So, you've read the numerous studies about the potentially harmful health effects of cell phone radiation and you are ready to something about it. Of course, you can use your phone sparingly and put it in airplane mode when possible, use a wired headset or speakerphone when on calls, and never store it in your pocket. However, is that realistic? How about for your kids? In today's world, with our increasing dependence on our cell phones, probably not!
Every day, we’re swimming in a sea of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) produced by electrical appliances, power lines, wiring in buildings, and a slew of other technologies that are part of modern life. From the dishwasher and microwave oven in the kitchen and the clock radio next to your bed, to the cellular phone you hold to your ear—sometimes for hours each day—exposure to EMR is growing and becoming a serious health threat.
As to increases in brain tumors tied to cell phone use, it’s too early to tell due to a lack of hard data, says Dr. Carlo. “We’re never going to see that in time to have it matter. Here in the US, we’re six years behind in getting the brain tumor database completed, and currently the best data are from 1999. By the time you see any data showing an increase, the ticking time bomb is set.”
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Although recall bias is minimized in studies such as COSMOS that link participants to their cell phone records, such studies face other problems. For example, it is impossible to know who is using the listed cell phone or whether that individual also places calls using other cell phones. To a lesser extent, it is not clear whether multiple users of a single phone, for example family members who may share a device, will be represented on a single phone company account. Additionally, for many long-term cohort studies, participation tends to decline over time.
The government, however, does not require phone manufacturers to consider the effect of cases when they conduct compliance tests to meet the FCC’s allowable radiation exposure limits. The significance of this omission was underscored by tests commissioned by case-maker Pong Research and submitted to the FCC in May 2012. Those tests showed that three models of cases made by competing companies and used with an iPhone4 increased the phones’ Specific Absorption Rate, or SAR – the amount of radiation absorbed by the user’s body – by 20-to-70 percent (Table 1).
The authors of these studies noted that the results were preliminary and that possible health outcomes from changes in glucose metabolism in humans were unknown. Such inconsistent findings are not uncommon in experimental studies of the biological effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation in people (4). Some factors that can contribute to inconsistencies across such studies include assumptions used to estimate doses, failure to consider temperature effects, and lack of blinding of investigators to exposure status.
There was also “equivocal” evidence that it raised the risk of heart conditions, and led to evidence of DNA damage. Baby rats born to mothers during the trial had lower birth weights. The scientists also found a statistically significant increase in lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes) among female mice and heightened rates of liver cancer in the male mice. All those findings were labeled “equivocal.”
The guidelines recommend keeping phones away from the body when they’re not in use—in a backpack, for example, rather than a pocket—and sleeping with phones away from the bed. People may also choose to use speakerphone or a headset to make calls, rather than holding the phone to their heads. (They should remove their headsets when they’re not in use, though, as these devices also emit small amounts of RF frequency.)
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.
We also spoke to experts and searched government reports to try to find any other high-quality evidence that may not have been published in an academic database. We included the National Toxicology Program’s animal studies, since they are considered some of the most important animal research that was funded by the government to help answer the question of whether cellphones cause cancer. We also included research on the fertility effects of cellphone radiation, since that was a concern many researchers in the field had.
(Some common flaws in these studies: The summaries of the evidence weren’t comprehensive, the researchers often didn’t look at the quality of the studies they found, and they failed to do other simple things that would limit bias from creeping in. They also relied on case-control studies, a poor method to determine causality — more on that soon.) So we didn’t include these eight reviews in our analysis.
SafeSleeve was founded in California by two Engineering graduates (University of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) Cary and Alaey, with a desire to make a difference. They wanted to develop a product to help simplify, protect, and enhance the lives of their increasingly busy, tech dependent peers, family and friends. This is apparent in the highly efficient and useful, yet stylish designs and branding of SafeSleeve products.
Several studies that will provide more information are under way. Researchers from the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Spain are conducting another international case–control study—Mobi-Kids—that will include 2000 young people (aged 10–24 years) with newly diagnosed brain tumors and 4000 healthy young people. The goal of the study is to learn more about risk factors for childhood brain tumors.
But not everyone is unconcerned. In May 2015, a group of 190 independent scientists from 39 countries, who in total have written more than 2,000 papers on the topic, called on the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and national governments to develop stricter controls on cell-phone radiation. They point to growing research—as well as the classification of cell-phone radiation as a possible carcinogen in 2011 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the WHO—suggesting that the low levels of radiation from cell phones could have potentially cancer-causing effects.
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).
Most of the research is attributed to "SPSU," which is presumably St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University, and some of the research, it is suggested, was conducted at the Kirov Military Medical Academy, though it's unclear why a military academy would conduct clinical research on civilian cell phone radiation. The names of the scientists who conducted these studies are conspicuously absent, as are any published results.
They determined there is “clear evidence” that male rats exposed to high levels of radio frequency radiation — typical of 2G and 3G networks when the study was designed — developed heart schwannomas. There was also “some evidence” of brain and adrenal gland tumors, again in the male rats, but the exposed female rats, and male and female mice, did not have consistent patterns of disease.
From the FCC website: "The FCC ID number is usually shown somewhere on the case of the phone or device. In many cases, you will have to remove the battery pack to find the number. Once you have the number proceed as follows. Go to the following Web address: www.fcc.gov/oet/ea/fccid. Once you are there... Enter the FCC ID number (in two parts as indicated: 'Grantee Code' is comprised of the first three characters, the 'Equipment Product Code' is the remainder of the FCC ID). Then click on 'Start Search.' The grant of equipment authorization for this particular ID number should appear. The highest SAR values reported in the equipment certification test data are usually included in the comments section of the grant of equipment certification."
Another thing that many people fail to realize is that EMF-emitting devices such as laptop computers are exceptionally more harmful when plugged in as opposed to when they’re operating on battery power alone. Tests have shown that working on a laptop that’s plugged in can result in up to 100 times more radiation exposure than using one that’s operating on battery power.
Moving the meter around the case, we detect readings on the side, back and front of the case. We use the multi-directional TES 593 meter which measures 10 MHz to 8GHz. We use the unit of micro-watts per square centimeter, which looks like this little symbol: μW/cm² and we use it on the max setting which shows the maximum measured value. In non-science speak: the highest level of RF we see, which could be from the back the side or the front.
The government’s policies must change. Cell phone users should make their voices heard to prompt the FCC and manufacturers of cell phones and cases to ensure that these accessories never increase and, to the extent possible, decrease, users’ radiation exposure. At minimum, the FCC must take cell phone cases into consideration when it updates its standards to ensure that the use of a case will not expose people to more radiation than its legal SAR limit.
The energy of electromagnetic radiation is determined by its frequency; ionizing radiation is high frequency, and therefore high energy, whereas non-ionizing radiation is low frequency, and therefore low energy. The NCI fact sheet Electromagnetic Fields and Cancer lists sources of radiofrequency radiation. More information about ionizing radiation can be found on the Radiation page.