It’s easy to assume that just because a product is on the market it’s safe to use. After all, surely regulatory bodies like the FCC wouldn’t allow manufacturers to sell products that are potentially harmful to human health? Well, unfortunately, we can never take anything at face value. And so we arrive at Healthy Living Tip #8: Always read the fine print.
The last time you purchased a cell phone, laptop, or other EMF-emitting device, you probably didn’t take the time to read every word of the user manuals and safety pamphlets.
We don’t blame you – those things are great if you suffer from insomnia, but otherwise not particularly enticing. Manufacturers know this. They bet on consumers not bothering to dig into the fine print so they keep it dry and difficult to read on purpose. That way serious safety warnings can go largely unnoticed.
Here’s the thing though: those serious safety warnings exist. Most cell phone manuals contain warnings against holding the device against your head as well as recommendations not to carry it in your pocket.
Here’s a direct quote from the latest iPhone documentation:
To reduce exposure to RF energy, use a hands-free option, such as the built-in speakerphone, the supplied headphones, or other similar accessories.The Apple iPhone Manual
In other words, Apple acknowledges that RF exposure from their iPhones is harmful – at the very least, exceeds federal regulatory guidelines – and should be avoided.
There’s also something else to be aware of when reading the small print. Documentation will often state that a device meets the legal safety requirements and exposure limits. So shouldn’t this reassure you that there’s nothing to worry about?
Not exactly. We’ll briefly explain why.
The safety limits being referred to here are based on Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) – which is the rate at which human tissue absorbs RF energy. When a device’s SAR is tested it’s done so in a lab using a dummy head (the head of a large adult male). There are numerous reasons why accuracy of this method is iffy at best – some research has even found that this model underestimates radiation absorption in adults and children by a factor of two or more.
On top of that, the exposure levels are frequently measured while the device is held away from the body. This has been called the dirty secret of cell phone testing because it doesn’t reflect real-world conditions.
Here’s a more detailed explanation of SAR if you want to know more, but for the purpose of this post it’s just important to understand that when a device’s manual says it meets safety standards, that doesn’t mean it’s actually safe. If it was, the same fine print wouldn’t follow up with a recommendation to keep the device away from your body.
If you’re ever skeptical that radio frequency exposure is a real threat, all you have to do is pick up the documentation of your cell phone or laptop and have a look through (here’s a great resource for reading some examples of device fine print).
Read the fine print, and you’ll find out why you shouldn’t be using your laptop on your lap or carrying your smartphone in your pocket.
For more tips on how to make technology safer, visit our full series of Healthy Living Tips.