A lot has changed since the first commercial cell phone was sold by Motorola in 1983. We have received internet access on some cellular devices as early as 1991. The first smartphone was created the next year. And in 2007, Apple released its first iPhone, changing the whole industry. Today, Apple is still leading the way of innovation, and by doing so, increasing the potential for potentially serious adverse health effects with too much use.
This is not something most phone users want to discuss – as mobile devices became an irreplaceable part of many people’s lives, from communicating with friends and family all over the world to answering work emails and accessing free entertainment on the go.
And yet, this is a topic that is becoming impossible to ignore. While most of us cannot give up mobile technology altogether, we can educate ourselves about the potential risks and learn tips on minimizing them.
Cell phone’s health hazards are often a little bizarre from texting thumb syndrome to allergies caused by certain types of metal some phones are made of, and finally, the fact that phones carry enormous amounts of bacteria which can negatively affect health as well.
The most significant risk of cell phone use to consider remains electromagnetic frequency (EMF) radiation, which has been associated with increased cancer risk.
Unfortunately, popular phones such as iPhones often emit higher EMFs, making it more important to follow tips on minimizing exposure as well as safety guidelines.
Apple’s Manual: Recommends You to Keep Your iPhone Away from You
What many people do not realize is that iPhone’s maker Apple itself recommends their users to limit their EMF exposure coming from their cell phone.
A product’s manual is not something many of us read, but it is exactly where all the warnings are hiding.
iPhone 7, for example, while meeting all the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) guidelines for EMF exposure, tells its users that the body exposure is measured at 5 mm separation (that is more than three pennies thick). Keeping a phone in a jeans pocket is not following the recommended guidelines.
The iPhone 5 manual says that the phone must be at least 10 mm away (.39 inches) from the body. In addition, iPhone 3G states that the distance between the user and the phone must be at least 15 mm, and should be worn in a belt clip or holster.
Apple recommends the users to limit exposure by:
- Using a hands-free option: built-in speakers
- Getting and using headphones
- Avoiding metal cases which may amplify the EMFs
How much EMF exposure are we talking? The FCC set a limit of 1.6 watts per kilogram (SAR or Specific Absorption Rate).
iPhone 4 measures at 1.17 (head) and 1.11 SAR (body). iPhone 5 at 1.25 and 1.18. iPhone 6 at 1.18 and 1.18. iPhone 7 at 1.19 and 1.20. The Apple website does not yet list SAR numbers for iPhone 8 and iPhone X.
Apple really pushes the limit of their phone’s radiation and comes close to the allowed limit, but there are at least 20 phones that have a higher SAR level.
If you are open to which phone to choose, there are also 20 phones that have a significantly lower SAR level, such as Samsung Galaxy Note at only 0.19 SAR.
Whichever phone you use, it is best to follow tips to protect yourself from the EMFs they emit…and learn about the available studies done.
Huge Issues with Official Safety Studies
Whether it is Apple, Samsung, the World Health Organization (WHO) or even the U.S. Drug and Food Administration (FDA), all are mainly quoting research from 2010 – when talking about cell phone radiation safety – research that is not only outdated but also extremely flawed.
Even the authors themselves admit it: the current cell-phone-use trends and trends that were used in the study are significantly different, and that changes the outcome.
First of all, this research looked at people who have talked on the cell phone for only 2 to 2.5 hours per month. The majority or about 90% of the phone users studied received a lifetime cumulative exposure of about 100 hours. Only 10% of the subjects talked on their cell phone for about 30 minutes a day (about 1640 hours of lifetime exposure).
As a curious tidbit, it has been calculated that, in their lifetime, an average person will spend 5 years and 4 months on their cell phone browsing social media and only 1 year and 3 months socializing in person.
Secondly, the research’s subjects only used a phone for 5-10 years. This is not a long enough time frame because brain cancer takes on average 20-30 years to develop.
“Latency for brain cancer is 20 to 30 years. Cell phones haven’t been around for all that long. I think it’s likely that we’ll see an increase in cases over the next years,” said Dr. David Carpenter, the director of the Institute for Health and the Environment University.
The 2010 study did conclude that it is possible that there was a link between phone usage and tumors, but they are not able to confirm it.
“There were suggestions of an increased risk of glioma at the highest exposure levels, but biases and error prevent a causal interpretation.”
However, despite this study’s conclusion, other research points out that brain cancer incidence has gone up from 152 per 100,000 of women in the U.S. during 1977-1981 to 214 per 100,000 in 2002-2006. For men, it was 207 per 100,000 in 1977-1981, and 232 per 1000,000 in 2002-2006.
Is there a link to phone usage?
Other previous studies have already suggested so but were shut down by others.
One of the early studies looked at the side of the head that brain cancer patients talked on and the side of the head their tumor had developed. In 75%, the side of the head matched, but other scientists decided it was a “fluke,” or a coincidence.
Then a study came out saying it has linked malignant brain tumors in rats, but other scientists have said that rats and humans are too different to compare.
A 2005 study found DNA damage linked to phones, children are found to be more susceptible to cell phone health risks, and finally, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that cell phones are “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
The only sure way to prove once and for all that EMFs can increase cancer risk is to perform studies on humans, but no one is going to do that because of ethical reasons. So what we are left to work with are human studies by comparing people with cancer and without and their reported cell phone usage.
And because like previously stated, brain cancer takes 20 to 30 years to develop; we may not know the full truth until another few decades pass.
But here’s the thing. The potential link of low-frequency EMFs to cancer, when there is a long term exposure, has been raised by enough scientists and governmental agencies across the world, that it may be irresponsible to fully ignore it. While no one is hurrying to give up wireless technology altogether, it is wise to learn and apply tools to protect yourself by minimizing your EMF exposure.
How to Minimize Cell Phone EMF Exposure
A person is affected by the highest radiation possible from their device when everything is turned on: cellular 2G/3G/4G, Wi-Fi, Hotspot, Bluetooth and Near Field Communication (NFC). Whenever possible, it is safest to turn off any of these functions when you are not using them.
- Use a hands-free option: built-in speakers
- Get wired headphones
- Avoid metal cases which may amplify the EMFs
- Turn on plane mode when you are in a zone where there is no signal. Your phone will actually emit more radiation as your phone searches for the signal.
- Avoid talking on the phone for long periods of time
- Turn your phone upside down if you sleep with your phone next to your pillow. Most of the radiation comes from the screen.
- Purchase a phone case that protects you from radiation when talking, texting, or simply carrying it in your pocket.
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