Award-winning Investigative Journalist Reveals Popular Cell Phones Violate Radiation Exposure Guidelines When Realistically Tested
CBC investigation films standard cell phone testing showing high radiation exposures when phones are simulated in positions like pocket, bra or lap.
An independently commissioned investigation by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) found that when cell phones were radiation tested in the ways devices are commonly used—such as in the pocket, bra or lap—the radiation detected inside the user’s body surpassed the government allowable maximum level. In this week’s CBC award-winning Marketplace program entitled “The secret inside your cellphone,” acclaimed reporter Wendy Mesley announced results from a US government certified testing laboratory.
The investigation found that three popular phone models—iPhone, Galaxy, and Samsung—are below regulated maximums for radiation when they are tested at a specified distance away from the body and head. However, the CBC program revealed that when phones are tested directly against the body, the radiation is multiplied by three to four times and exceeds government limits.
The CBC found most people are unaware that all cell phone manufacturers’ instructions specify that there should be a distance between the phone and the user’s body in order not to be exposed to untested levels of radiation. CBC conducted an independent survey of more than 11,000 Canadians to determine if the public knew about these instructions to distance phones from their bodies. The survey found more than 80 percent “had no clue” and 67 percent admitted they carry their phones against their bodies.
“The public needs to be informed that cell phones are not safe as they are typically used. Remember these outdated guidelines were set for a large male adult and do not take into account the millions of children regularly keeping such devices on their bodies for hours at a time. We have known for a decade that phones violate radiation guidelines when tested in the ways they typically are used,” stated Devra Davis, PhD, MPH, President of Environmental Health Trust (EHT), who was featured in the CBC investigation.
Davis points out, “Along with over a dozen other countries, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Consumer Reports have issued recommendations to reduce exposure to cell phones.” Davis further states, “Even if cell phones met current guidelines, those guidelines do not ensure safety especially for children.”
“There are dozens and dozens of studies that we presented to Health Canada that show harm can occur at levels below Canada’s guidelines,” stated Frank Clegg, former President of Microsoft Canada, urging for updates to Canada’s highly contested Safety Code 6. Clegg now heads Canadians for Safe Technology, a not-for-profit, volunteer-based organization striving for healthier communities by educating about dangerous levels of radiation from technology. He referred to experimental studies showing damage to sperm, pregnancy and the nervous system following exposures to cell phone radiation, noting that men who keep phones in their pockets have significantly poorer sperm quality and quantity.
“The most embarrassing thing about this investigation,” said Clegg, “is that the Federal Government already knows the manufacturers have fine-print warnings on the cell phones. These warnings need to come to the front of the box in big letters where we can see them, and at the point of sale where we buy our phones. If manufacturers know they fail the safety standards, if the federal government knows, if our national broadcaster knows, then it should not be kept secret from the person buying the product.”
When CBC Marketplace asked for comment, Apple referred to advice inside their phones about their specified separation distances and stated, “We have no comment to add to your story.”
“Millions of children use cell phones and wireless devices every day. Many people carry cell phones in their jeans pocket tight against their body. Many women tuck cell phones in the bra or spandex pants they wear. People have a right to know that all wireless devices—not only cell phones but cordless home phones, tablets and many other wireless devices have instructions from the manufacturer about separation distances to put at least that distance between the transmitting antennae and the person so that radiation levels inside the body added by the phone are not higher than government regulations,” stated Davis. Davis recently authored an article about the Maryland State Advisory Council’s recommendations to restrict Wi-Fi in school, published in The Baltimore Sun.
Davis notes that tablets and other wireless devices held directly on laps also will likely violate the tested distance as most devices are regulatory tested at least 8 inches away from the body, adding that the arms of many young children do not extend to that length.
The CBC Marketplace episode takes viewers to Berkeley, California, Washington, DC and several locations in Canada to see what government, research, and technology experts say, and what the public thinks.
The CBC program features Berkeley’s Right To Know Law unanimously passed in 2015 requiring cell phone retailers to provide a notice to their customers that “If you carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra when the phone is ON and connected to a wireless network, you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure to RF radiation.”
The CBC program showed the importance of such a law, which is being defended pro bono by Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, former Director of the Safra Center for Ethics. The cell phone industry attorney in this case, Theodore Olson, has also represented the tobacco firms.
Cell phone radiation concern made headlines earlier this month when a court ordered the California Department of Public Health to release suppressed advisory guidelines on “Cell Phones and Health” to University of Berkeley Professor Dr. Joel Moskowitz. Originally drafted in 2010, the released California Public Health Cell Phones guidance states, “Health officials are concerned about possible health effects from cell phone EMFs because some recent studies suggest that long-term cell phone use may increase the risk of brain cancer and other health problems.”
A decade ago, in 2007, the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute was the first US medical institution to issue warnings about the health effects of cell phone radiation, and the Director Dr. Herberman sent a memo to the Cancer Institute’s 3,000 faculty and staff. The fine print distance warnings were discussed in 2008 and 2009 US Congressional hearings on the health effects of cell phone radiation.
“The findings of the NTP constitute important signals that there are very serious health issues tied with microwave radiation from cell phones and other devices,” adds Ronald Melnick, PhD, a Senior Advisor to the EHT and formerly a Senior Scientist with the US government’s National Toxicology Program. “At this point, the question is not whether cell phone radiation causes cancer, but how we can best reduce exposures. Regulatory agencies should make strong recommendations for consumers to take precautionary measures and avoid close contact with their cell phones (use speaker, wired headset, text–not while driving), and especially avoid use of cell phones by children.”
“Our government rests on the freely given consent of the governed. The Right to Know should trump the Right to Profit,” stated Davis, pointing to newly proposed US Right to Know legislation in Massachusetts, “Our government has an obligation to revise its outdated exposure standards and ensure people are informed.”Listen to 23 Minute Radio Interview with Wendy of CBC Radio Interview "Cellphone in your pocket? CBC's Marketplace investigates why you might reconsider"
The Baltimore Sun published “Wifi in Md. schools may put your kid at risk for cancer” California Department of Health Cell Phone and Health Document