Are we absorbing too much mobile phone radiation?

18th March 2024
Harry Fowle

RF signals are the go-to for mobile phones, allowing for smooth interactions across the globe, but are we absorbing excessive amounts of mobile phone radiation in the process? To learn more, Electronic Specifier spoke with Ryan McCaughey, Chief Scientist at Atom Studios.

How mobile phones emit radiation

Mobile phones utilise encoded radiofrequency (RF) signals in order to communicate with one another, a form of electromagnetic field (EMF), and are traditionally just referred to as ‘mobile phone radiation.’ The phones of today have multiple antennas that transmit on a selection of frequencies between 0.6 and 40 GHz.

Put simplistically, these signals are used in the following functions: the conversion of information, modulation, transmission, cellular networking, signal routing, demodulation, and conversion and delivery.

Throughout this process, various technologies and protocols ensure the signal's integrity and security, managing how data is packed, transmitted, received, and unpacked. Additionally, frequency division and time division multiplexing techniques allow multiple users to share the cellular network simultaneously. However, all this together means a lot of radiation.

Other sources of radiation, comparatively

To understand how much radiation is being produced by our phones, McCaughey raised some comparisons. “Microwave ovens also use RF energy at 2.45 GHz to heat food. Most of that energy is contained within the oven, but you are exposed to about 300 microwatts per square centimetre (µW/cm2) if you are right next to it. By comparison a phone next to your body can expose you to at least double that intensity of RF. Typical exposure 2 mm from your phone is 600 µW/cm2.

“The intensity of your exposure is inversely proportional to the distance-squared from the source. So if you double the distance between you and the RF source, your exposure is reduced by a factor of 4.

“So while a mobile phone tower is up to 50x more powerful than your phone, by the time the wave reaches you hundreds of feet away the intensity is a fraction of exposure from your phone. Typical exposure is less than 100 µW/cm2.

“Another common source of RF in your home is your Wi-Fi router, which exposes you to less than 1 µW/cm2 if you are more than 3ft away from it.”

The potential harm of mobile phone radiation

According to McCaughey, there are growing concerns over the amount of mobile phone radiation we are being exposed to, and the health risks associated. These effects are critical ones as well, with key areas of focus being around the brain and fertility.

“The World Health Organisation has classified RF radiation as possibly carcinogenic to humans since 2011, and the National Institutes of Health found ‘clear evidence’ that RF radiation causes cancer in animal studies.

“RF radiation has also been linked to lower sperm counts, headaches, and effects on learning and memory, hearing, behaviour and sleep,” explains McCaughey.

A case example of the potential risk can be found in France’s banning of sales of the iPhone 12 for excessive radiation. Since this initial ban, more than 50 other phones have been found to also breach these radiation guidelines.

Comments McCaughey: “France has much stricter testing than the US. The iPhone 12 failed France’s test when it placed right next to the body (0mm separation), but in the U.S. phones are tested 5mm away from the body. In the near field of an antenna 5 mm difference will produce exponentially lower exposure.”

How to protect yourself from mobile phone radiation

McCaughey also shared some tips to prevent excessive exposure to mobile phone radiation:

  • Increasing the separation between your phone and you are the best way to reduce your exposure. Don’t carry your phone in your pocket or bra, for example.
  • Put it in airplane mode overnight
  • Limit your use when you have poor signal. Your phone transmits more when it is farther from the cell tower

Atom Studios and Alara have collaborated to bring a solution to market for these problems in the form of a radiation protection case. These iPhone 15 Split Silicone cases, powered by Alara, reduce exposure to mobile phone radiation by up to 75%.

“Alara uses a patented antenna technology that works in harmony with your phone to redirect radiation away from the head and body. Highly conductive silver elements aligned with the phone’s antennas change the phone’s electromagnetic field spatial pattern to reduce how much radiation is absorbed by the body,” explains McCaughey.

Alara technology has been independently tested by RF Exposure Lab, an independent, accredited facility, showing Alara-powered products reduce exposure to mobile phone radiation.

The cases are made from eco-friendly sand silicone and blend functionality, design, and radiation protection. The case has a distinctive dual-material design, combining eco-friendly soft-touch materials with recycled plastic. The silicone cases are long-lasting and durable, so they don’t have to be replaced as often as plastic products. Atom’s sand-based silicone is made from silica, one of the most abundant materials on earth.

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