There is a degree of controversy surrounding the implications of cell phone radiation, and what it means to our health. Some research has suggested that the type of radio frequencies used by cell phones can speed up the progression of cancer in laboratory test animals, but it has proven difficult to replicate these results. It is known that radiation from cell phones can affect pacemakers, but the main concern is related to the fact that most cell phone users hold the phone against their ear. If significant levels of radiation enter the tissues of the head in this way over time, some worry that this can increase the likelihood of brain tumors and related conditions.
Rats were exposed to radiation with a frequency of 900 megahertz, typical of the cellphones in use when the study was conceived in the 90s, for about nine hours per day for two years, The New York Times reports. The lowest levels of radiation used in the study were equivalent to the maximum exposure a phone can cause and still receive federal regulatory approval; the highest levels to which the animals were exposed were four times that. 
A carrier wave oscillates at 1900 megahertz (MHz) in most phones, which is mostly invisible to our biological tissue and doesn’t do damage. The information-carrying secondary wave necessary to interpret voice or data is the problem, says Dr. Carlo. That wave cycles in a hertz (Hz) range familiar to the body. Your heart, for example, beats at two cycles per second, or two Hz. Our bodies recognize the information-carrying wave as an “invader,” setting in place protective biochemical reactions that alter physiology and cause biological problems that include intracellular free-radical buildup, leakage in the blood-brain barrier, genetic damage, disruption of intercellular communication, and an increase in the risk of tumors. The health dangers of recognizing the signal, therefore, aren’t from direct damage, but rather are due to the biochemical responses in the cell.
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This 2009 meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, looked at 23 case-control studies of the risk of both malignant and benign tumors from mobile phone use. When the authors included all 23, they found no increased risk of tumors. When they crunched certain subsets of the data — like looking only at studies that were blinded, or people who used cellphones for 10 or more years — they did find increases in tumor risks. Confusingly, when they divided up the analysis by tumor type, they found no increase in risk for glioma and acoustic neuroma, and a decrease in risk of meningioma.
In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a component of the World Health Organization, appointed an expert Working Group to review all available evidence on the use of cell phones. The Working Group classified cell phone use as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” based on limited evidence from human studies, limited evidence from studies of radiofrequency radiation and cancer in rodents, and inconsistent evidence from mechanistic studies (4).

The cell phone industry is fully aware of the dangers. In fact, enough scientific evidence exists that some companies’ service contracts prohibit suing the cell phone manufacturer or service provider, or joining a class action lawsuit. Still, the public is largely ignorant of the dangers, while the media regularly trumpets new studies showing cell phones are completely safe to use. Yet, Dr. Carlo points out, “None of those studies can prove safety, no matter how well they’re conducted or who’s conducting them.” What’s going on here? While the answer in itself is simplistic, how we got to this point is complex.


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.

Mobile phones emit radiofrequency energy, a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, which can be absorbed by tissues close to the phone. The amount of radiofrequency energy a mobile phone user is exposed depend on many factors as the technology of the phone, the distance between the phone and the user, the extent and type of mobile phone use and the user’s distance from cell phone towers. (2)
When called to help with the cell phone issue, Dr. Carlo was working with the FDA on silicone breast implant research. The choice of Dr. Carlo to head WTR seemed unusual to industry observers. An epidemiologist whose expertise was in public health and how epidemic diseases affect the population, he appeared to lack any experience in researching the effects of EMR on human biology. Based on this, a premature conclusion was drawn by many: Dr. Carlo was an “expert” handpicked by the cell phone industry, and therefore his conclusions would only back up the industry’s claim that cell phones are safe.
In addition, cellphones potentially harm our health in ways that have nothing to do with cancer. The effect on sperm is concerning to Moskowitz, the director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the Berkeley School of Public Health, and he noted that our current cellphone regulations also don’t account for these potential effects. Plus, we still don’t know what steady exposure to this kind of radiation from devices means for kids.
The Stewart report recommended that children should only use mobile phones in emergencies. The recommendation was based on the theory that children could be more at risk from the radiowaves emitted by mobile phones. This is because their brains are still developing and their skulls are thinner, making it easier for the radiowaves to penetrate them. Also if they start using mobiles at a young age, their cumulative lifetime use will be higher than adults. According to the Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation, “little has been published specifically on childhood exposures” since 2000. As a result, children are still advised only to use mobile phones in emergencies. However, surveys suggest that many children are ignoring the advice. A survey of 1,000 British children, carried out in 2001, found 90% of under-16s own a mobile and one in 10 spends more than 45 minutes a day using it.
Today’s report, the final one, was about a decade in the making and is the last of several versions that have been released since preliminary results were presented in May 2016. It represents the consensus of NTP scientists and a group of external reviewers, according to the release. In the future, the NTP plans to conduct studies in smaller exposure chambers and to use biomarkers such as DNA damage to gauge cancer risk. These changes in the experimental setup should mean that future studies will take less time.

In one type of study, called a case–control study, cell phone use is compared between people with these types of tumors and people without them. In another type of study, called a cohort study, a large group of people who do not have cancer at study entry is followed over time and the rate of these tumors in people who did and didn’t use cell phones is compared. Cancer incidence data can also be analyzed over time to see if the rates of brain tumors changed in large populations during the time that cell phone use increased dramatically. These studies have not shown clear evidence of a relationship between cell phone use and cancer. However, researchers have reported some statistically significant associations for certain subgroups of people.

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