Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Buyer Beware: Cell Phone Radiation-Reducing Products

About once a week someone asks me to recommend a harm reduction product to reduce exposure to the electromagnetic radiation (EMR) emitted by their cell phone. 

Every few months a manufacturer asks me to endorse a new radiation-reducing product.

To avoid conflicts of interest, I do not endorse any products. Moreover, I have little confidence in manufacturers' product safety claims even from manufacturers who report independent laboratory test results for their products. 

Rather, I recommend people reduce their EMR exposure by making some simple behavioral changes. See "Some Tips to Reduce Your Exposure to Wireless Radiation" on my EMR Safety web site for suggestions.

In the news article below, Juli Clover, the author evaluated an iPhone case which is supposed to enhance the phone's signal strength. Although this product is not a harm reduction product, the article is useful to examine as the author compares how well the case functioned in the real world to the manufacturer's claims that were based on laboratory test results from "CETECOM, a well-respected test and certification lab for mobile devices."

The author concluded, "after several days of use, it remains difficult to conclusively say that the case improves signal in a meaningful way due to mixed test results." 

Her analysis validates my concern that testing a cell phone's radiation in a laboratory has limited utility because it does not yield results that accurately predict how the cell phone functions in the real world.

As I discussed in an interview in 2011, although the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires every cell phone in the U.S. to be tested in a laboratory for its Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), this measure is not useful to determine whether one cell phone is safer than another. In my opinion, the SAR is not useful to determine whether any cell phone is safe.

In sum, consumers would be wise to pay attention to the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) advice: "there is no scientific proof that so-called shields significantly reduce exposure from these electromagnetic emissions."

The FTC makes the following recommendations in an article entitled, "Cell Phone Radiation Scams":
  • "Increase the distance between your phone and your head by using a hands-free device, like an earpiece that is wired to the phone, or using the speakerphone feature.
  • Consider texting more and limiting your cell phone use to short conversations.
  • Wait for a good signal. When you have a weak signal, your phone works harder, emitting more radiation. Phones also give off more radiation when transmitting than when receiving, so tilt the phone away from your head when you're talking, and bring it back to your ear when you're listening.
  • A phone's specific absorption rate (SAR) reveals the maximum amount of radiation the human body absorbs from the phone while it's transmitting. SAR testing ensures that the devices sold in the U.S. comply with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) SAR exposure limit, but the single, worst-case value obtained from this SAR testing is not necessarily representative of the absorption during actual use, and therefore it is not recommended for comparisons among phones. In short, selecting a lower SAR phone will not reliably ensure lower radiation absorption during use. The FCC has more information at Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) For Cell Phones: What It Means For You."                                                           


Hands-On With the Reach79 Signal Boosting Case - Does It Work?

Juli Clover, MacRumors, Jan 27, 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

American Cancer Society: Cell Phone Radiation Risk

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recently revised a 58-page document entitled, “Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Adults” and updated its website page on “Cellular Phones.”

Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Adults

“Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Adults” dismisses the potential cancer risk from using cell phones and refers readers to the ACS web site for further information:

Cell phone use
"This has been the subject of a great deal of debate in recent years. Cell phones give off radiofrequency (RF) rays, a form of energy on the electromagnetic spectrum between FM radio waves and those used in microwave ovens, radar, and satellite stations. Cell phones do not give off ionizing radiation, the type that can cause cancer by damaging the DNA inside cells. Still, there have been concerns that the phones, whose antennae are built-in and therefore are placed close to the head when being used, might somehow raise the risk of brain tumors.

Some studies have suggested a possible increased risk of brain tumors or of vestibular schwannomas with cell phone use, but most of the larger studies done so far have not found an increased risk, either overall or among specific types of tumors. Still, there are very few studies of long-term use (10 years or more), and cell phones haven’t been around long enough to determine the possible risks of lifetime use. The same is true of any possible higher risks in children, who are increasingly using cell phones. Cell phone technology also continues to change, and it’s not clear how this might affect any risk.

These risks are being studied, but it will probably be many years before firm conclusions can be made. In the meantime, for people concerned about the possible risks, there are ways to lower your exposure, such as using an earpiece to move the phone itself away from the head. For more information, see our document Cellular Phones."  (p. 15)

Can brain and spinal cord tumors in adults be prevented?

"The risk of many cancers in adults can be reduced with certain lifestyle changes (such as staying at a healthy weight or quitting smoking). But other than radiation exposure, there are no known lifestyle-related or environmental causes of brain and spinal cord tumors, so at this time there is no known way to protect against most of these tumors." (p. 17)

Cellular Phones

The ACS web site reviews the research on cell phone radiation and downplays the cancer risk from long-term exposure to cell phone and cordless phone radiation.

Although the ACS seems skeptical there is any cancer risk from cell phone use, they recommend "several things that people who are concerned about RF [radio frequency] waves can do to limit their exposure":

"Use the speaker mode on the phone or a hands-free device such as a corded or cordless earpiece. This moves the antenna away from your head, which decreases the amount of RF waves that reach the head. Corded earpieces emit virtually no RF waves (although the phone itself still emits small amounts of RF waves that can reach parts of the body if close enough, such as on the waist or in a pocket). Bluetooth® earpieces have an SAR value of around 0.001 watts/kg (less than one thousandth the SAR limit for cell phones as set by the FDA and FCC).

Texting instead of talking on the phone may be another option to reduce your exposure. But it may not be a good option in some situations, especially if you are driving. For safety reasons, it is especially important to limit or avoid the use of cell phones while driving.

Limit your (and your children’s) cell phone use. This is one of the most obvious ways to limit your exposure to RF waves from cell phones. You may want to use your cell phone only for shorter conversations, or use it only when a conventional phone is not available. Parents who are concerned about their children’s exposure can limit how much time they spend on the phone.

Some people might consider choosing a phone with a low SAR value. Different models of phones can give off different levels of RF waves. But as noted above, according to the FCC the SAR value is not always a good indicator of a person’s exposure to RF waves during normal cell phone use. One way to get information on the SAR level for a specific phone model is to visit the phone maker’s website. The FCC has links to some of these sites here: If you know the FCC identification (ID) number for a phone model (which can often be found somewhere on the phone or in the user manual), you can also go to the following web address: On this page, you will see instructions for entering the FCC ID number.”

After reviewing and dismissing the growing body of scientific evidence which finds that long-term cell phone phone use is associated with increased brain cancer risk, the ACS makes the following recommendation:

"With these limitations in mind, it is important that the possible risk of cell phone exposure continue to be researched using strong study methods, especially with regard to use by children and longer-term use."

Since virtually everyone in the U.S. uses a cell phone and all are exposed to cell phone radiation, one might wonder what the ACS has done to ensure that there is adequate funding for strong research on the cancer risk. Has the ACS devoted any research funding to the study of this environmental risk? Has the ACS used its influence to ensure that Federal agencies prioritize health and safety research regarding this risk?


American Cancer Society. Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Adults. Last revised Jan 7, 2015. URL:

American Cancer Society.  Cellular Phones.  Last revised Dec 12, 2014. URL:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

U.S. Navy's Electronic War Games

If you would like to learn about the U.S. Navy's electronic war games to be held in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, you may find it informative to read the Navy's Environmental Assessment (EA) report:

Pacific Northwest EW Range Environmental Assessment (EA). United States Department of the Navy. Final EA, September 2014. Unclassified. 

The report, however, seems rather sketchy as critical information is likely classified.

The safety of these war games has been challenged by Dr. Martin Pall as the Navy is only concerned about protecting people and wildlife from heating or thermal risks. The report actually admits that there would be a thermal risk should any persons or wildlife remain stationary within the test area. The report does not address the non-thermal risks of exposure to high-intensity radar.

Allegedly, the purpose of these war games is to test the Navy's ability to block military communications. According to the EA report, the primary radio frequency emissions involved in the games are in the 4-8 GHz range with a peak transmit power of 100 kW (kilowatts). According to Wikipedia, this radar C band is typically used for satellite transponders.

Following are some excerpts from the Navy's report. Installation and Operation of a Fixed Emitter at Naval Station Everett Annex Pacific Beach, Washington (pp. 2-1 – 2-2)

To facilitate EW training, construction of a permanent tower south of Building 104 (Figure 2.1-1) is required to support a fixed emitter (MRES) at NS Everett Annex Pacific Beach (similar to that shown in Figure 3.1-3). The 40-foot (ft.) tower and fixed emitter would have a total height of about 66 ft. above ground level on a Navy-operated, controlled, and owned site, to which the general public does not have access. The MRES is capable of generating an electromagnetic wave at frequencies ranging from 2 to 18 gigahertz (GHz). It can emit up to 64 simultaneous signals and can transmit in pulses or a continuous wave. The MRES site is fenced for security purposes to restrict public access, and the emitter’s height is designed to further reduce any potential safety issues or hazards. Additionally, warning signs specific to the tower-mounted emitter would be posted for Building 104, which already has a secured, fenced area with warning signs that exclude unauthorized personnel and the public. Furthermore, during training evolutions, the Navy would ensure that all necessary safety precautions and standard operating procedures would be followed to further minimize the risk to the public. All Navy personnel and trainees would be required to follow the specific safety precautions identified in Office of the Chief of Naval Operations Instruction (OPNAVINST) 5100.23 Series and any applicable site-specific range regulations. Electromagnetic Radiation Hazards


There are no conclusive direct hazards to human tissue as a result of electromagnetic radiation. Links to DNA fragmentation, leukemia, and cancer due to intermittent exposure to extremely high levels of electromagnetic radiation are speculative; study data are inconsistent and insufficient at this time (Focke et al. 2009).

Strong electromagnetic radiation can cause fire if a wave were to create a spark near explosives or ordnance. Strong waves can also induce an electric current capable of overloading or destroying electrical equipment while less strong radiation waves can interfere with electromagnetic signals, such as radio, television, and telephone. Navy’s Electromagnetic Devices and Electromagnetic Radiation Outputs

Fixed Emitter. The MRES, more commonly referred to as the “fixed emitter” being proposed and analyzed for use at NS Everett Annex Pacific Beach (tower-mounted, similar to that shown in Figure 3.1-1) is capable of generating an electromagnetic wave at frequencies ranging from 2 to 18 GHz. It can emit up to 64 simultaneous signals and can transmit in pulses or a continuous wave.

Vehicle-mounted Mobile Emitters. There are two types of vehicle-mounted mobile emitters that are being proposed and analyzed for use on the MEWTS, more commonly referred to as “mobile  emitters.” Traveling Wave Tube Amplifier (TWTA) mobile emitters are capable of generating an electromagnetic wave at frequencies ranging from 4 to 8 GHz; the Magnetron mobile emitters are capable of generating an electromagnetic wave at frequencies ranging from 6.7 to 7.4 GHz.

These emitters can produce the electromagnetic hazards mentioned in the previous section. As discussed below, the threat to the public’s safety is largely a function of the locations of the emitters relative to people, the power and frequency output of the emitters, the amount of time an individual is exposed to the electromagnetic energy, and the Navy’s management practices related to operation of the emitters.

For each EW emitter, a “controlled environment” and “action level environment” (as described below in Section are determined based on the power and frequency output of the emitter. Because emitters focus energy in a relatively narrow beam, controlled and action level environments would be triangular, as opposed to complete circles. Within controlled and action level environments, personnel and the public would be limited to the time they could be exposed without receiving harmful levels of electromagnetic energy (this is done by calculating the distances from the emitter and time limits at those distances). For example, the mobile emitters (MEWTS) have controlled and action level environments in which personnel and the public must not be allowed to loiter, while outside a controlled or action level environment, personnel and the public would receive no harmful levels of electromagnetic radiation.


Table 3.1-1 displays the minimum calculated separation distances within controlled and action level environments for the main beams of each electromagnetic radiation wave being proposed for use, at its highest frequency, and at the longest averaging time (the “permissive exposure time”) for each type of proposed emitter. The values were derived in accordance with OPNAVINST 5100.23G, IEEE standards, and two2 separate Electromagnetic Environmental Effects (E3) safety reviews conducted for the MRES and MEWTS. It should be noted that these values are “worst case” scenario, thus providing the greatest amount of protection to the general public. In actual operations, these values will typically be lower, as the emitters will not be transmitting at their highest frequency, and permissive exposure times would  vary as well. Additionally, safety precautions, as described in Section below, would further limit the general public’s (as well as forest creatures) potential exposure and enhance the overall safety of the operation.

Table 3.1-1: Radiation Hazard Minimum Safe Separation Distances Per the E3 Safety Reviews (see p. 3.1-4 for this table; my summary is in brackets)

[At the Naval Station Everett Annex Pac Beach, the minimum separation distances listed in the table range from 29.3 feet to 713.7 feet for the action level environment and from 9.3 feet to 276.4 feet for the controlled environment.]

[At the Olympic, Okanogan and Roosevelt MOAs (military operation areas), the minimum separation distances listed in the table range from 29.3 feet to 101.1 feet for the action level environment and from 9.3 feet to 32.0 feet for the controlled environment.]

Two types of mobile emitters will be used under Alternative 1. The first operates between 6 and 8 GHz with an approximate peak transmit power of 100 kW. The second operates between 4 and 8 GHz with an approximate peak transmit power of 3 kW. At these operational settings, it is not expected that wildlife, notably birds, would be impacted by the radiated energy. (3.2-26)

Under Alternative 2, the Navy would have a total of six mobile emitters. There would be three for the activities in the Olympic MOAs as described in Alternative 1 and three for activities in the Okanogan and Roosevelt MOAs. On average, the fixed and mobile emitters would provide service for 19 events a day, totaling about 72 hours of operation per day (Table 2.1-2). In order to power the mobile emitters, 10 kW generators will be used, which are housed within the mobile emitter unit. Emitters would be energized in accordance with the training scenario. The emitter may be energized for short periods of time throughout the training activity or continuously throughout the entire time the aircraft is airborne, depending upon the training scenario. Should an individual/individuals or animals remain in the area while a training event is occurring, the mobile emitter crews will cease the training (de-energize the emitter and stow for travel), and if need be, relocate to another pre-selected training site. (3.2-28)


The following study conducted in India is timely although the radar frequency bands differ from those that the U.S. Navy will employ in the war games discussed above. 

Singh S, Mani KV, Kapoor N. Effect of occupational EMF exposure from radar at two different frequency bands on plasma melatonin and serotonin levels. Int J Radiat Biol. 2015 Jan 7:1-39. [Epub ahead of print].


Objective: The purpose of the present study was to delineate the effect of chronic electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure from radar on plasma melatonin and serotonin levels in occupationally exposed military personnel.

Subjects and Methods: 166 male military personnel participated in the study out of which only 155 joined for blood draw. They were divided into three sets viz control group (n=68), exposure group I (n=40) exposed to 8-12 GHz and exposure group II (n=58) working with radar at 12.5-18 GHz frequency. All the three groups were further split into two groups according to their years of service (up to 10 years and > 10 years) in order to investigate the effect of years of exposure from radar. Melatonin and serotonin levels were estimated by enzyme immunoassay in fasting blood samples collected during 0600-0700h. EMF measurements were recorded at different locations using Satimo EME Guard 'Personal Exposure Meter' and Narda 'Broad Band Field Meter'.

Results: The group I exposed population registered a minor though not significant decrease in plasma melatonin concentration while the other group II exposed population registered statistically significant decline in melatonin concentration when compared with controls. Highly significant increase in plasma serotonin levels was found in exposure group II when compared to control whereas marginal non-significant rise was also registered in exposure group I in comparison to control. Exposure in terms of length of service up to 10 years did not produce any significant effect in the indoleamine levels in both the exposure groups when they were compared with their respective control groups. Whereas, length of service greater than 10 years was observed to decrease and increase respectively the melatonin and serotonin concentration significantly in exposure group II but not in exposure group I. However, correlation test did not yield any significant association between years of service and melatonin or serotonin levels respectively in both the exposure sets I and II. No significant association was observed between melatonin and serotonin levels as well.

Conclusion: The study shows the EMF ability to influence plasma melatonin and serotonin concentration in radar workers, significantly in 12.5-18GHz range with service period greater than 10 years.


The EMF levels measured in power density (W/m2) were monitored with EME Guard personal exposure meter (frequency range 27MHz to 40GHz with upper and lower detection limit of 200V/m and 5V/m respectively) and Broad Band Field Meter (frequency range 100KHz to 60GHz). Measurements were undertaken inside the radar cabins and outside the radar at different distances of occupational exposures of the personnel. The power density of microwave radiation level inside the radar cabin and outside at various locations around the radar vehicle, where a worker of Group I worked during the course of normal duty ranged from 0.24 – 0.77W/m2. Subjects of Group II were exposed to microwave power density level of 0.1 – 15.6W/m2 inside and outside the radar vehicle.

Despite the measured EMF levels found to be well within the acceptable limits of occupational exposure of 50W/m2 for controlled environments (1.5 to 150GHz) (ICNIRP guidelines, 1998, 2002; Canada Safety Code 6, 2009; NRPB, 2004), changes in pineal indoleamine concentrations with radar exposure in terms of both frequency band and years of service have been observed. The significantly depressed antioxidant level of melatonin in exposure group II signifies the potential of EMF exposure combination at Ku frequency band and mean exposure period of 11.5 years in terms of length of service in inducing stress. At the same time, the slight fall registered in group I may be due to comparatively lower cumulative exposure both in terms of frequency band and length of service (mean 8.3 years) to which the group might have acclimatized as apparent by the non-significant difference when compared with the reference group. Correlation analysis however, did not yield any significant association between years of service and melatonin or serotonin levels in both the exposure sets I and II ...

In light of the observed alterations in melatonin and serotonin found in both the frequency bands of radar and service category though, significant only in the higher frequency band and in greater than 10 years of service duration, our study do imply the EMF potential to alter the plasma indoleamine levels in radar workers. The results need further corroboration; hence, the results should be interpreted with caution. Given the significance of these pineal secretions for organisms, further studies with better EMF characterization and standardization are crucial. In this regard, future studies should target occupational groups with cohort or cross-sectional studies with more time point measurements in order to find the pattern of melatonin and serotonin response with EMF experience. Upcoming studies should also address the effect of EMF on all the components of melatonin biosynthesis in order to concretize the findings in addition to taking into account possible confounders. For the time being, precautionary approach should be adopted and unnecessary exposures should be checked, along with suitable protective measures where such exposures are unavoidable and considerably high.


Also see:

S. Weinberger. Microwave weapons: Wasted energy. Nature. 489(7415). Sep 12, 2012

Despite 50 years of research on high-power microwaves, the US military has yet to produce a usable weapon.

K. Kumar. US Navy’s Disruptive Weapon "Railgun" To Be Publicly Displayed At Washington Defence Expo in February. International Business Times. Jan 26, 2015.