How worried should we be about potentially harmful electronics? We love the devices we use every day, and there’s no doubt that our lives would be very different (and in many ways worse) without them.
But the issue of radiation emitted from everyday devices is one that has been quietly humming in the background for many years, trying to spoil the fun.
Protective covers are advisable to combat radiation from phones, laptops and tablets alike, which highlights the scale of the problem.
Children are particularly at risk
SafeSleeve is a company that makes anti-radiation cases for phones, laptops and tablets. Their founder pointed out to TechDigg:
“There has been a lot of recent news regarding this matter. Berkeley, CA is now requiring cell phone retailers to display a poster advising customers to read their manuals for important safety warnings.”
In February, a Superior Court judge ordered California’s Department of Public Health to make public documents investigating the possible health risks of regular, long-term use of cellphones.
The electronics industry is predictably not too keen on touting the dangers of their products.
However, that does not mean there’s no cause for concern. A 10-year study conducted in Sweden concluded that those who began using cellphones before the age of 20 have a five times greater occurrence of glioma, the most common form of brain tumor.
Reading the small print
In a CNN interview, Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta discussed the fact that, buried in literature accompanying many devices, electronic companies tell users to hold the device a short distance away from the ear.
Many people never notice this advice, of course, and for almost all of us it seems a less practical solution that a protective case.
FCC certified lab testing of Radiation Shielding Technology in SafeSleeve cases showed reductions of Electromagnetic Radiation of up to 99%.
All types of radiation from potentially harmful electronics were blocked, including: Extremely Low Frequencies (ELF), Thermal (heat), and Radio Frequencies (RF), which going forward will be mostly a concern in Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).
RFID tags work similarly to bar codes (but are more efficient) to read data from a distance. They are very useful in modern devices, but come with concerns about radiation.
Our attention having been drawn to this issue via SafeSleeve, we decided to take a look at potentially harmful electronics.
The most potentially harmful electronics
We should point out that when we’re talking about potentially harmful devices, we’re mostly concerned with radiation from devices like phones, tablets and laptops. We are aware that occasionally smartphones explode unrelated to radiation, and that trying to use a toaster in the bath is a bad idea. For now, though, we’re interested in radiation.
How potentially harmful a device is can be assessed via its Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), which is defined by the FCC as being “a measure of the rate of RF (radio frequency) energy absorption by the body from the source” (the source being the device).
The strange thing about laptops is that most companies that provide them actually advise against using them on laps. It sounds odd, but when you think about it, it makes sense. The device (and therefore radiation) is in very close contact to the body when used on a lap.
The proximity is similar to that of a cellphone during conversation, but laptops are in close proximity to our bodies for much longer periods. It takes longer to write an essay than to have a phone conversation (depending on who’s talking, of course).
You can see SafeSleeve’s laptop cases here.
Tablets sit somewhere in the middle ground between laptops and smartphones. We do often use them on our lap, although we don’t usually have to hold them close to our heads for long periods. The radiation released by any device, though, combined with the fact that we would like to hold our tablets anyway we please, means protection is important for these devices, too.
We may use smartphones in very close proximity to our bodies for shorter periods than we do with laptops, but the sheer volume of use overall, over the course of a day, everyday, makes gives smartphones the overall title of “most harmful electronics.”
But which among the big smartphones are the worst culprits when it comes to SAR levels? On this front, it’s bad news for Apple. Compared to their main smartphone rival, Samsung, Apple scores pretty badly.
In a piece for Bullguard, Steve Bell, a regular tech contributor to major UK newspapers, laid out the phones with the highest and lowest radiation.
Samsung had four models in the 10 “Low SAR rate phones” list, a list largely shared with Microsoft and LG. The lowest on the list was the Alcatel 1010 with an SAR of 1.08.
There’s nothing on the ‘Low’ list for Apple, in fact everything from the iPhone 4 up to the iPhone 6S was too high to be anywhere near it. This doesn’t mean that any of Apple’s products are unduly dangerous or have levels above regulation standards. It does mean a win for Samsung in the ongoing battle, though.
On the “High SAR rate” list, the BlackBerry Bold 9790 did worst with an SAR of 1.73, and Nokia had three models on the list.
None of this means that we have to be afraid of our devices or stop enjoying them. Radiation is an occupational hazard, and its effects can be nullified with the right protection.