A new wafer-thin chip you stick to the back of your smartphone claims to reduce the cellphone radiation your body absorbs by as much as 80 percent.
This radiation level limiting Bodywell "chip" was developed and is sold by an outfit called EZ Technologies for $30. It'll be generally available next month but you can buy one now at the Bodywell Web site.
Normally, I'd simply write a new product blurb on this item as part as a Top New Gadgets slide show and move on. But the EZ Technologies folks introduced the Bodywell Chip at a "breakthrough" scientific symposium held at a City University of New York (CUNY) facility in mid-town Manhattan at which cellphone radiation papers were presented. It was this patina of scientific authority for the development of and rationale behind selling the Bodywell "chip" that caught my cynical eye.
I'm not saying don't buy the Bodywell thingy, nor am I intimating the "chip" doesn't perform as advertised. But something doesn't smell right.
Let's discuss the threat of cellphone radiation – or lack thereof – this chip is designed to reduce.
Cellphone radiation is bad for you. We assume.
EZ Technologies presented three researchers to talk about just how much radiation cellphones emit and how much they are absorbed by the body. Two displayed PowerPoint presentations filled with indecipherable charts and graphs and equations only a mathematician could love or understand.
All three researchers reached a unanimous conclusion – they have no idea if cellphone radiation is harmful to humans. But it has to be, especially for children. Right? After all, it's radiation and it has to be bad for you.
The only problem is, NO ONE ever has proven any cause-and-effect between cellphone radiation and possible affects on humans.
In lieu of offering a scientific rationale for consumers buying the Bodywell "chip," the researchers hauled out a bit of imperfect logic called the "precautionary principal":
If an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking action.
In other words, we can't prove cellphone radiation causes harm, but since you say it doesn't cause harm you have to prove it doesn't. Isn't that trying to prove a negative? Okay, everyone not reading this story right now raise your hands.
Okay. We'll play in your ballpark.
Cellphone use cures cancer?
Let's start with this: According to the 2008-2009 Annual Report of the President's Cancer Panel, "Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk," "[a]t this time, there is no evidence to support a link between cell phone use and cancer."
Not enough? I totally cop to this linked statistical analysis being decidedly unscientific, but it does illustrate that as the number of cellphone minutes has risen between 1991 and 2008, the number of brain cancer cases has dropped by nearly half.
Which must prove cellphone radiation actually cures cancer, right? Maybe what we don't know about cellphone radiation is that cellphone radiation is actually good for you. After all, one of the primary treatments for cancer is radiation therapy, right? What if, as in Woody Allen's Sleeper, it turns out all that stuff we thought was bad for us turned out to be good for us? Maybe by using the Bodywell "chip," you're actualy blocking some cancer-stalling radiation?
Okay, I'm kidding here. I think. But my logic isn't any more faulty than the "where's there's smoke, there's fire" precautionary principal. That smoke coud turn out to be from that delicious steak grilling on the barbeque.
Maybe the EZ Technologies scientists are right – more than 30 years of cellphone use isn't enough to draw any definitive cause-and-effect conclusions about long-term harm. What scientists really need is a controlled study, a control groups they can identify – cellphone users and non-cellphone users – and study them over a really lengthy period of time.
Well, how about results from an entire country of control groups?
I wrote about just such results in October 2011, when the Danish government released an update of an earlier report that found cancer rates didn't significantly vary between cellphone users and non-cellphone users monitored over 40 years.
How do the Danes know who uses a cellphone and who doesn't? Denmark assigns ID numbers to its citizens, and these numbers are used when consumers subscribe to cell service. (Read the whole "Cell Phones DON'T Cause Cancer, Say Danes.")
And here are a couple of other cellphones-cause-cancer debunking stories I've done:
Better safe than sorry
Okay, cellphone radiation doesn't cause cancer. But maybe it causes other types of harm we have no evidence of.
Let's say for sake of argument that cellphone radiation cause problems other than cancer – headaches, benign tumors, infertility – that we just haven't discovered yet. And kids' brains are softer and under-developed so may be especially susceptible to cellphone radiation dangers no one has yet identified.
So isn't better to be safe than sorry?
Which brings us back to the logic behind the Bodywell "chip."
EZ Technologies' researchers presented test results from the San Diego-based RF Exposure Labs showing that simply sticking the paper-thin Bodywell "chip" to the rear of a smartphone reduced the radiation's specific absorption rate (SAR) by 68.5 percent from an iPhone 5 and by 80.3 percent from a Samsung Galaxy S III.
Shhhh! It's a patent-pending secret.
According to Dr. Nachaat Mazeh, a research associate at Michigan's Beaumont Health System who presented one of the papers at the symposium, the Bodywell "chip" is:
"just an aluminum card that goes through quantum processes that we cannot describe at this moment. The easiest explanation we can provide is that it resonate[s] at frequencies that affects the dielectric properties of the medium in the near field reducing the energy absorption rate. This energy is dissipated by the radio frequency electromagnetic wave fields in the simulated brain tissue."
Got that? I don't. But at least we know the Bodywell "chip" is not a microprocessor chip, which is what its name implies and why I've been putting the word "chip" in quotes.
I'm no scientist, but the RF Exposure Labs' SAR tests look legit, in all events. So, if attaching this "chip" to the rear of your or your kids' or grandkids' smartphone helps ease your mind about their safety next to the cooper bracelet to ward off arthritis and a rabbit's foot to ward off bad luck, go in peace. I'll stick with using a wired headphone when I worry about cellphone radiation at all – which is never.