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14 June 2019

Time to Wake Up to the Global Public Health Issue of Phonegate

As and when new developments occur in the Phonegate affair, this article will be updated.

Time to Wake Up to the Global Public Health Issue of Phonegate
by Meris Michaels, 23 May 2019 - updated 14 June 2019

Phonegate Press Book
For over 20 years, cell phone users have been knowingly misled about their true levels of exposure to radiofrequency (RF) waves under real conditions of use in contact with the body. Consumers have been doubly misled by not having been informed by the public authorities to keep the phone away from the body.

This issue concerns all of us and those we love. Most of us have cell phones. We hold them against our heads, keep them switched on in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked in a bra. Many of us are unaware that cell phone manufacturers are testing phones at a certain distance from the body, not in the ways that most of us use them, touching the body. These same manufacturers warn us to keep the phone at a distance from the body.

The authorities have been lax in implementing public health campaigns and recommendations to reduce RF exposure, especially regarding children, pregnant women and medically sensitive populations who are more vulnerable to these waves.


1. Measurements of exposure to cell phone waves exceed regulatory thresholds, posing a risk to the health and safety of billions of users

For over 20 years, cell phone users have been misled about the true levels of exposure

Most of us are not aware or sufficiently informed that manufacturers are testing cell phones at a certain distance from the body, not in the ways that most of us use them. The international NGO, Phonegate Alert Association, now has proof that for over 20 years, manufacturers have been placing cell phones on the market under deceptive conditions. Both the manufacturers and regulators have not taken into account the real conditions of use in the calculation of the SAR (Specific Absorption Rate, the indicator used to measure the rate of radiofrequency energy absorbed by the body when using a wireless device). The SAR, expressed in watts per kilogram (W/kg), is set to protect cell phone users from overheating or thermal effects. It is well established that thermal effects can be harmful to health. Many cell phones placed on the market exceed the maximum SAR regulatory threshold. This health and industrial scandal is called “Phonegate”.

French national agency conducts SAR tests on cell phones in contact with the body

Under the pressure of the legal actions of French physician Dr. Marc Arazi and now the Phonegate Alert Association, the French National Frequencies Agency (ANFR) had to make public, in June 2017 and March 2018, data concerning the SAR tests carried out in contact with the body on 454 cell phones between 2012 and 2017. The tests revealed that 9 out of 10 cell phones checked in 2015 and 20% of phones tested in France in the first half of 2018 exceed the SAR trunk value. These results were kept secret from consumers. The test results of some phones were as high as more than 20 times the manufacturer’s previously reported SAR levels. Phonegate Alert is continuing its legal actions to obtain the publication of new data. 1

The phones tested by ANFR are among the most popular brands used by consumers.

14 cell phone models withdrawn from the market or updated

Due to the pressure of Phonegate’s action, since April 2018, a total of 14 cell phones have been withdrawn from the market or updated for exceeding the SAR threshold. Two mobile phones were withdrawn, the Hapi 30 (affecting nearly 100,000 consumers in France), and the NEFFOS X1 TP902), and 12 others updated. Recently, tests carried out on the Redmi Note 5 manufactured by the Chinese company Xiaomi, revealed that the SAR head exceeded the regulatory value. In April 2019, ANFR issued press releases stating that the Nokia 5 and Nokia 3 cell phones exceed the SAR trunk value. Their software has been updated by the manufacturer.

Since the transposition into French law of the European Radio Equipment Directive (RED) in June 2017 establishing a regulatory framework for placing radio equipment on the market, ANFR can impose administrative sanctions in the event of devices exceeding the SAR threshold including administrative fines (€ 7,500 for a legal entity), requests for withdrawal from the market and recall of devices already purchased.



List and details of measurements conducted on 14 cell phones with 
non-compliant SAR trunk

Cell phone
SAR trunk measured
Manufacturer decision
SAR trunk measured after update
Orange HAPI 30
2.1 W/kg
Withdrawal from market, recall of models sold
Non applicable
NEFFOS  X1 TP902
2.52 W/kg
Withdrawal from market, recall of models sold
Non applicable
Huawei Honor 8
2.11 W/kg
Software update
1.45 W/kg
Echo Star Plus
2.05 W/kg
Software update
1.41 W/kg
Alcatel Pixie 4-6”
2.04 W/kg
Software update
1.58 W/kg
Wiko Tommy2
Bouygues Telecom
2.46 W/kg
Software update
1.66 W/kg
Hisense F23
2.13 W/kg
Software update
1.46 W/kg
Wiko View
2.44 W/kg
Software update
1.34 W/kg
Archos access 50
3.01 W/kg
Software update
1.36 W/kg
LOGICOM M BOT 69
2.81 W/kg
Software update
1.51 W/kg
Xiaomi Redmi Note 5
SAR head measured
2.08 W/kg
Software update
SAR head after update 0.356 W/kg
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S
2.94 W/kg
Software update
1.42 W/kg
Nokia 5
2.24 W/kg
Software update
1.81 W/kg
Nokia 3
2.37 W/kg
Software update
1.64 W/kg


250 cell phone models posing a risk to users’ health continue to be sold

The ANFR data reveal that 250 cell phone models exceed the regulatory limits and must be removed from the market. These phones continue to be sold not only in France and Europe but also in many other countries. It is time that the European and international authorities take action to protect the health of users. 2

Cell phone regulations outdated in all countries of the world

In all countries of the world, the cell phone regulations are outdated.

Manufacturers are not required to conduct cell phone tests in direct body positions. Most have been testing between 15-25 mm from the body. New European legislation went into effect in 2017, obliging manufacturers to test SAR extremities (hands, feet, wrists, ankles) at 0 mm. For the trunk (torso, legs, arms), phones may be tested a few millimeters from the skin. The public authorities are largely remiss in informing the population. The French State merely communicates the risk of holding a mobile phone against the ear by recommending the use of a hands-free kit “to limit exposure of the head to radio emissions during communications”. French legislation only requires manufacturers to make public the SAR head value at the point of sale as well as in advertisements. The recommendation for the use of a hands-free kit or headset must appear on the packaging of any cell phone sold.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allows manufacturers to test cell phones at a distance of 10 mm from the body. The SAR standards have not been updated since 1996.

On 12 May 2015, Berkeley, California, became the first city in the U.S. to require cell phone retailers to provide an information fact sheet to all those who purchase a new phone. The fact sheet informs buyers to read the user manual to learn the cell phone’s minimum separation distance from the body. The text states:

“The City of Berkeley requires that you be provided the following notice: To assure safety, the Federal Government requires that cell phones meet radio frequency (RF) exposure guidelines. If you carry or use your phone in 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. Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for information about how to use your phone safely.”

Polls reveal large number of users unaware of cell phone safety warnings

A highly respected poll of Berkeley residents conducted in April 2015 found that while 74% of respondents, including children, carried their phones in a pants or shirt pocket with the phone switched on – considered close contact – 66% were unaware that cell phone manufacturers recommend the products be carried away from the body or used with hands-free devices.

An independent survey by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) of more than 11,000 Canadians found that 80% were unaware of manufacturers stating the separation distance in user manuals and cell phones, and 67% admitted to carrying the phone against their bodies. An Australian study found that 25% of women have carried their cell phone tucked in their bra.

SAR thresholds

Europe has different cell phone SAR limits than the United States and Canada. The U.S. SAR maximum limits, adopted by the FCC in 1996, are 20% more stringent than those of France - 1.6 W/kg vs. 2.0 W/kg. Therefore, the results from the ANFR testing would likely be much worse for U.S. compliant phones. Also, the European SAR limit averages over 10 grams of tissue and the U.S. averages over 1 gram of tissue. Averaging over a larger volume, such as the 10 gram volume, allows much higher peak radiation values, such as are at the tissue locations closest to the cell phone. 3




In March 2018, Dr. Arazi and Dr. Devra Davis, President of the Environmental Health Trust, jointly addressed a letter to the FCC, asking for a revision of the 1996 standards, taking into account the documentation from France and Europe on SAR standards and users’ overexposure to radiofrequency fields emitted by cell phones, and recommending measures to better protect users’ health, especially children. The current SAR test system protocols do not take into account the unique physiology of children, who have smaller heads and thinner skulls than adults, allowing RF energy to penetrate more deeply into their brains. 4




The letter also stressed the importance of developing and implementing public health campaigns and recommendations to reduce exposure directed primarily at parents, children, pregnant women and medically sensitive populations.

The FCC has not replied to this letter.

The regulatory and public health agencies must take responsibility for protecting the population from harm. Phonegate Alert is working with scientists, researchers and other organizations to revise testing procedures, including taking into account the smaller size of children.

2. Scientific evidence of health effects due to exposure to radiofrequency radiation

National Toxicology Program (NTP) study results 

Both Dr. Arazi, as president of the Phonegate Alert Association, and Dr. Davis, President of the Environmental Health Trust, were among the speakers who provided public comments in person at the NTP Peer Review in Durham, NC, in March 2018. The final peer-reviewed NTP reports on rats and mice exposed to whole-body radiofrequency radiation used by cell phones confirmed “clear evidence” of an association between cell phone radiation and heart tumors (malignant schwannomas) in male rats; some evidence of tumors (malignant gliomas) in the brains of male rats; and some evidence of tumors in the adrenal glands of male rats. The speakers recalled, by bringing undeniable proof that, contrary to what was asserted by the NTP scientist team, human beings have been and still are much more exposed to the RF waves of their cell phones than the rodents used for this study.

Dr. Ronald L. Melnick, who served as a toxicologist for more than 28 years at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Toxicology Program, and led the design of the NTP carcinogenicity studies of cell phone RF radiation in rodents, comments on the results of this study: 5

  • “Because of widespread use of cell phones, even a small increase in cancer would have a serious public health impact.
  • “Precautionary principles should be promoted by health and regulatory agencies, especially for children and pregnant women. Cancer risks may be greater for children than adults due to increased penetration of cell phone radiation within the brains of children and because the developing nervous system is more susceptible to tissue damaging agents.
  • “We should no longer assume that any current or future wireless technology, including 5G, is safe without adequate testing.

IEEE scientific journal publishes analysis of ANFR data 

On 18 April 2019, a new analysis of the French government data was published online in IEEE Access, a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The analysis by Professor Om Gandhi, “Microwave Emissions From Cell Phones Exceed Safety Limits in Europe and the US When Touching the Body”, examined ANFR’s data on 450 cell phone models, indicating that phones can emit 11 times over the U.S. FCC limit and 3 times over French limits in 9 out of 10 phones tested. 6

Microwave Emissions From Cell Phones Exceed Safety Limits in Europe and the US When Touching the Body by Om Gandhi – published 11 April 2019

TABLE 1 SARs in W/kg Measured for Some Representative Telephones Held Against the Flat Phantom Model of the Body at Manufacturer-Suggested Distances D and at Distances of 5 and 0 mm as for Actual Use by Consumers (Taken From ANFR Test Report)



 

Radiofrequency waves among agents proposed for reassessment by IARC with high priority

An article in the scientific journal, “The Lancet”, dated 17 April 2019, published the list of agents whose carcinogenicity is proposed to be assessed or reassessed during the period 2020-2024 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO). In June 2011, IARC decided to place radiofrequency waves in class “2B”, “possibly carcinogenic to humans”, on the basis of an increased risk of glioma, a type of malignant brain cancer associated with cell phone use.

After publication of numerous studies, including the recent NTP study in November 2018, experts considered that RF waves should be reassessed with high priority. Some scientists are even calling for a classification in group 1: “carcinogenic”. Professor Anthony Miller, former Senior Epidemiologist for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and former Director of the Epidemiology Unit at the National Cancer Institute of Canada, explained in August 2017 at a scientific meeting on Phonegate in Jackson Hole (USA) organized by the Environmental Health Trust: “Evidence that wireless is carcinogenic has become more numerous and can no longer be ignored”. Professor Miller added that the evidence published since 2011 meets the requirements to reclassify radio frequency radiation as a ‘Group 1: carcinogenic to humans’ agent.” 7

3. Legal actions

Court orders Italian Government to adopt national information campaign on health and environmental risks associated with use of cell phones

In mid-January 2019, a decision of the Administrative Court of Rome ordered the Italian Government to adopt a national information campaign on the health and environmental risks associated with the use of cell and cordless phones. In their arguments, the Italian lawyers relied, among other things, on the data from the test results of ANFR on more than 500 mobile phones, published as part of the Phonegate affair. This case also raises serious questions about the health and environmental consequences of exposure to relay antennas, Wi-Fi, smart meters and 5G. On April 15, 2019, the Italian Government decided to appeal this decision. 8

Criminal complaint filed against cell phone manufacturer Xiaomi

Due to the actions of Phonegate Alert, on 15 April 2019, a criminal complaint against the Chinese company Xiaomi, the world’s fourth largest cell phone manufacturer, was filed with the Public Prosecutor of Paris. By placing on the market non-compliant cell phones ((Redmi Note 5 and Mi Mix 2S), Xiaomi is being accused of deception, misleading commercial practice and endangering the lives of others.

In addition, ANFR, after having requested in April and May 2018 the recall of the two mobile phone models mentioned above has been favoring a software update solution for several months for all other phones where the SAR threshold has been exceeded (12 to date).

Not only is it the consumer’s responsibility to make the update in order to reduce the SAR of his phone and not to put himself in danger, but also the capacities of his mobile phone are considerably reduced. 9

New criminal complaint filed against HMD GLOBAL OY (NOKIA)

A new complaint is now being filed against the Finnish company HMD GLOBAL OY which, since the end of 2016, has been marketing NOKIA mobile phones.

In April 2019, ANFR announced, by means of two press releases, that it had asked HMD GLOBAL OY, which markets the Nokia 5 and Nokia 3 (TA-1032DS) smartphones, for a mandatory update following controls that revealed significant exceedances of the SAR “trunk”.

Following the updates, the capacities of  these two mobile phones are being considerably reduced, resulting in a degradation of both connectivity to mobile operators’ networks and the throughput level.

The new European regulation (Directive 2014/53/EU) requires since June 2016, with a transitional period of one year until June 2017, measurement of the SAR trunk at a maximum distance of 5mm. Four new smartphone models manufactured by HMD GLOBAL OY (Nokia 1, 2.1, 3.1, and 5.1) were placed on the market from June 2018, in violation of French and European regulations. In order to display low SAR levels, these four models were measured 15mm from the body (instead of 5mm). This 10mm difference will increase the real SAR value, significantly exceeding the regulatory limit for each of the phones concerned. This will have possible consequences for the health of users.

The Finnish company also did not comply with the obligation to provide information in its manuals on the SAR value and the measuring distance.

HMD GLOBAL OY (NOKIA) is therefore accused of:

  • Deception
  • Misleading commercial practice 
  • Endangering the lives of others

As in the XIAOMI case, the owners and users of the smartphones concerned can assert their rights by joining the collective action launched on the platform "V for Verdict". 10

Each and every one of us can reduce exposure to the RF waves of our cell phones

Public health and regulatory agencies must take the findings of Phonegate into consideration in launching the necessary actions to protect cell phone users’ health.

Most public health agencies do not go far enough with their recommendations on how to reduce users’ exposure. Here are some tips:

  • Use the cell phone as seldom as possible and keep calls short. When it’s not being used, switch off the phone.
  • Avoid keeping a phone on one’s body (in a pants or shirt pocket or bra). All users’ guides for cell phones advise keeping the phone at a distance from the body. This warning is also found in the phone itself.
  • Do not keep a switched-on cell phone on the nightstand or near the head: the radiation emitted interferes with brain waves and can disturb sleep. Do not sleep with the cell phone in the bed.
  • Favor using speaker mode or a hands-free kit. Attention: an earpiece reduces exposure but does not remove it.
  • Avoid calling in a car, bus, train. The waves of a cell phone, reflected off the metallic structure, are concentrated in a small space.
  • Do not passively expose neighbors and children. This advice is particularly applicable to use in enclosed spaces: cars, trains, buses, airplanes.
  • For pregnant women, do not hold or use a cell phone near the abdomen, do not use a laptop connected to Wi-Fi on the lap. In general, avoid use of cell phones to the greatest extent possible.
  • For all parents: give your child a cell phone as late as possible – not before age 14. Their brain absorbs more radiation than that of adults.

Above all, remember to keep cell phones away from the body. “Distance is your friend.”


About the Phonegate Alert Association:

The Phonegate Alert Association is an international NGO based in Nogent-sur-Marne, France. Its president is Dr. Marc Arazi.

One of the main goals of the Association is better protection of the health of users of wireless devices worldwide, especially children. The Association is also working on the revision of standards and regulations to increase this protection.

The Association has an advisory group of international scientific experts, including Dr. Devra Davis, President of the Environmental Health Trust.
https://www.phonegatealert.org/en/scientific-advisory-group

Website: https://www.phonegatealert.org
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/PhonegateAlert/
Twitter : @Phonegate_Alert


References

1 ANFR data:
https://data.anfr.fr/anfr/visualisation?id=ad8014ec-f631-450e-a259-799188714ef9

2 For the lists of the 250 cell phone models, see: Phonegate Alert Association, “Check if your mobile phone presents a risk to your health”, 5 August 2018.
https://www.phonegatealert.org/en/check-if-your-mobile-phone-presents-a-risk-to-your-health 

3 Environmental Health Trust, “Your Questions Answered: The French Cell Phone Data Release “Phonegate”, June 2017.
https://ehtrust.org/questions-answered-french-cell-phone-data-release-phonegate/

4 Letter from Dr. Marc Arazi and Dr. Devra Davis addressed to FCC, 20 March 2018.
https://www.phonegatealert.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/FCC-letter-20-march-2018.pdf 

5 “The NTP Cell Phone Study Explained - with Dr. Ron Melnick”, video of presentation made at expert forum, Shrewsbury, MA, March 25, 2019, "Questioning the Safety of Our Children's Exposure to Wireless Radiation in the Classroom."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJfK3gbkmMk 

6 Om P. Gandhi, “Microwave Emissions From Cell Phones Exceed Safety Limits in Europe and the US When Touching the Body”, IEEE Access, vol. 7, April 2019.
https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=8688629

7 Phonegate Alert Association, “[Press release] Radio frequency waves are among the agents proposed for IARC to reassess with high priority”, 23 April 2019.
https://www.phonegatealert.org/en/press-release-radio-frequency-waves-are-among-the-agents-proposed-for-iarc-to-reassess-with-high-priority 

8 Phonegate Alert Association, « Italy: a landmark judgment requires the state to inform the population of the health risks due to mobile phones”, 18 Jan. 2019
https://www.phonegatealert.org/en/italy-a-landmark-judgment-condemns-the-state-to-inform-the-population-of-the-health-risks-due-to-mobile-phones

9 Phonegate Alert Association, “Phonegate: criminal complaint against Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi”, 15 April 2019
https://www.phonegatealert.org/en/phonegate-criminal-complaint-against-chinese-smartphone-manufacturer-xiaomi

10 Phonegate Alert Association, "[Press release] Phonegate scandal: a criminal complaint against HMD GLOBAL OY (NOKIA)", 12 June 2019
https://www.phonegatealert.org/en/press-release-phonegate-scandal-a-criminal-complaint-against-hmd-global-oy-nokia

by Meris Michaels, Editor, "Towards Better Health"

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