A recent investigation has reignited debate over the safety of cell and smartphones. It’s also spurred class-action lawsuits and has activists calling on federal regulators to reassess the limits of radiation allowed to seep out from radio-emitting mobile devices that are now a part of daily modern life.
The Chicago Tribune recently released findings of its own investigation into radiofrequency radiation emitted by popular smartphones, including several variations of the iPhone.
Overall, Tribune reporters, using accredited lab tests that mimic human tissue, tested 11 models from four companies: Apple, Samsung, Motorola, and BLU.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) — which regulates cell phones, among other things, in the United States — has set radiation standards for cell phones at 1.6 watts per kilogram averaged over 1 gram of tissue. Most of the phones the Tribune tested well exceeded that amount at 2 millimeters, or the distance your phone would be in your pocket.
“Radiofrequency radiation exposure from the iPhone 7 — one of the most popular smartphones ever sold — measured over the legal safety limit and more than double what Apple reported to federal regulators from its own testing,” the Tribune reported.
Radiofrequency (RF) radiation is of a concern because, according to the FCC, “It has been known for many years that exposure to very high levels of RF radiation can be harmful due to the ability of RF energy to heat biological tissue rapidly.”
Essentially, it operates the same way a microwave cooks food, and organs like the eyes and testes are particularly vulnerable because there’s not enough blood flow to cool them down.
But there are larger concerns over how much radiation the U.S. federal government allows cell phones to emit, especially after the Tribune’s reporting found they often were in excess of that.
The FCC’s standards were set in 1996 and reflected the typical amount of use during that time and on a 200-pound man.
But phones back then were just that — phones.
Now with unlimited games, applications, and social media, the average time spent on smartphones is now 3 hours and 10 minutes per day. And that’s from people of all ages, sizes and genders. Some of that use borders on addictionTrusted Source.
A cause for concern?
Ellie Marks, executive director of the nonprofit California Brain Tumor Association, is “not at all surprised by” the Tribune’s findings and is happy to see class-action lawsuits being filed following its publication. She has testified before Congress on the issue, as her husband developed a brain tumor they believe was due to long-term cell phone use.
She’s been arguing for the FCC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reassess their guidelines for radiation from cell phones, but FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently announced they would be keeping the guidelines as they currently stand. This even as the country currently looks to expand its 5G coverage across the country, which would expose more people to even more radiofrequencies.
“This cannot be left to FCC or FDA to investigate,” Marks told Healthline. “The collusion and corruption between the FDA, FCC and telecom is out of control.”
Marks and other advocates who have wanted regulations changed argue the FCC is too beholden to private interests to address the issue.
“The industry, FDA and FCC keep repeating the mantra that there is no evidence of harm. That is a blatant lie, but they need to do this for liability reasons,” Marks said. “There is extensive research proving cell phone radiation is causing DNA damage and cancer — not just brain, but salivary gland, thyroid, breast, damage to fetuses, damage to sperm, miscarriages, bone cancer and more.”
Last November, Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, released a statementTrusted Source saying “the current safety limits for cell phone radiofrequency energy exposure remain acceptable for protecting the public health.”
Dr. Santosh Kesari, a neuro-oncologist and chair of the department of translational neuro-oncology and neurotherapeutics at the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, said that statement was based on tests on rats, which is hard to extrapolate to humans.
“There have been many studies over the decades in animal models that show some effect on cancer incidence, however all the studies slightly differ, and again, the dose exposure is more than humans are exposed to, so the relevance to the human situation remains unclear,” Kesari told Healthline.
What you can do to reduce exposure
To be safe, experts suggest the following practices to limit unnecessary exposure to radiation from mobile devices:
- Unplug from your usual device usage as much as possible.
- Don’t keep your phone next to your body, such as in a pocket.
- Use speakerphone or a headset when making calls.
- Don’t sleep next to your phone or other devices.
- Keep the phone on airplane mode when you’re not using it.
There are some products aimed at reducing radiation, such as SafeSleeve device covers that claim to block over 99 percent of RF and 92 percent of extremely low frequency radiation.
The company was founded by Cary Subel and Alaey Kumar, who began studying electromagnetic radiation as engineering students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo a decade ago.
“Just because you can’t feel, see, smell, or hear it, does not mean that the emissions from your electronics are harmless,” Subel said, who added there is “strong evidence” that the FCC’s limits for RF exposure levels are far too high.
While activists wait for federal regulators to address allowed radiation from cell phones, Marks continues to work with cities and states across the United States that want to give consumers information about devices’ safety at the point of sale, which is often followed with lawsuits from industry saying that violates their company’s First Amendment rights.
Berkeley, California, passed an ordinance that took effect in 2016. It requirs retailers of cellular devices to carry a warning: “If you carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra when the phone is ON and connected to a wireless network, you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure to RF radiation.”
CTIA, trade group of devices retailers, fought the ordinance all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The city eventually prevailed and the warnings remain at cell phone retailers.
“Yes, we need new safety guidelines and experts have suggested them to no avail,” Marks said.
Oboe player dies in fall at concert hall before performance
A Miami symphony oboe player died after she tumbled down a flight of stairs minutes before a season-opening concert performance, the band said.
Greater Miami Symphonic Band member Janice Thomson, 62, hit her head Sunday when she fell on the tile floor of the lobby of the Maurice Gusman Concert Hall in Coral Gables, according to the symphony’s Facebook page.
One concertgoer said she was in the lobby purchasing a ticket when she heard a “bone-crunching splat,” the Miami Herald reported.
“We turned around and everyone was screaming and she was on the floor bleeding,” Grace Harrington told the newspaper. “Everyone was running to get her. They were screaming for a doctor.”
Thompson was rushed with internal bleeding to Jackson South Medical Center, where she succumbed Monday to her injuries, the Miami Herald reported.
The Greater Miami Symphonic Band said Monday that it will dedicate their Dec. 10 concert to Thomson.
“As has been our tradition, we will have an unoccupied seat in the oboe section with a single rose on it,” the band wrote on Facebook.
By James Smith
Venice Floods Because of Highest Tide in 50 Year
VENICE, Italy (Reuters) – Venice’s mayor called the city a disaster zone on Wednesday after the second highest tide ever recorded swept through it overnight, flooding its historic basilica and leaving many squares and alleyways deep under water.
A local man from Pellestrina, one of the many islands in the Venetian lagoon, died when he was struck by lightning while using an electric water pump, the fire brigade said.
City officials said the tide peaked at 187 cm (6ft 2ins) at 10.50 p.m. (2150 GMT) on Tuesday, just short of the record 194 cm set in 1966.Night-time footage showed a torrent of water whipped up by high winds raging through the city centre while Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region, described a scene of “apocalyptic devastation”.
Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said the situation was dramatic. “We ask the government to help us. The cost will be high. This is the result of climate change,” he said on Twitter.
He said he would declare a disaster zone and ask the government to call a state of emergency, which would allow funds to be freed to address the damage.
Saint Mark’s Square was submerged by more than one metre of water, while the adjacent Saint Mark’s Basilica was flooded for the sixth time in 1,200 years – but the fourth in the last 20.
A flood barrier was designed in 1984 to protect Venice from the kind of high tides that hit the city on Tuesday, but the multi-billion euro project, known as Mose, has been plagued by corruption scandals and is still not operative.
Brugnaro said the basilica had suffered “grave damage”, but no details were available on the state of its mainly Byzantine interior, famous for its rich mosaics.
Its administrator said the basilica had aged 20 years in a single day when it was flooded last year.
‘ON ITS KNEES’
Some tourists appeared to enjoy the drama, with one man filmed swimming across Saint Mark’s Square wearing only shorts on Tuesday evening.
“Venice is on its knees.. the art, the basilica, the shops and the homes, a disaster.. The city is bracing itself for the next high tide,” Zaia said on TV.
The luxury Hotel Gritti, a landmark of Venice which looks onto the Lagoon, was also flooded.
On Wednesday morning the tide level fell to 145 cm but was expected to rise back to 160 cm during the day.
Local authorities and the government’s civil protection unit will hold a news conference at 1100 GMT.
The overnight surge triggered several fires, including one at the International Gallery of Modern Art Ca’ Pesaro, with hundreds of calls to the fire brigade.
Video on social media showed deep water flowing like a river along one of Venice’s main thoroughfares. Other footage showed large waves hammering boats moored alongside the Doge’s Palace and surging over the stone sidewalks.
“A high tide of 187 cm is going to leave an indelible wound,” Brugnaro said.
Much of Italy has been pummelled by torrential rains in recent days, with widespread flooding, especially in the southern heel and toe of the country.
In Matera, this year’s European Capital of Culture, rain water cascaded through the streets and inundated the city’s famous cave-dwelling district.
Further bad weather is forecast for the coming days.
Reporting by Riccardo Bastianello; Writing by Crispian Balmer, Giulia Segreti and Gavin Jones; editing by Grant McCool and John Stonestreet
Disney Plus streaming package debuts Tuesday with Marvel, Star Wars and more
The new service is $7 a month, commercial free
NEW YORK — Disney will sprinkle its pixie dust on the streaming arena Tuesday, as its Disney Plus service debuts with an arsenal of marquee franchises including Marvel and Star Wars, original series with a built-in fan base and a cheap price to boot.
The $7-a-month commercial-free service is poised to set the standard for other services like WarnerMedia’s HBO Max and NBCUniversal’s Peacock to follow, as major media companies behind hit TV shows and movies seek to siphon the subscription revenue now going to Netflix and other streaming giants.
Disney’s properties speak to its strengths. Besides classic characters such as Snow White and Pinocchio, Disney has Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic — big names that most people would recognize. Disney Plus will also have all 30 past seasons of “The Simpsons.” Original shows include “The Mandalorian,” set in the Star Wars universe, and one on the Marvel character Loki.
“I really love both the Star Wars and Marvel franchises and I grew up watching classic Disney shows and movies so I do think there will be enough content for me,” she said.
Marlina Yates, who works in marketing in Kansas City, said she signed up because of her husband’s enthusiasm about the Star Wars series “The Mandalorian” and her daughter’s “love affair with princesses and everything Disney.”
Disney Plus’s $7 a month price is about half of the $13 Netflix charges for its most popular plan, and there are discounts for paying for a full year up front. Disney is also offering a $13 package bundling Disney Plus with two other services it owns, Hulu and ESPN Plus. That’s $5 cheaper than signing up for each one individually.
Everything won’t be available to stream right away, though, as Disney needs to wait for existing deals with rival services to expire. Recent movies missing at launch include the animated Pixar movie “Coco” and the live-action “Beauty and the Beast.” Others like “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” haven’t been released for streaming yet. Disney expects 620 movies and 10,000 TV episodes by 2024, up from 500 movies and 7,500 episodes on Tuesday.
Disney has said that it is losing about $150 million in licensing revenue in the most recent fiscal year from terminating deals with Netflix and other services. But Disney is betting that what it makes through subscriptions will more than make up for that — at least eventually.
Disney is boosting its subscription base initially with heavy promos, much as Apple TV Plus has done and HBO Max and Peacock plan to do. Members of Disney’s free D23 fan club were eligible to buy three years of Disney Plus service up front for the price of two years. Customers of some Verizon wireless and home-internet plans can get a year free.
The hope is that subscribers will stick around once they see what the service offers.
Long-term success is by no means guaranteed. With a slew of services launching, subscription fees can add up quickly. Consumers might be reluctant to drop an existing service such as Netflix or Amazon Prime to pay for something untested.
“I can’t keep up with so many services. It gets expensive,” said William Pearson, a Drexel University student who describes himself as a “massive” Marvel fan but already pays for Netflix, HBO and the DC Comics streaming service.
But compared with other newcomers, experts believe Disney will have no problem gaining — and keeping — the 60 million to 90 million worldwide subscribers it is targeting for 2024. It took Netflix twice as long to get to 90 million.
“Disney Plus has a gigantic array of content and a library that’s unmatched, so it feels like an easy addition for consumers to get a gigantic library at that low price,” said Tim Hanlon, CEO of Vertere Group.
Bernie McTernan, internet and media analyst at Rosenblatt Securities, said Apple’s venture into streaming, Apple TV Plus, has to build brand recognition for its new shows, while viewers may have difficulties seeing what HBO Max offers beyond the standard HBO subscription.
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