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Last Updated on October 2, 2023
Last month, the FCC lost a landmark court case against the Children’s Health Defense (CHD), where the court ruled the FCC neglected evidence in determining their wireless radiation exposure standards, which they have not updated since 1996. Their loose, outdated limits put the health and safety of the public at risk. The FCC fails to even address standards for children, even though research shows children are more vulnerable to EMF radiation. See more on the ruling here.
Because of the FCC’s neglect, third-party groups are stepping up to fill in the gaps left.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), is an American activist group and non-profit organization that specializes in research and advocacy to help the public make informed choices and live a healthy life. They work with subject experts to bring breakthrough research into areas like toxic chemicals, drinking water, family health, and more.
EWG researchers followed the methodology the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses to evaluate human health risks from toxic chemical exposure.
The EWG study found increased risk of abnormal tissue growth (think: cancer) and cardiomyopathy among male rats that had been exposed to EMF radiation.
The EWG also took into consideration the National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) animal study on cell phone radiation effects, the largest research project of its kind. The NTP’s study “confirms evidence from human studies that cellphone radiation increases the risk of cancer.”
The NTP study examined the health effects of 2G and 3G wireless radiation, and found “clear evidence” of a link between heart tumors in laboratory animals and radiofrequency radiation.
In addition to this, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified cell phone radiation a “possible carcinogen” – a conclusion based on human epidemiological studies that found an increased risk of glioma, a malignant brain cancer, associated with cell phone use.
Recommended Exposure Standards for Kids
Children’s bodies are fundamentally different from adults. A child is still developing on a physical, chemical, and biological level. Their hormones, enzymes, tissues, and cellular responses to environmental toxins are all different from adults.
A developing body holds an increased risk of harm from EMF emissions, and arguably makes children the most vulnerable age group to EMF and wireless radiation.
Adding to their level of risk comes the rising use of device among children of all ages. Whether it be for school, gaming, or socializing, children are using technology more than ever. As a matter of fact, a survey completed by the nonprofit Commonsense Media in March of 2020 found that 46% of 2 to 4-year-olds, and 67% of 5 to 8-year-olds had their own mobile devices, such as a tablet or smartphone. This study was just before the COVID pandemic spread in the US. With most schools having to rely on remote learning, we can only imagine that these numbers have risen.
All of these factors have led to health concerns for children from doctors and scientists all over the world. Exposure to EMFs at such a young age can interact with brain development – leading to poor mental health and negative effects on learning abilities, disturbed sleep patterns, eye damage, and changes to physical health.
The EWG introduced the first set of guidelines for children because of the lack of ones from federal regulators. Their proposed guidelines recommend that children’s whole-body exposure be 0.2 – 0.4 milliwatts per kilogram, 200 to 400 times lower than the FCC’s suggested 1.6 watts per kilogram.
Recommended Exposure Standards for Adults
For adults, the EWG recommends updating the guidelines to a whole-body SAR limit of 2 to 4 milliwatts per kilogram. This recommendation is 20 to 40 times lower than the current standards set by the FCC, of 1.6 watts per kilogram.
Why are the FCC SAR Exposure Standards so High?
The FCC standard, called the SAR (Standard Absorption Rate) Standard, hasn’t been updated since 1996. During this time, only 16% of Americans had a cell phone. The latest data from Pew Research Center shows that 96% of Americans now have a cell phone, and 81% have a smartphone. Of these, many are young children.
The FCC states that the limit for public exposure from mobile cell phones is a SAR level of 1.6 watts per kilogram. At this point, they recorded a 2° increase in skin temperature, with a signal permeating 2 inches into the brain. Why is this outdated?
- The FCC made this standard back when they only thought they had to protect from thermal cell damage. The 1.6 W/kg standard only protects from excessive heat levels, and doesn’t address biological damage that can still happen at lower power levels regardless of any temperature change.
- To create this standard, the FCC created a 200-pound, 6-foot male testing dummy, which represents approximately 3% of the population. The bigger you are, the less EMF should affect your body. EMF radiation is much more harmful to developing children, pregnant women, those with illnesses or compromised immune systems, and the senior population.
- While that level of exposure may have been generally acceptable in 1996, it hasn’t been updated to take into account our modern lifestyle, where our phones are pressed against our bodies all day and night. Device ownership, usage, and consumption habits have drastically changed in the last few decades. In addition to our lengthened exposure, phones now have extra WiFi and Bluetooth processors and powerful cellular connections.
Are Cell Phones Following SAR Standards?
Even with this outdated safety standard, cell phone manufacturers don’t seem to be following it very well. They self-test and self-report their own phones’ SAR values. Most of the time, independent lab testing cannot replicate manufacturers’ results.
The Chicago Tribune conducted independent lab testing on cell phones, and found that radio frequency radiation exposure from the iPhone 7 measured over the legal safety limit and more than double what Apple has reported to federal regulators. Other popular models like the iPhone X / 8 and the Samsung Galaxy S9 / S8 also tested high. Recently, an additional independent test done by the same California-based lab, RF Exposure Lab, found that the iPhone 11 Pro has SAR levels measuring at 3.8 W/kg.
The results of the Tribune’s test and the subsequent public outcry prompted the FCC to conduct its own testing. A couple months later, the FCC said they lab-tested phone models provided directly to them from the manufacturers. All the results showed the phones were in the clear, emitting less than the legal limit of 1.6 W/kg. This information begs two questions:
- Why are the independent lab tests coming back with different results than a federal regulatory agency?
- Why doesn’t the FCC test phones off the shelf instead of phones supplied from the manufacturer?
Regardless of if cell phones actually meet SAR standards or not, there is no question that the standards are outdated. The public should continue to reduce their exposure to EMFs and look into protecting themselves from the potential health effects.
Ways to Keep You and Your Children Safe: EMF Protection Measures
Efforts to change government regulatory standards may continue to drag on. In the meantime, it is smart to develop healthy habits to decrease EMF exposure.
- Choose a device with a low SAR rating. While they may be inaccurate, SAR ratings hold relative value and should be considered. You can look at the SAR ratings of top phone models here. Young children may not need a brand new smartphone with hundreds of wireless capabilities.
- Use shielding products. Always make sure kids have some form of scientific lab-tested shielding between them and their device. DefenderShield’s product line of cell phone cases, laptop cases, and tablet/iPad cases can all be used on devices to decrease EMF exposure by up to 99%. The EMF Protection Anti-Radiation Blanket is perfect for when kids are lounging around using their devices.
- Increase time spent outdoors. Nature is calling, and you should answer. The benefits for children of spending time in nature include improving executive function, better concentration, improved academic performance, lower aggression levels, and decreased risk for obesity. Furthermore, by having kids step away from tech to play outside, it creates a time for digital detox. Time away from technology is beneficial because it is time away from EMFs.
- Limit screen time in children. As mentioned, screen time is bad for mental health. But it is also harmful because blue light can negatively impact the eyes and the body’s natural sleep cycle. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages screens for younger children and recommends 2 hours/day max for older children and teenagers.
- Make play areas and children’s bedrooms tech-free zones. This will encourage disconnected play, as well as improving sleep. Sleep is a critical factor for children, as sleep is one of the most important times for growth and development.
You can learn more about EMF protection for children and mothers here.
What the EWG Recommends
Scientists at EWG say that more research is needed on the health impacts of the latest generation of communication technology such as 5G. President of the EWG, Ken Cook, thinks public health agencies should be focusing on reviewing 5G and wireless technology. “It is long past time the federal government made exposure to 5G wireless devices safe. We strongly believe those exposures deserve far more investigation and scientific rigor than has been applied to date.”