People are freaking out about cell phone radiation, and companies are thriving because of it.
Last week a new study linking cell phone radiation to cancers in rats had a lot of people wondering: Do I need to start protecting myself from my own phone?
While the study was some of the most comprehensive evidence about the impact of this radiation to date, it wasn't completely groundbreaking. The World Health Organization said cell phones might cause cancer back in 2011.
As you might expect, the market for anti-radiation protection has risen up to meet the demands of nervous cell phone users—even if the science isn't very conclusive.
There are many companies peddling phone and tablet cases that claim to protect your body from radiation. The cases might include special metal fibers, or something like a gold-plated antenna that "redirects radiation away from you."
One of these companies, WaveWall, sells anti-radiation cases and focuses specifically on the impact of radiation on reproductive health, like sperm motility. Harry Gardiner, the managing director, said most of WaveWall's clients are health-conscious males and their partners. And they seek a spike in sales after big studies.
It's hard for customers to tell whether the cases they're buying actually provide protection since many of the claims are corporate jargon or hearsay
Their monthly sales have increased by 300 percent over the last year, he said, and a visible spike after last week's study came out. But that's a mixed blessing.
"However this additional interest has led to new competitors," Gardiner said, "including many products that have not been as rigorously and independently tested as our products are."
Another vendor, Educating Wellness, is run by health practitioners like Ida Allen, who holds a doctorate in chiropractic medicine. She also said they've seen an exponential growth in sales, mostly to young mothers, and a slight increase after last week's study.
"I think people are looking for more answers and education as well at this point," she said.
It's hard for customers to tell whether the cases they're buying actually provide protection since many of the claims are corporate jargon or hearsay. WaveWall says its products have been tested by an independent, accredited laboratory in the United Kingdom. And Allen, at Educating Wellness, also said the company does extensive evaluation through imaging and third-party electric and magnetic fields testing, which measures radiation.
Some companies, like Vortex Bioshield, test for things outside of radiation. A spokesperson said they use a Meridian Stress Assessment using a machine that measures a person's stress levels based on their acupuncture points. Meanwhile, a Vortex Bioshield user on Amazon said she measured the radiation with a gaussmeter—which tests AC magnetic fields, the radiation from electrical systems—and found no difference when she used one of the shields on her phone.
The United States government has yet to approve these products. "Studies have shown that these devices generally do not work as advertised," the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is meant to protect consumers, calls these devices a scam.
A spokesperson for Vortex Bioshield said they've sought FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval but were told, "they don't test products without electronic circuit and batteries."
Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which oversees communication channels, says the devices don't usually work. Instead it requires cell phone manufacturers to stay within a certain measure of safe exposure. (Though critics say these rules are too weak and outdated given the new evidence around radiation.)
For now it's impossible to ignore the growing amount of evidence about cell phone radiation and the impact it's having on our bodies. But without solid science, the safest bet for protection might still be choosing a cell phone with lower radiation rates (the FCC site has a list), using headsets, and just generally not being addicted to your device.
Unfortunately, that's a lot harder than ordering a new cell phone case.