Photo by Flickr / Creative Commons

A new movie trailer was sent to me this morning by a friend, who wanted my opinion.  The movie is “Generation Zapped”, and it seems to focus on the children and their exposure to WiFi / EMF.  They point out that several countries (including the US) have taken measures to reduce WiFi exposure in schools, and some, like France, have banned WiFi in certain schools.  If you’re interested the trailer is here:

I found this interesting – and timely.  I’m in the process of changing my cell phone and wireless provider right now.  That’s part of what inspired this blog.  At my former cell phone provider they had terrible reception inside the store.  That was not impressive, and to be honest, downright funny.  Like a shoemaker who has bad shoes!  The new cell phone provider had amazing reception – everywhere in the store.  And then it struck me – I’m exposed to WiFi at home, at work, at many restaurants, and now even when I shop.  What’s all this doing to me?  to my family?  to my friends?  I try to use clean products that are environmentally friendly.  I buy foods that are sustainably produced, as gently as possible.  But what about all the “built in” exposure like cell phones and WiFi?  Am I being bombarded all day long?  

The science can’t decide

So the debate is back:  are cellphones or WiFi hurting us?   The subject was all the buzz a few years ago but quietly faded from the everyday conversation.  It faded because some scientists said it’s no different than exposure to the radio or television and that’s been around us for 100 years.  I’m not completely surprised the debate has resurfaced.  As I travelled the country and talked to physicians and other healthcare professionals, they quietly told me they have stopped microwaving their food, they use bluetooth devices, and don’t take the cell phone into the bedroom at night.  Some refuse to have WiFi in their homes, instead using cabling.  Do we have reason to be concerned?

Don’t get me wrong – I love our modern conveniences – our cell phone always within reach, our tablets and iPads, our WiFi…  And thinking out further, our microwaves, electricity…  I sure don’t want to go back to the days of my grandmother – who had to chop wood for the fire to cook (I turn a knob), haul water from the well (I turn a knob), and wash her clothes in a “washbucket” and ringer, then hang them on an outside clothesline to dry (I turn a knob and have to push a button). 

But, with modern conveniences and technology comes responsibility.  One day the research will be clear and we will know.  Until then, we’ll focus on what we can do to reduce our exposure to the radiofrequency radiation given off by cell phones at the antenna and Wifi Services. 

A brief look at the technology

When the radiofrequency waves become stronger, they give off heat and can be damaging (think of what the microwave does to food).  The radiofrequency waves in the cell phones are very weak and do not tend to raise our body temperature.

First, a bit of technology definition so you’ll know what is being referenced. 

The FCC requires that all cell phone models be tested for their Specific Absorption Rate or SAR. The SAR is a measure of the maximum amount of microwave radiation absorbed by the head or the body.

https://www.saferemr.com/2017/10/iphone-8-SAR.html

How many of us read the instructions for a cell phone?  Apple clearly states on their website: 

To reduce exposure to RF energy, use a hands-free option, such as the built-in speakerphone, the supplied headphones, or other similar accessories. Cases with metal parts may change the RF performance of the device, including its compliance with RF exposure guidelines, in a manner that has not been tested or certified.

Although this device has been tested to determine SAR in each band of operation, not all bands are available in all areas. Bands are dependent on your service provider’s wireless and roaming networks.

https://www.apple.com/legal/rfexposure/iphone5,1/en/

Oh, didn’t know that: it is not just my phone but my cell phone provider as well.  How do I find that information?  

Oddly enough, with more people using the cell phones and WiFI, there are more stations (1.4 Billion base stations worldwide according to the WHO), stronger signals, etc. which, according to the National Cancer Institute, actually lowers our exposure.  Weak signals cause the phones to ramp up the radiowaves.  However, being in a crowded place with lots of people who also use your carrier’s service, causes competition for signal and the antenna may have to work harder.

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

What can we do?

And… it gets worse.  I often have my cellular network on, plus WiFi, plus bluetooth.  Experts in the field tell us:

When all these transmitters are turned on, the SAR value is 1.58 for the iPhone 6 and 1.59 for the iPhone 6 Plus. (1, 2) These levels are very close to the legal limit which is 1.60. To reduce exposure to microwave radiation, turn off any transmitters not in use.

  Dr. Joel Moskowitz – see reference at end of blog

Well, my conveniences just got a little less convenient if I have to turn on and turn off cellular, WiFi and bluetooth.

What about little bodies (children)?  Their brains are growing as are their bodies, and they have different physiology than grown adults.  Does it affect them the same?

Today many children are cell phone users — the child’s brain absorbs twice the radiation as the adult’s brain.

Yikes!  Reading on…

Moreover, the artificial head does not contain any metal (e.g., dental fillings, earrings, or eyeglass frames) which could increase the radiation absorption beyond what the laboratory-generated SAR reflects. (5)

(5) Joel Moskowitz. “”Comments on the 2012 GAO Report: ‘Exposure and Testing Requirements for Mobile Phones Should Be Reassessed’.:” http://www.saferemr.com/2013/01/commentary-gao-2012-report-on-mobile.html

They use an artificial head for testing, in case you were wondering.  So how do I compare to the artificial head?  Check yes for dental fillings, check yes for earrings, and check yes for metal eyeglass frames (at least half of the day).  Looks like I’m 3 for 3 on that. 

Photo by BoldGrid: National Day of Listening-November 27

Note to self: always talk on speaker phone or through my earbuds and put the cell phone on the table.  And floss so there’s no additional dental fillings.  And no face piercings.

Experts recommend using either a wired headset or a Bluetooth headset. While you may still be exposed to some radiation using either type of headset, it’s still a lot less than holding the phone to your ear. If you do use a Bluetooth headset, I’d recommend taking it out of your ear when you’re not using it. There’s no need to continue to expose yourself to low levels of electromagnetic radiation when you don’t need to, since we still don’t know the long-term effects of radiation exposure at these low levels.

https://www.cnet.com/news/cell-phone-radiation-a-self-defense-guide-faq/

Bluetooth devices worn in the ear have lower SAR than the phone held to the ear.  I don’t use a bluetooth headset but I know many people who keep it in their ear all day.  Taking it out of the ear when not in use is probably sane advice.  I’ve also read that I can turn off the cellular function by putting it in airplane mode.

More advice.  Don’t put your cellphone in your pocket or in your bra.  Move it away from your bed at night, and for goodness sake don’t put it under your pillow.

Latest debate continues…

What does all this do to us?  Again the literature is not crystal clear.  There was an article in Science Direct in July 2018 that presents quite an argument that we should still be cognizant.  They looked at 23 controlled studies for effects from WiFi / EMF, even citing one study from the US Navy that showed reduced testosterone:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935118300355

Or if you don’t like ScienceDirect, here is the author’s published article:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29573716

So there you have it.  The debate is not over yet, some countries are banning WiFi from schools, the science seems very divided but it makes sense to me to reduce SAR and WiFi / EMF exposure whenever you can until it’s proven to be healthy.

Photo by Web Hosting on Unsplash

iPhone 6 SAR: Radiation Levels and Separation Distance

Future Posts

Related posts in the future will focus on resources to help reduce exposure to environmental toxins.