The research continued, and what it uncovered would be a dire warning to cell phone users and the industry’s worst nightmare. When the findings were ready for release in 1998, the scientists were suddenly confronted with another challenge: the industry wanted to take over public dissemination of the information, and it tried everything it could to do so. It was faced with disaster and had a lot to lose.
A recent large study by the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) exposed large groups of lab rats and mice to RF energy over their entire bodies for about 9 hours a day, starting before birth and continuing for up to 2 years (which is the equivalent of about 70 years for humans, according to NTP scientists). The study found an increased risk of tumors called malignant schwannomas of the heart in male rats exposed to RF radiation, as well as possible increased risks of certain types of tumors in the brain and adrenal glands. But some aspects of this study make it hard to know just how well these results might be applied to cell phone use in people. For example, there was no clear increased risk among female rats or among male or female mice in the study. The doses of RF radiation in the study were also generally higher than those used in cell phones (ranging from 1.5 W/kg to 6 W/kg in rats, and 2.5 W/kg to 10 W/kg in mice), the animals’ entire bodies were exposed, and the amount of time they were exposed was longer than most people typically spend on the phone each day. The male rats in the study exposed to RF waves also lived longer, on average, than the rats who were not exposed, for unclear reasons. Because of this, the NTP has noted that the study results cannot be directly applied to humans. Still, the results add to the evidence that cell phone signals might potentially impact human health.
But according to the FCC, comparing SAR values between phones can be misleading. The listed SAR value is based only on the phone operating at its highest power, not on what users would typically be exposed to with normal phone use. The actual SAR value during use varies based on a number of factors, so it’s possible that a phone with a lower listed SAR value might actually expose a person to more RF energy than one with a higher listed SAR value in some cases.
EWG believes that cell phone testing procedures should include cases and other accessories, whether supplied by the phone manufacturer or a third party. Since these cases and accessories have no other use and have the potential to influence the phone’s transmitting and receiving activity and the amount of radiation that a user might encounter, they fall within FCC’s authority.
The Specific Absorption Rate test uses sophisticated instruments to measure the amount of radiation absorbed into the body, usually the head. At present, the generally recognized limit for absorbed electromagnetic energy is 1.6 watts per kilogram. All cell phones sold must be tested and have their compliance with this standard certified by their manufacturer. The electromagnetic fields from a cell phone depend upon the design of the cell phone and its antenna,how it operates, as well as how it is held and used. Tests conducted by the ABC show 20/20 has found that some of the country’s most popular cell phones can – depending on how they’re held – exceed the radiation limit. A cell phone’s antenna radiates in all directions. The health concern is about the radiation actually absorbed into the head, which is where cell phones are usually held. SAR tests conducted on the SAR Shield show that the product reduces SAR radiation by as much as 89%.
Launched at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s request 10 years ago, the NTP study dosed rats and mice of both sexes with RF radiation at either 1.5, 3 or 6 watts of radiation per kilogram of body weight, or W/kg. The lowest dose is about the same as the Federal Communications Commission’s limit for public exposure from cell phones, which is 1.6 watts W/kg. The animals were exposed nine hours a day for two years (about the average life span for a rat), and the exposures were cranked up steadily as the animals grew, so the absorbed doses per unit body weight remained constant over time.
So, what do these results in rodents mean for people? Not a whole lot, experts say. “Even with frequent daily use by the vast majority of adults, we have not seen an increase in events like brain tumors,” the FDA’s statement says. Otis Brawley, the American Cancer Society’s chief medical officer, agreed in an interview with The Associated Press. “The evidence for an association between cellphones and cancer is weak, and so far, we have not seen a higher cancer risk in people,” Brawley told the AP in a phone interview. “I am actually holding my cellphone up to my ear.”
Until the FCC establishes testing procedures that fully correspond to real-world cell phone use and reviews its radiation standards to ensure that they are fully protective for all users, including young children, EWG advises phone users to adopt these simple measures to minimize radiation exposure: Use a headset, keep the phone away from the body and text rather than talk.
So, what types of RF are these cases intended to block? If they block the frequency being used by the phone than if the blocking is complete the phone won’t work. If it’s partial than, as noted by the FCC and related in the article, the phone may attempt to compensate for the weakened signal by increasing it’s signal strength, thereby emitting higher levels of radiation itself, and reducing battery life in the process.
The CERENAT study, another case–control study conducted in multiple areas in France from 2004 to 2006 using data collected in face-to-face interviews using standardized questionnaires (18). This study found no association for either gliomas or meningiomas when comparing regular cell phone users with non-users. However, the heaviest users had significantly increased risks of both gliomas and meningiomas.