Mobile Phones : Towards a Health Scandal? by Emmanuel Lévy, Marianne, 23 December 2016

Mobile Phones : Towards a Health Scandal? by Emmanuel Lévy, Marianne, 23 December 2016
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Mobile Phones : Towards a Health Scandal? by Emmanuel Lévy, Marianne, 23 December 2016

After the fraud concerning the fine particle emissions of cars, here is the scam of mobile phone manufacturers to minimize the radiation of their toys. Who would want to roam around with the equivalent of 10% of a microwave oven in defrost mode in one’s pocket? The manufacturers of mobile phones guarantee this will never be the case. But tests conducted by the National Frequency Agency (ANFR) reveal that 89% (out of around 100 phones analyzed in 2015) produce a higher radiation, even a great deal higher, than the legal limits, an “unwelcome” figure revealed in a 2016 health agency report, citing work that has remained hitherto secret. A public health issue.

How did experts arrive at these conclusions? “If the measurements are made according to the method of the manufacturers, there is no problem. If these, however, are made in contact with the skin, there is one. This appears to us problematic and we have communicated this to the European Commission,” explains Gilles Brégant, the head of ANFR, to Marianne. Tests not adapted to users For six months, Marc Arazi, negotiator for the “Grenelle des ondes” in 2012, has been putting pressure on ANFR to obtain the list of models which are outside the norm. He has even obtained from the Commission of Access to Administrative Documents a notice ordering the communication of these secret tests. Impossible for the agency, ANFR has contested this decision before the administrative court.

While until now, everyone has taken the measurements conducted by the manufacturers at face value, France has been, apart from the Netherlands, the only European country to question not only the conformity of norms but also the norms themselves. The result: if all models respect the maximum radiation of 2 W/kg at the level of the brain – the norm called “head” – the same is not true for the so-called “torso”, when the mobile phone is in one’s pocket. In its methodology note, the European norm in place until April 2016 allowed the manufacturers to conduct measurements at 2.5 cm from the skin. This is understandable when the device is at the bottom of a sack, but absurd when it is in a pocket in close contact with the groin. “In order to conform to uses, we have proceeded with measurements at a distance of 0 to 0.5 cm from the skin”, confirms Gilles Brégant. The result: Nine mobile phones out of 10 tested radiated above the norm of 2 W/kg, a quarter above double the figure.

In 2015, a device was even detected to be very much beyond the limits. A genuine microwave oven, this mobile phone spewed out 9 W, nearly five times the norm. The 2014 sampling operation did not identify any, against two in 2013. In short, the risks of having a mobile phone with strong radiation are far from being minimal. There are so many mobile phones in service today close to, in fact very close to, the 50 million French people having this toy. For ANFR, the alarm came from Brussels which modified the measurement methodology in April 2016. Henceforth, the new European norm requiring placing the phone at “a few millimeters” no longer allows manufacturers, in theory, to test radiation of their phones at 25 mm from the skin. The problem is what a few millimeters means to the manufacturer: 1.10 or why not, as before, 25? In short, a Pyrrhus-type victory for ANFR.

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