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‘Simple Engineering Fixes’ Could Reduce Cellphone Radiation, Scientists Say

A few “simple engineering fixes” could dramatically reduce radiofrequency radiation emitted by cellphones, according to the authors of a new peer-reviewed study, who said they believe the wireless industry is going to have to start competing on safety.

By Suzanne Burdick, Ph.D.

A few “simple engineering fixes” could dramatically reduce radiofrequency radiation (RFR) emitted by cellphones, according to scientists with the International Commission on the Biological Effects of Electromagnetic Fields (ICBE-EMF).

The team of researchers, whose peer-reviewed report was published April 4, said these low-cost software and hardware modifications are easy to implement, and in one case, the fix relies on technology already patented by the industry.

Joel Moskowitz, Ph.D., director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the University of California, Berkeley and one of the report’s authors said in a statement:

“Given the growing evidence of the health effects of radiation from cellphones and cell towers, I believe the wireless industry is going to have to start competing on safety.”

Concern about the safety of cellphones and other wireless devices has moved into the mainstream, said Moskowitz.

Moskowitz — who does not endorse or promote any product in order to avoid conflicts of interest — said he is aware of at least one brand of wireless router designed to reduce wireless radiation exposure.

“I expect more and more products, including cellphones, that reduce wireless radiation exposure to come onto the market in the months and years ahead,” he said.

‘Common-sense’ changes ‘dramatically’ reduce wireless radiation from cellphones

Elizabeth Kelley, managing director of ICBE-EMF and also one of the authors of the peer-reviewed report, said the proposed “common-sense” changes can “quickly and dramatically reduce” RFR exposure from cellphones, thereby creating “a healthier environment for all of us — while still allowing us to stay connected to others and to the information we need daily.”

“Cellphones are constantly transmitting their location to cell towers, but when we are stationary, these constant transmissions — called ‘handshakes’ — are unnecessary,” she said.

Kelley added:

“Why not shut down these transmissions — which cause frequent radiation emissions — when our phones are stationary, such as when they are sitting on a bedside table as we sleep or on our desk next to us as we work?”

The authors said cellphones could be configured to shut off RFR emissions when a proximity sensor detects the presence of the human body.

Some wireless companies — including Nokia Corp. and Motorola Inc. — already hold patents for technologies that could be used to create improved antenna systems and reduce wireless radiation exposure, the authors said.

They pointed out that designing phones to make calls using Wi-Fi — rather than cell towers — wherever available would also dramatically reduce radiation emissions from the phone.

Moreover, the authors suggested cellphones could have software installed that would limit radiation exposure by controlling the cumulative dose of RFR.

“This makes sense, since much of the evidence regarding cancer and RFR has used cumulative exposure to establish links,” they said.

The authors added:

“Even if the placement of the phone was allowed against the head, users’ RFR exposure could be automatically controlled by a limit on phone call durations, particularly when base stations [or cell towers] are remote.”

‘We cannot and should not tell the public that we know cellphones are safe’

In their paper, the authors examined the history behind current cellphone emissions standards and found a trail of dated assumptions and poorly designed experiments and tests that don’t reflect how people use cellphones today.

Paul Héroux, Ph.D., the paper’s first author and a professor in the School of Population and Global Health at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, said:

“Our team of scientists and engineers has identified seven blind spots in the methods and experiments upon which our current cellphone radiation emission standards and guidelines are based.

“These blind spots call into serious question the validity of those standards.”

For example, experiments using wireless radiation exposures lasting 40-60 minutes are not representative of the “24/7 chronic exposures which all of us are and will be subject to for the rest of our lives,” he said.

“Another example,” Héroux said, “is testing designs that estimate exposure using the phone and the head. What’s missing, of course, is the hand holding the phone.”

Including the hand in the exposure test shows that most of the phone’s radiated emissions are absorbed by the body and little is actually available for wireless communications, he said.

These blindspots “tell us that our current cellphone emissions standards cannot be trusted,” Héroux said. “We cannot and should not tell the public that we know cellphones are safe.”

Moskowitz said we “will certainly hear from cellphone manufacturers that cellphones already comply with government standards.”

What we won’t hear, he said, is a cellphone manufacturer spokesperson saying, “My company guarantees that the radiation emitted by our cellphones is safe and will not harm users.”

“They won’t say it because they know better and because their lawyers have told them never to claim publicly that their cellphones are safe,” he said.

Some in the wireless industry may protest a move toward safer cellphones and other wireless devices by saying it’s costly and unnecessary, Moskowitz said, adding:

“But carmakers said the same thing when the public demanded safer cars and the government required them. Today, those same carmakers compete on safety.”

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