Nearly everyone has a cell phone, and that creates a huge potential market for those concerned that electromagnetic fields (EMF) from those phones can cause cancer — a fear which has been around for years.
Some consumers use earpieces instead of holding the cell phones to their heads as they speak; others have purchased special so-called “EMF shields” that can be inserted into cell phones and allegedly block harmful electromagnetic waves.
Earlier this week in the Science section of The New York Times, a full-page ad appeared for something called the Aires Shield, which promises to “neutralize harmful radiation” from your cell phone. According to the Aires promotional material, this radiation can cause depression, stress, headaches, insomnia, depression and even brain cancer.
The device comes in a variety of forms ranging from the $39 Aries Shield (“a silicon based micro processor that … decomposes oscillations of electromagnetic fields”) to the $249 Aires Defender Utility (which “has two next generation 9 core silicon based micro processor (sic) that provide universal protection from electromagnetic smog of the broadband frequencies”).
The Aires web site promotional material includes much discussion of holograms and fractal patterns and energies. The devices are very sleek and dramatic, but there are reasons to suspect that the Aires Shield, like other cell phone EMF shields, is not all it’s touted to be.
For one thing, though the ad calls the product “award winning and clinically approved,” there is no information about — or evidence of — its scientifically proven efficacy. The web site is littered with typographical errors that seem very strange for a multinational, high-tech company.
The company’s “Researches” page, for example, states that “Aires Technologies are more than 12 years (sic). For this period there have been conducted a number of studies on mechanisms of coherent transformers that effect on physical, chemical, technological and biological processes (sic). The studies were carried out in close collaboration with leading research and academic institutions.”
There are few if any references to actual studies in published, peer-reviewed journals that support the claim that Aires, or any other, cell phone shield actually works. The “Researches” page contains a superficially impressive list of sciencey-sounding titles and findings supposedly demonstrating the importance of using cell phone shields, all of them in Russia for some reason.
Most of the research is attributed to “SPSU,” which is presumably St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University, and some of the research, it is suggested, was conducted at the Kirov Military Medical Academy, though it’s unclear why a military academy would conduct clinical research on civilian cell phone radiation. The names of the scientists who conducted these studies are conspicuously absent, as are any published results.
Peppered with random stock photos and illustrations of generic scientists, laboratories and brains, the language on the web site is intentionally dense and complicated, larded with medical jargon. In fact even a cursory glance at a few of the studies reveals red flags suggesting that the information is unreliable.
For example one of the “studies” Aires quotes states that “A living human organism mostly consists of water (by 95% of water at a very young age and by 60% at old age) (sic).”
W. Kim Johnson, a retired physicist and past president of the New Mexico Academy of Science, reviewed the Aires web site for Discovery News and described the material as gibberish, saying that the authors “of the technical description of the ‘Aires’ device reads like a random selection of technical terminology. The working description for this device is made up of jargon that, in the end, really says nothing.”
“For example,” Johnson said, “what does a fractal like pattern have to do with a hologram? The answer is, of course, nothing that is apparent. Then there is a truly convoluted assertion that cell phones can be instrumental in ‘psychoemotional’ effects on humans because of their lower-frequency outputs. This too, is gibberish. In short, this is technobabble that will potentially snow someone who has no science background.”
The fact that their product is referred to as a “gadget” dozens of times in the supposed studies is another sign that something is amiss. Most editors of reputable medical journals frown on authors referring to complicated shielding medical devices as “gadgets.”
The Aires Shield may indeed be a legitimate product, but the information on the company’s web site seems to do its best to cloud its credibility.
Cell Phone Safety
The fact is that EMF shields are unnecessary because cell phones are not dangerous. Scientists cite several reasons why many of the claimed mechanisms by which cell phones and EMFs could harm the body are scientifically implausible.
For one thing, electromagnetic fields generated by cell phones are not strong enough to break the molecular and chemical bonds in human cells, and therefore can’t damage human cells the way ionizing radiation can. Furthermore, electrical fields created inside the body by cell phones are much weaker than fields that occur naturally inside the body.
The following is an excerpt of a typical conclusion published in a scientific journal about the links between EMFs, cell phones and health: “Epidemiologic research shows a low degree of association, inconsistency and missing dose-effect relations. A biologic mechanism of action is still debatable. No harm to human health has been shown. Conclusion: There is no scientific basis as to the harmful effects of EMFs on human health.”
Johnson notes that “the human body is continually exposed to many other low and high frequency electromagnetic radiation sources, both naturally occurring and man-made. Cell phones put out such a low amount of energy that they pale in comparison to normal human exposures to EMR (electromagnetic radiation) sources.”
“In fact,” Johnson said, “there is no repeatable evidence published in mainstream science journals that shows there is any detrimental effect on humans caused by cell phones, though there are many people who have something to sell to you that purport to protect you from something that simply doesn’t appear to exist.”
Photo: Kohei Hara/Getty Images