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Wake Up Call: The Urgency to Reassess Cellphone Radiation Risks

The widespread use of cellphones today has led to increasing concerns about the safety of these devices. A recent investigation by the Chicago Tribune has revealed that some of the most popular smartphones sold in the United States, including the Apple iPhone 7, emit radiofrequency radiation levels that are over the legal safety limit and more than double what the manufacturer reported to federal regulators. The results of this investigation raise questions about whether cellphones always meet the safety standards set up to protect the public, and whether existing federal standards are adequate.

Testing Cellphones for Radiofrequency Radiation:

The Tribune conducted an investigation to explore the safety of cellphones. The test, which was paid for by the Tribune and conducted according to federal guidelines at an accredited lab, involved exposing a brand-new iPhone 7 to radiofrequency radiation for 18 minutes. The results showed that the radiofrequency radiation exposure from the iPhone 7 measured over the legal safety limit and more than double what Apple reported to federal regulators from its own testing. The Tribune tested three more brand-new iPhone 7s at full power and these phones also measured over the exposure limit. In all, 11 models from four companies were tested, with varying results.

The Tribune’s testing was not meant to rank phone models for safety – only 11 models were examined, and in most cases just one device was tested. However, the results contribute to an ongoing debate about the possible risks posed by radiofrequency radiation from cellphones, and offer evidence that existing federal standards may not be adequate to protect the public.

Industry Officials and Manufacturers:

Industry officials and manufacturers emphasize that before a new model can be brought to market, a sample phone must be tested and comply with an exposure standard for radiofrequency radiation. However, manufacturers are allowed to select the testing lab, and only a single phone needs to pass in order for millions of others to be sold. Companies testing a new phone for compliance with the safety limit are also permitted to position the phone up to 25 millimeters away from the body, depending on how the device is used. This is because the testing standards were adopted in the 1990s, when people frequently carried cellphones on belt clips.

The Tribune’s Testing Methodology:

In one phase of the Tribune testing, all phones were positioned at the same distance from the simulated body tissue that the manufacturers chose for their own tests – from 5 to 15 millimeters, depending on the model. Apple, for instance, tests at 5 millimeters. To assess exposure when people carry phones closer to the body, the Tribune conducted a second phase of testing, placing the phones 2 millimeters away from the simulated body. This distance was chosen to estimate the potential exposure for an owner carrying the phone in a pants or shirt pocket. Under these conditions, most of the models tested yielded results that were over the exposure limit, sometimes far exceeding it.

The Government Accountability Office and the FCC:

The Government Accountability Office, Congress’ research arm, recommended in 2012 that the FCC reassess the exposure limit and its testing requirements. Seven years later, the FCC came to the conclusion that the existing standard sufficiently protects the public and should remain in place. However, the Tribune’s testing has prompted the FCC to take the rare step of conducting its own testing over the next couple of months. In California, the state Public Health Department issued rare guidance on how concerned consumers could reduce exposure in 2017. Among the advice was not to carry cellphones in pockets.

Apple and Samsung Respond

When informed of the Tribune’s test results and provided with the laboratory’s 100-page lab report, Apple disputed the findings, saying they were not performed in a way that properly assesses iPhones. The Tribune’s tests were conducted by RF Exposure Lab, a facility in San Marcos, California, that is recognized by the FCC as accredited to test for radiofrequency radiation from electronic devices. The lab has been testing radiation for wireless companies seeking government approval for new products for 15 years.

Lab owner Jay Moulton stated that all the Tribune’s tests were done in accordance with detailed FCC rules and guidelines. He added that any qualified lab “should be able to grab a phone off the shelf and test it to see if it meets requirements.”

Apple, one of the world’s most iconic brands, declined to say specifically what was wrong with the Tribune’s tests or reveal how the company measures its phones for potential radiofrequency radiation exposure. However, based on Apple’s feedback, the Tribune retested the iPhones in the investigation as well as an additional iPhone 7, making a change aimed at activating sensors that would reduce power. The retests still showed that the iPhone 7s produced results over the safety limit, while an iPhone 8 that previously measured over the standard came in under.

When informed of the new results, Apple officials declined to be interviewed and requested the Tribune to put its questions in writing. The newspaper submitted three dozen questions but Apple did not answer any of them. Apple then issued a statement, repeating that the Tribune test results for the iPhone 7s “were inaccurate due to the test setup not being in accordance with procedures necessary to properly assess the iPhone models.”

“All iPhone models, including iPhone 7, are fully certified by the FCC and in every other country where iPhone is sold,” the statement said. “After careful review and subsequent validation of all iPhone models tested in the (Tribune) report, we confirmed we are in compliance and meet all applicable … exposure guidelines and limits.” Apple did not explain what it meant by “careful review and subsequent validation.”

The three Samsung phones tested by the Tribune — the Galaxy S8, Galaxy S9, and Galaxy J3 — were positioned at 10 or 15 millimeters from the body, the distances chosen by the company in accordance with FCC guidelines. In these tests, the devices measured under the safety limit. However, when the phones were tested at 2 millimeters from the simulated body — to represent a device being used while in a pocket — the exposures measured well over the standard.

Samsung, based in South Korea and one of the world’s top smartphone makers, stated in a statement: “Samsung devices sold in the United States comply with FCC regulations. Our devices are tested according to the same test protocols that are used across the industry.”

FCC officials declined to comment on individual results from phones tested by the Tribune. They said that although the Tribune testing was not as comprehensive as what would be required for an official compliance report, they would examine some of the phone models in the newspaper’s investigation.

It is important to note that these results are not conclusive and are based on limited testing performed by the Tribune. Further testing and investigation by the FCC is necessary to fully understand the potential effects of radiofrequency radiation from cellphones. However, the results of the Tribune’s investigation contribute to the ongoing debate about the possible risks posed by radiofrequency radiation from cellphones and offer evidence that existing federal standards may not be adequate to protect the public.

Uncovering the Hidden Dangers: The Urgency to Reassess Cellphone Radiation Risks

The proliferation of cellphones has caused one of the most significant cultural shifts in recent times. In 2009, approximately 50 million smartphones were in use in America, according to the CTIA, but today that number has skyrocketed to 285 million. A report by Common Sense Media found that 29% of American teens even sleep with their cellphones in bed with them.

Some experts believe that the safety measures have not kept up with the rapid increase in cellphone usage. “Exposure to cellphone radiation is now present from birth to death,” says Om Gandhi, a leading researcher on cellphone radiation at the University of Utah.

Cellphones communicate through radio waves to a vast network of fixed installations, known as cell towers or base stations. These radio waves are a form of electromagnetic radiation that falls within the same frequency range as TVs and microwave ovens. This type of radiation, also called radiofrequency energy, should not be mistaken for ionizing radiation such as X-rays and gamma rays, which can cause serious biological harm, including cancer, by stripping electrons from atoms. Although radiofrequency energy from cellphones is not powerful enough to cause ionization, it can still cause harm by heating biological tissue at high levels. The eyes and testes are particularly vulnerable because they do not dissipate heat quickly.

The long-term health effects of low-level cellphone radiation exposure, especially on children, including the risk of cancer, remain largely unknown. When cellphones first hit the market in the 1980s, authorities focused on setting exposure limits only for the heating risks posed by cellphones. Scientists discovered that animals showed adverse effects when exposed to radiofrequency radiation that raised their body temperature by just 1 degree Celsius. This finding was used to calculate a safety limit for humans with a 50-fold safety factor.

The FCC adopted a rule in 1996 stating that cellphone users should not absorb more than 1.6 watts per kilogram averaged over one gram of tissue. Phone makers were instructed to conduct two tests to demonstrate compliance: when the devices were held against the head and when held up to an inch from the body.

However, the way people use cellphones has changed dramatically since the 1990s, when these testing standards were put in place. Nowadays, people often carry their phones closer to their bodies, in their pockets, increasing their potential exposure to radiofrequency radiation. In response to this change, the Tribune conducted a second phase of testing, placing the phones 2 millimeters away from a simulated body to estimate the exposure for someone carrying the phone in a pocket. Under these conditions, most of the models tested produced results that exceeded the exposure limit, sometimes by a significant margin.

In 2012, the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ research arm, recommended that the FCC reassess the exposure limit and testing requirements, stating that because phones were not tested while against the body, authorities could not guarantee that exposures were under the standard. Seven years later, the FCC declared that the existing standard was sufficient to protect the public and should remain in place.

In recent years, few government officials have taken action to address the potential risks posed by radiofrequency radiation from cellphones. However, in California, the state Public Health Department issued rare guidance in 2017 on how consumers could reduce their exposure, including not carrying cellphones in pockets.

Given the widespread use of cellphones and the limited research into the long-term health effects of radiofrequency radiation, it is crucial to continuously monitor and reassess the safety standards for cellphones. The Tribune’s investigation highlights that existing federal standards may not be enough to protect all users from potential exposure to radiofrequency radiation,especially as more and more people carry their phones in close proximity to their bodies in pockets, where exposure is highest.

The urgency to reassess the risks of cellphone radiation cannot be overstated. With billions of people worldwide relying on their cellphones every day, it is imperative to ensure that the safety standards are up to date and adequately protect all users. The absence of concrete evidence about the long-term health effects of radiofrequency radiation only adds to the urgency to act now.

As a precaution, it is important to take steps to minimize exposure to radiofrequency radiation, such as carrying your phone in a different location, using a hands-free device, or limiting usage. Until there is more definitive evidence about the risks of cellphone radiation, it is crucial to be proactive in protecting our health and well-being.

The FCC and other government agencies must also play their part by continually monitoring and reassessing the safety standards for cellphones. The recommendation by the Government Accountability Office to reassess the exposure limit and testing requirements must be taken seriously and acted upon. The health and well-being of billions of people are at stake, and the time to act is now.

“Cellphone Radiation: The Hidden Danger Lurking in Your Pocket”

“Wake Up Call: The Urgency to Reassess Cellphone Radiation Risks”

“Uncovering the Truth: The Dangers of Cellphone Radiation Exposure”

“From Cradle to Grave: The Startling Reality of Cellphone Radiation”

“The Alarming Rise of Cellphone Radiation: Is Your Health at Risk?”

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