibly carcinogenic,” which is less certain than other classifications, but isn’t an outright “no” either. Six years later, Samet said the evidence in either direction is still mixed and that for the time being, there remains “some indication” of risk.
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.
“It’s quite informative that the NTP data found evidence of an increased tumor risk in the male rats for glial cells and in the [heart] Schwann cells,” said Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the Berkeley School of Public Health (who writes about electromagnetic radiation here). “That’s compelling evidence that what we’re seeing in humans — even though the signal is not clear — is highly suggestive, and that there is indeed something real going on with regard to tumor risk in humans.”
The frequency of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation ranges from 30 kilohertz (30 kHz, or 30,000 Hz) to 300 gigahertz (300 GHz, or 300 billion Hz). Electromagnetic fields in the radiofrequency range are used for telecommunications applications, including cell phones, televisions, and radio transmissions. The human body absorbs energy from devices that emit radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation. The dose of the absorbed energy is estimated using a measure called the specific absorption rate (SAR), which is expressed in watts per kilogram of body weight.