Technology for the cell phones was developed for the needs of the US military. Thereafter, this technology was introduced to civilian market.
Cell phone technology, before introduction to civilian market, was not tested for the human health effects because the US Food and Drug Administration gave it an exemption, justified by the low power emitted by the devices.
However, research conducted since US FDA exemption decision, has shown that the low power emitted by cell phones is able to induce biological and possibly health effects. These effects are not included in considerations for the current valid safety limits, developed in 1998.
Currently, all cell phones must comply with the safety limits recommended by the ICNIRP and the WHO (in the majority of the countries) and by IEEE-ICES in USA.
I recently saw a video showing how cell phones are tested for the radiation emission in UL Labs, an American safety consulting and certification company headquartered in Northbrook, Illinois. Such testing assures that cell phones purchased in the shops comply with the currently enforced radiation emission safety limits.
However, does it automatically mean that the UL Lab tested equipment is health safe for the users? Does compliance equal safety for cell phones?
It is necessary to distinguish between the compliance with safety limits and the human health safety.
Tests, like these in UL Labs, examine solely whether devices are in compliance with the safety limits, not with health safety. Cell phone compliant with safety limits is assumed, as per ICNIRP and IEE-ICES recommendations, to be health safe.
However, the question whether safety limits guarantee health safety is still unanswered in full. This is why the UL Labs tests tell only about compliance but not necessarily about health safety.
Some scientists question the reliability of the current safety limits. The scientific evidence from e.g. epidemiology suggests that compliant cell phones might be hazardous to health of, at least, some users.
Three separate epidemiological studies (European Interphone consortium, Hardell group in Sweden, CERENAT study in France) have shown that the avid use of cell phone over a long period of time (already as little as 30 min/day for 10+ years) increases risk of developing brain cancer.
These epidemiological studies are based on experimental data where regular people used regular cell phones – cell phones sold in regular shops, cell phones that were fully in compliance with the current safety limits.
However, avid use of cell phones compliant with safety limits was shown to increase risk of developing brain cancer.
It is also necessary to remember that the majority of cell phones used by people, including the study subjects in epidemiological research, emit significantly less radiation than the highest power level permitted by the safety limits. This had apparently no significant impact on the results of the studies, showing increased risk of developing brain cancer.
This means that the current safety limits do not protect all users of cell phones. The 1998 ICNIRP safety limits need to be revised because they likely are insufficient to protect users…
However, all what is said above:
- does not automatically mean that cell phone radiation causes cancer, it might be that this radiation is just assisting development of cancer caused by other physical or chemical agents,
- does not automatically mean that all users are in risk group of developing brain cancer – as with all environmental health-affecting factors (radiation or chemical) sub-populations exist of more sensitive individuals = not every cell phone user will (we do not know who will and who will not!) develop brain cancer and this might be why brain cancer rise is not seen in population statistics, yet.