Debate and controversy, surrounding the potential cell phone health risks, have grown new legs in the last decade. Fill the world with millions of portable radio wave emitters and some people grow jumpy. Technically speaking wireless hand held phones emit low levels of radio frequencies (RFs) into the environment around us. The culprit for most emissions is the phone’s antenna, internal or external, which sits very close to the user’s head when used as a hand-held device.
To understand the proposed health and safety risks you must understand the basics of wireless communications. Electromagnetic radiation is a complex topic for most typical consumers to dip into too deeply. The very term “radiation” sparks fears. All types of electronic devices, particularly those that run on radio waves, emit levels of radio frequencies. The rates at which these frequencies are absorbed by the human body are measured by the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), a number assigned to every model of cell phone sold in the U.S. The acceptable SAR rate is anything under 1.6 watts per kilogram. Confused? You’re not alone.
The Food and Drug Administration, in concert with the Federal Communications Commission, controls the flow of most mainstream consumer information in the U.S. on this topic. Both agencies maintain closely allied policies on the matter: as far as scientific studies show the kind of low-level RFs released by cell phones seem to pose no significant health risks, but further research is necessary.
You’ve likely heard a scare story—that someone’s cell phone gave him or her brain cancer. Stories like these surface occasionally in mainstream media only to impel yet another round of short-term studies. Scientists and researchers are constrained by limited studies that bypass theoretical scientific research, which is most successful when carried out over the long term. The only conclusive argument is that further studies on cell phone emissions are necessary.
The mixed sentiment from the FCC and FDA drives other sources such as Consumer Reports to recommend consumers take safety precautions with cell phone products and educate their children on the potential risks. But to what sources do you ally yourself?
There is a cacophony of information on cell phone emissions, RFs, and SAR metrics. Learn to employ critical thinking to everything you read and hear on the subject. Even the FDA—an authority figure—waffles on the subject of cell phone emissions. You must learn to tiptoe your way through the minefield of outlandish “medical” allegations, scientific aberrations, inconclusive research projects, and even crackpot urban legends that prey on human fears.