Suspicions on mobile phones
The radiofrequency exposure levels announced by the manufacturers are exceeded in actual conditions of use.
THE WORLD | 23.12.2016 with 06:34 • Updated 23.12.2016 with 18:18 |By Pierre Le Hir
In the hood of Christmas shopping, mobile phones figure prominently. Without clearly warning consumers of their exposure to the radio frequencies of these devices and their potential hazards. Because the data provided by the manufacturers are based on tests carried out in the laboratory, according to procedures very different from the real conditions of use of the mobiles. That’s what today denounce “anti-waves” activists, who see it as “an industrial and health scandal” of the same nature as the “dieselgate”.
So a “phonegate”? In the present case, this is not a trickery in the strict sense, but rather a blurring of the information given to the users, thanks to a lax regulation. Health issues are no less important. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified RF as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” . And the National Agency of Health Security of Food, Environment and Labour (Anses) said in a report in July 2016 , these waves have “the potential effects on cognition and well-being “ younger.
The file is technical, which contributes to its opacity. Exposure to radio frequencies emitted and received by a mobile phone is measured by the specific absorption rate (SAR), expressed in watts per kilogram (W / kg). It is the amount of energy absorbed, in the form of heat, by biological tissues. In Europe, regulation 1999fixed the value not to exceed 2 W / kg for exposure of the head and trunk, and 4 W / kg for members.
The manufacturers respect these standards … at least when the device is not placed in contact with the body. To have their models certified, they do indeed carry out laboratory tests. Exposure to the head is assessed, not on human guinea pigs, but on mannequins filled with water and sugars. For the body, one is satisfied with tanks of water.
If, for the tests at the head, the regulation requires that the measurement be done telephone glued to the ear, for those at the level of the rest of the body, it leaves the manufacturers free to fix the distance to which is placed The device. And to choose it so precisely that the exposure limit is not exceeded.
Fuzzy user manuals
With the exception of the most recent models, for which the test distance has been shortened, it has hitherto been about 15 mm, with a maximum of 25 mm. These few millimeters make all the difference with real life, in which the laptop is commonly worn in the pocket of shirt, jacket or pants, in almost direct contact with the skin. Recall that even when the user does not phone, his mobile, when in standby, remains connected and source of radio frequencies.
The National Frequency Agency (ANFR), the public body responsible for monitoring this sector, has commissioned its own assessments, in European laboratories on a sample of 95 mobile phones in selected points of sale between early 2012 And the end of 2014, and 71 others selected in 2015. At a body distance of 1.5 cm, none exceeded the limit of 2 W / kg.
But it has made realize new measures with this time, the device in contact with the body. The results are very different. They are reported in the July 2016 opinion of ANSES. In 2015, we can read, “89% of phones measured contact ANFR DAS had a greater than 2 W / kg and 25% an SAR greater than 4 W / kg” . Some even reached 7 W / kg. These exceedances do not concern the exposure of the head, but of the rest of the body.
Manufacturers argue that the instructions for use of their products, as well as the information available on-line or on the smartphone itself, indicate that the tests were carried out at a certain distance from the body and that it must Be respected so as not to exceed the certified exposure levels. It is necessary to scrutinize this documentation in order to find out. Moreover, ANFR found that “25% of the operating manual controlled phones with a SAR body contact greater than 2 W / kg did not specify minimum use distance.”
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“No laptop for kids”
The detailed results of this counter-evaluation were not disclosed. National Association former coordinator Priartem (To gather, inform and act on risks related to electromagnetic technologies), Marc Arazi, today “independent expert” , tried unsuccessfully to get them. He grabbed the Commission of Access to Administrative Documents (CADA), which expressed “favorable” to the data communication ANFR, before December 29.
Questioned by Le Monde, Gilles Bregant, general manager of the establishment of control, yet says it will not make them public. Reason: “The law prohibits their disclosure to third parties, the data was collected as part of proceedings which may result in sanctions. “ Solicited directly, Apple and Samsung declined to comment.
The ANFR did not remain without reaction. It has, alerted its director, alerted the French authorities, who turned to the European Commission. It took in April, a decision stating that the certification tests must be conducted at a distance from the trunk “not exceeding a few millimeters.” This wording still leaves some leeway to industrial, but says Mr. Bregant, “all units sold since April 2016 are tested at 5 mm from the body” . This late measure does not regulate, however, for all mobiles already in service. In France, 25 million mobile phones are put on the market each year.
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The question of the danger of radio frequencies is undoubtedly debated. But Olivier Merkel, responsible for new technologies to ANSES, the increased exposure to waves, in common use, from the levels displayed by manufacturers,“should be special attention for children and people carriers of medical devices such as pacemakers [pacemakers], whose operation can be affected by electric fields, even weak “ .
Spokesman Robin Association roofs , Stephen Ash points out that “the human brain is not made of water and sugar as the models tested.” He added that “exposure standards, besides being very high, only take into account the thermal effects, to the exclusion of other possible risks such as cancer.” The president of Priartem, Janine Le Calvez, for its part draws a radical lesson: “No mobile for kids! “