Do you feel like you can’t live without your cell phone? Are you wondering if mobile phones are actually safe? These five facts about cell phones may help you sort through the conflicting information and our culture’s ever-increasing reliance on wireless technology.
5 Surprising Facts About Cell Phones
1. Cell phone manufacturers tell you to hold the phone away from your body
Check the fine print of your manufacturer’s manual and you’ll find this:
- iPhone 5 – Carry iPhone, at least, 10mm away from your body
- Blackberry – maintain a distance of 0.98 in. (25 mm) between your BlackBerry device and your body
- Samsung Galaxy – . . . that positions the mobile device a minimum of 1.0 cm from the body
(See if your manufacturer’s warning is listed in the post: Cell Phone Manufacturer Warnings.)
What does this tell us about the potential harm of a cell phone when held next to the head, or carried next to the body?
2. Safety standards don’t take children into account
The Federal Communications Commission has thus far relied on thermal testing to maintain its position on safety. This specification makes use of an anthropomorphic head model that is filled with a gel that is lower weight than standard liquids. This mannequin model is based on healthy 1989 United States military recruits weighing approximately 220 pounds with a height of 6’2″. The Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of 1.6 watts per kilogram is based on this small segment of the population.
The problem is children’s heads are much smaller and still developing. Consider the findings outlined in the article Exposure Limits: The underestimation of absorbed cell phone radiation, especially in children.
- Children’s SAR is 50–100% higher than an adult’s SAR
- Hippocampus and hypothalamus receive 1.6–3.1 higher SAR in children compared to adults
- Children’s bone marrow receive ten times higher SAR than adults
- Children receive higher SAR to the eyes than adults
- Children’s cerebellum receive 2.5 times higher SAR than adults.
How is it that we have assumed a child won’t be harmed by these seemingly benign devices?
3. The insurance industry understands the hazards of cell phone radiation
Lloyd’s of London, a specialist insurance market and leader in the field of insurance typically takes risks that no one else will. And yet, Lloyd’s continues to exclude coverage of adverse health effects caused by cell phone radiation. On Feb. 7, 2015, Lloyd’s released the following exclusion:
The Electromagnetic Fields Exclusion (Exclusion 32) is a General Insurance Exclusion and is applied across the market as standard. The purpose of the exclusion is to exclude cover for illnesses caused by continuous long-term non-ionising radiation exposure i.e. through mobile phone usage.
An exclusion such as this speaks to the caution pervading the insurance industry and a lack of caution on the part of consumers. (Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurance companies, says electromagnetic radiation will be the leading health risk a decade from now. See Health Risks of Electromagnetic Radiation.)
4. Your cell phone bill is linked to the controversial United Service Fund (USF)
The United Service Fund, established in 1996, has been wrought with fraud and appears to serve the telecom industry more than consumers.
According to Norm Alster, author of the book Captured Agency, executives of Microsoft, Google and HP continue to press the FCC for expanded subsidies of programs like E-Rate (which subsidizes Internet infrastructure to schools and libraries):
Is that greed? Arrogance? Or is it simply behavior conditioned by success in repeatedly getting what they want at the public trough? Almost never mentioned in these pleas for higher subsidies is the fact that ordinary American phone subscribers are the ones footing the bill for the E-Rate program – not the FCC or the telecom industry . . . Much of the added spending, as noted, will go towards the installation of wireless networks. And yet Wi-Fi does not have a clean bill of health.
I checked the fine print of my carrier’s explanation of surcharges and found the following:
From T-Mobile’s Terms and Conditions:
* Taxes, Fees, and Surcharges . . .
“Examples include general and administrative fees (such as certain costs we incur to provide Service) as well as governmental-related Surcharges (such as Federal or State Universal Service fees, regulatory fees, and gross receipts taxes). Surcharges will apply whether or not you benefit from the programs, activities or services included in the Surcharge.”
As one who has serious concerns about the adverse health effects of wireless radiation, I want to see money spent on wired connections in schools rather than Wi-Fi. (See more about the wireless technology in schools in Health Risks of Wi-Fi in Schools.)
5. One type of cell network may emit more RF than other
GSM or Global System for Mobile Communications is one of the networks used for voice transmission while CDMA or Code Division Multiple Access is another. There is evidence that GSM technology emits higher levels of radio frequencies (RF).
When a GSM phone transmits, it immediately goes to the peak power creating a burst of power, while the CDMA phone transmits at the lowest possible power level. The two technologies are compared in this table found in the study Effect of Mobile Phone Radiation on Brain Activity GSM Vs CDMA.
MODE OF TRANSMISSION
In the study Measured Radiofrequency Exposure During Various Mobile-Phone Use Scenarios, CDMA produced the lowest RF levels.
Wondering about your mobile phone carrier?
- CDMA: Spring, Verizon, U.S. Cellular
- GSM: AT&T and T-Mobile
There may be a trade-off however if you live in a rural area. If there is a GSM tower closer to you, you might be better off going with a GSM network. But assuming CDMA and GSM towers are both an option, CDMA phones may be a better bet.
These facts tell me there is more than meets the eye when it comes to cell phone safety. While children may be more vulnerable, and certain providers may offer lower levels of RF exposure, there is no assurance for anyone that chronic exposure to non-ionizing radiation is safe.
Thankfully the way you use your cell phone can have a significant impact. Simple steps like texting instead of talking and storing the phone away from your body can help. Why not err on the side of caution and minimize your exposure?