|Back To Previous Page|
|Print This Page|
Radiation Still Hard To Prove
The Federal Trade Commission insisted it was simply cracking down on fraud when it recently sued two companies for falsely advertising products that purportedly shielded cell-phone callers from radiation. (Aegis Note: Click here to see the original FTC press release.)
Even though the FTC released a report with alternative ways for concerned consumers to protect themselves from cell-phone emissions, it also pointed out there is no conclusive evidence that cell phones are harmful.
"We are trying to stay out of the scientific dispute," said Mary Engle, the FTC's associate director for advertising practices. "That's really something for the scientists."
Scientists are still scratching their heads.
Both the World Health Organization and U.S. Federal Drug and Food Administration have weighed in on cell-phone use, but can't say whether cell phones pose any health risk, if at all.
"There are gaps in knowledge that have been identified for further research to better assess health risks," the WHO says on its website. "It will take about three to four years for the required RF (radio frequency) research to be completed, evaluated and to publish the final results of any health risks."
The FDA makes similar claims on its own website: "Mobile phones emit low levels of radio frequency energy in the microwave range. High levels of RF can produce biological damage, but it is not known whether lower levels of RF might cause adverse health effects as well."
There are armloads of research showing that the electromagnetic energy emitted from cell phones have some effect on the user, but the results vary, and scientists have not been able to repeat their findings, experts say.
Research released in June 2000 by the Wireless Technology Research program, which is funded by the wireless phone industry, shows that radiation from cell phones is not strong enough to break DNA; however, it does cause genetic changes in the blood.
As for oft-cited reports from the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association that say cell-phone use doesn't cause brain cancer, experts say these studies aren't free of holes, either.
Both the NEJM and JAMA studies only focused on short-term cell-phone use -– up to four years -– and some of that use was based on making a mere five cell-phone calls, said Louis Slesin, editor of Microwave News, a publication dedicated to research of electromagnetic fields.
"I don't like to use the cigarette analogy, but who would get cancer from smoking five cigarettes?" asked Slesin. "We'd all be dead."
While Slesin said cell phones can't be absolved from health risks -- "We just don't know," he said -– he agreed with the FTC's decision to blow a whistle on the two questionable companies. He also applauded the FTC for its decision to release alternative safety guidelines to cell-phone users.
"There's a lot of preying on consumer ignorance here and surely a lot of things don't work," Slesin said.
On Wednesday, the FTC filed lawsuits against Stock Value 1, of Boca Raton, Florida, and Comstar Communications, of Sacramento, California, for promoting products that blocked up to 99 percent of the electromagnetic waves emitted from the earpiece of mobile phones. The products consisted of metallic fiber patches the user would place on the earpiece of the phone.
Neither company could be reached for comment. The FTC admitted the businesses might not even exist.
"It could be that they may have taken down (their websites)," the FTC's Engle said. "From what we understand, they (Stock Value 1 and Comstar Communications), as of last week, had their websites up and running and were marketing their products."
"We are concerned with false advertising and these claims were false," said Engle, who added that the products were independently tested to show they didn't work.
Slesin, along with the FTC and cell-phone industry, expressed concern that such companies are preying on people's fears and selling consumers products that don't work.
They also said such remedies may even intensify radiation exposure to the consumer. The cell phone is always emitting radio frequencies so it can communicate with a base station.
"If you do anything to make it harder for the phone to communicate with the (cell) tower ... it can make the exposure worse," Slesin said.
Cell-phone manufacturers say they never recommend such shielding technology because cell phones aren't harmful anyway.
"The levels of emission from a mobile phone are so much lower than what it would take to cause any damage to a human being that it doesn't strike me as an issue," said Rob Elston, spokesman for manufacturer Ericsson.
If consumers are still concerned, Elston recommends they talk on a "hands-free" set-up such as a headset or ear bud. The FTC also advised not using the phones where coverage is poor so that the phones aren't increasing their emissions to attempt to reach a base station.
"The wireless industry has long turned to scientific experts on this issue," said Travis Larson, spokesman for the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association.
"The World Health Organization states, 'Scientific evidence does not indicate any need for RF-absorbing covers or other absorbing devices on mobile phones. They cannot be justified on health grounds and the effectiveness of many such devices in reducing RF exposure is unproven." (Aegis Note: AegisGuard™ LS Radiation Shields are the only cellular phone shielding products that deflect (or reflect), rather than absorb, cellular phone radiation out the back of a phone without affecting reception, output power level, or battery life.)