07 Jun The Truth About Cellphone Radiation?
We feel we couldn’t live without our smart phones. But some observers are still very worried about the radiation they emit, especially when it comes to our screen-savvy children (and amazingly, babies).
Officially, the word is that cell phone radiation levels are just fine. In fact, currently, the US-based Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that: “the weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems”.
Yet many are concerned and the reality is not that clear cut.
Still, a Eurobarometer (European Commission) Survey taken in 2011 found that 48 per cent of Europeans stated that they were concerned or very concerned over the potential health risks posed by mobile telephony.
There are also some very reputable people who find the FDA’s stance too little, too late.
For example, Devra Davis PhD. In 2007, she founded the Environmental Health Trust and continues to lead it.
In 2010, she published a book called Disconnect, which looks into the alleged dangers of the cell phone industry.
As far back as 2012, Dr. Davis gave a speech –The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation – that looked at cell phones, radiation and cancer. It’s still widely watched on You Tube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwyDCHf5iCY).
“When I first heard there could be a problem with cell phones,” she says, “I just did not believe it. At the time, I had three phones and I was kind of proud of my ability to keep up with all my grad students.
“Well, I began to look, and I learned that I was mistaken in my assumption that if there were a problem I would know about it, because after all I’d worked at some of the most important scientific institutions in the world.”
In her 2012 speech, Dr. Davis cites a conversation she had with a friend not long after looking into the issue further: “Here’s an example: this is the fine print warnings that comes with your iPhone 4… May exceed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) exposure guidelines for body-worn operation if positioned less than 15 mm (5/8 inch) from the body (eg. when carrying the iPhone in your pocket). How many of you here have iPhones? How many of you know that you’re not supposed to put it in your pocket? Right. This is a problem. Why are these fine print warnings”.
It’s enough to concern most sceptics. But before we can tell you how to go about reducing any potential risk, let’s go back. Why do devices emit radiation?
Cell phones, the FDA states, emit low levels of radiofrequency energy (RF). The low levels of RF that cell phones emit while in use are in the microwave frequency range. They also emit RF at substantially reduced time intervals when in the stand-by mode.
“Although high levels of RF can produce health effects (by heating tissue), exposure to low level RF that does not produce heating effects causes no known adverse health effects,” the FDA concludes.
The FDA continues that the biological effects of RF should not be confused with the effects from other types of electromagnetic energy.
Very high levels of electromagnetic energy, such as is found in X-rays and gamma rays, can ionize biological tissues. Ionization is a process where electrons are stripped away from their normal locations in atoms and molecules. It can permanently damage biological tissues including DNA.
So the harmful radiation is ionizing radiation. It has enough energy that it can make chemical changes in material. We could get ionizing radiation from an X-ray, for example. It’s the kind of radiation that causes cancer.
Yet the broader definition of radiation includes a lot of things that we call non-ionizing radiation. That includes everything like radio waves, visible light and your microwave, which the FDA now states is safe.
However, in Disconnect, Dr. Davis writes that the current FCC radiation standards for phones are unrealistic because they’re based on a model — a creature called Standard Anthropomorphic Man, or SAM — that’s larger than the average person, and, therefore, able to withstand more radiation exposure than most people.
But none of the arguments help the average person on the street in the meantime.
In essence, it might be a good idea to take measures to reduce your exposure to potentially dangerous radiation anyway.
Ironically, the FDA has suggested some steps that concerned cell phone users can take to reduce their exposure to radiofrequency energy:
- Reserve the use of cell phones for shorter conversations or for times when a landline phone is not available (for example, in your office, use your landline).
- Use a device with hands-free technology, such as wired headsets, which place more distance between the phone and the head of the user. Hands-free kits are said to reduce the amount of radiofrequency energy exposure to the head because the antenna, which is the source of energy, is not placed against the head. Exposures decline dramatically when cell phones are used hands-free.
These tips from the Environmental Health Trust tips might also put your mind at rest:
- Never ‘wear’ your phone, particularly near your breasts (ie, in your bra) or groin area. Power them off before putting them near your body.
- Try a shield (the SmartDot shield, for example, claims to be able to modify the harmful effect of cell phones using what it calls phi technology).
- Put the phone on airplane mode if you are using it as an alarm clock in your bedroom (Dr. Davis’ group states that sleep can be disrupted by cell phone radiation).
- Read your cell phone manual to find the minimum distance it recommends for usage from the body.
- Text more often than talking.