Scientific Imaging of Cell Phone and Wi-Fi Radiation Exposures into the Human Body

Scientific Imaging of Cell Phone and Wi-Fi Radiation Absorption in the Human Body

Cell phones and other wireless devices emit microwaves, a type of non-ionizing radiation also referred to as radiofrequency radiation. When we are exposed to this radiation, it penetrates and is absorbed by our tissues. When government guidelines were developed 30 years ago, scientists had little understanding of just how deeply the radiation penetrates the body, and what anatomical features would absorb significant amounts of radiation. State of the art technology now allows scientists to model how this radiation interacts with human tissues.

Children are more vulnerable. According to the International Agency for the Research on Cancer:

“the average radio frequency radiation energy deposition for children exposed to mobile phone RF is two times higher in the brain and 10 times higher in the bone marrow of the skull, compared with mobile phone use by adults”.

(Read it on page 44 of the IARC Monograph on Radiofrequency Fields)

On this page we share scientific imaging developed using anatomically based models to calculate how radiofrequency radiation from various devices penetrates and is absorbed by our bodies. Environmental Health Trust works to support scientific researchers who are doing this critical work.

Fact: Children are more exposed to cell phone radiation.

Cell Phone and Wi-Fi Radiation

These animations show how deeply cell phone radiation is absorbed in a model of a 6 year old brain. The highest absorption is in the area closest to the phone.

Multiple research studies over the last two decades clearly show that a child’s brain absorbs radiation differently from an adult, with regions deeper in the child’s head absorbing higher doses than adults.

  • Children have smaller heads with a shorter distance to brain centers.
  • Children have smaller ears so that a cell phone on the ear will be closer to the skull than a cell phone placed to an adult’s larger ear (which acts as a spacer between the brain and phone).
  • Children’s skulls are thinner allowing radiation to penetrate deeper past the skull.
  • Children’s brains contain more fluid and less fat and more readily absorb microwave radiation (myelination of the brain is incomplete).
  • Compared with an adult skull, the immature skull contains more water, so the skull and adjacent tissues are more similar in a child than in an adult. This means that less radiation is reflected at the interfaces (greater reflection occurs at interfaces of less similar substances), so again, more radiation enters a child’s brain.
These images show cell phone radiation absorption into different brain slices. It is a graphic from Fernandez et al., (IEEE Access 2015).

Cell phone radiation penetrates into the brain .The animations of cell phone radiation into the brain are derived from the work of researchers Álvaro Augusto Almeida de Salles and Claudio Claudio Enrique Fernandez Rodriguez, engineers from the Electrical Engineering Department of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, UFRGS Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil (as seen in the video). The simulations were conducted using a sophisticated computer system that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently uses to evaluate medical devices- but not cell phones.

Click here to learn about how cell phone testing is not adequate to protect children.
Click here to read more about the scientific imaging done by researchers Fernandez and DeSalles.

These images are from Om Gandhi’s groundbreaking 1996 research showed that 5-year-old and 10-year-old children have higher psSARs (peak spatial specific absorption rate) than adults. Later studies by Gandhi and Kang 2002 and from senior scientists with the French Telecommunications corporation Orange (Wiart et al., 2008 confirming and extending these findings) were cited by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO IARC) Monograph on Radio Frequency Fields published in 2013, classifying cell phone and wireless radiation as a Class 2B Possible Human Carcinogen. The body of research has grown as research techniques have become more sophisticated.
Watch Dr. Gandhi share his research showing children receive higher cell phone radiation exposures than adults in his testimony to Maine Legislators in 2010.
“It is a fact that humans of all sizes and ages from children to older individuals are using cell phones, and testing for compliance testing for a 220 lb., 6 feet 2 inch tall adult male underestimates the actual energy absorbed by up to a factor of two, thus releasing into the market telephones that would not pass if a proper safety compliance testing method was used.”Dr. Om P. Gandhi Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in his FCC Submission
Click here to read the scientific studies that show children are more exposed to cell phone radiation than adults.
Tablets: How far does the radiation from a tablet penetrate into a child’s brain?

A recent paper shows the WiFi radiation absorption into a child’s head from a tablet at roughly 6 inches (specifically 150mm away from the face) from a tablet. Please take a look at the image below. The highest radiation levels are shown in white yellow and red.

Cell Phone and Wi-Fi Radiation
This image comes from the 2015 paper entitled, “Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) in the head of Tablet users” and is authored by Juliana Borges Ferreira and Álvaro Augusto Almeida de Salles of the Electrical Engineering Department of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, UFRGS Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil.

  • A tablet, including the antenna and the box, was simulated at 2.45 GHz assuming 30 mW normalized radiated power and the distance between the eye lens of the head models and the tablet was 150 mm. The SAR in the head models is estimated in each situation of exposure.
  • This research shows higher values in the anatomically correct child model. “For 1 g psSAR the child heterogeneous model shows higher values in comparison to the SAM model.”
Click here to read more from the paper.

In short, the current regulations for bringing these devices onto the market should be updated to include radiation modeling that considers children’s unique characteristics. The radiation from a tablet penetrates into a children’s skull, eyes and brain when positioned in front of the face as children typically do during use. Additionally, the penetration into the abdomen and chest when a tablet is rested on the lap is critical research that still needs to be done in order to fully understand exposures.


Read more about this paper here
Laptops: What areas of the body receive Wi-fi radiation from a laptop?
The radiation from a laptop penetrates the body differently depending on several factors such as the distance of the antenna to the body, the location of the transmitter on the device, the duty factor and the several other variables. Usually, the closer the transmitting antennae, the great the penetration and the higher the absorbed dose in tissues.
PsSAR simulation in adult laptop Lap 2015

Click on image to enlarge

Simulation of psSAR associated with the use of laptop computers as a function of position in relation to the adult body by Sergio M Racini, Alvaro de Salles, Sergio LS Severo, Johan LT Garzon, Robert D. Morris & Devra Davis. This image is from research performed at the Department of Electrical Engineering, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul – UFRGS, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil

Download the BioEM2015 Poster Laptop psSAR.pdf 

PsSAR simulation in adult laptop chest 2015

Click on image to enlarge

In this image, the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) is estimated in the body of a seated 34 year old male exposed to 2.4 GHz electromagnetic field (EMF) emitted by a laptop. The body model used is a 34 year old anatomically correct male adult named Duke. The results are presented in terms of peak spatial SAR (psSAR) within 1g and 10g of tissue. In the major part of the simulations, the psSAR were below the recommended exposure limits. However, parts of the body closest to the antennas, such as hands, lap and chest absorb higher doses of EMF energy, especially at situation ‘1’, when the laptop is directly on the lap (0 cm). In this case the 10g psSAR was elevated. 
Wearables: Google Glass and Bluetooth Radiation

Click on image to enlarge

Google Glass and Bluetooth emit radiofrequency radiation, in close proximity to the head and brain. One concern that researchers have raised is that body worn technology results in ongoing exposures to vulnerable areas. The eye and brain are the most vulnerable areas.

These SAR simulations with laptops and with wearable devices (such as the Google glass) were presented in the 2015 BioEM conference in California. This research used anatomically correct models to understand how the radiation was absorbed into human tissues. 

BioEM 2015 Yuli Poster

Click on image to enlarge

Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) simulations in eyewear and Bluetooth communicating devices operating close to the user’s head Download the Poster Presentation here.

Please take a look at the published paper Specific Absorption Rate SAR in the head of Google glasses and Bluetooth users doc. This paper was presented in the 2014 IEEE Latincom Conference, held in Cartagena, Colombia, in Nov/2014. Read Specific absorption rate (SAR) in the head of Google glasses and Bluetooth user’s online at the journal IEEE here. This paper simulated the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) for three different head models and compared results with international recommendations.  The simulations were performed using the finite difference time domain (FDTD) method and the frequency used to feed the antennas was 2.45 GHz. 

Pregnancy: How much radiation does a fetus absorb when a cell phone is near a pregnant woman’s abdomen?
 Pregnancy-SAR-ImageClick on image to enlarge
To assess the exposure of the fetus, Nicolas Chavannes and Andreas Christ developed computer models of women in different stages of pregnancy which incorporated the different tissue dielectric characteristics. Highly detailed anatomical computer models of a woman for three different gestational stages (month 3, 7 and 9 of pregnancy) were developed. The models consist of approximately 80 different tissue types in the mother and up to 17 different tissues in the foetus (e.g., bone, subcutaneous tissue or skin) enabling the most accurate research currently available.

One of their findings was that occupational exposure limits are too high for pregnant women and that some product standards (induction cooker hobs) must be revised, since they may lead to excessive SAR levels in the foetus. In Quantification of RF-Exposure of the Fetus Using Anatomical CAD-Models in Three Different Gestational Stages by Cabot et al (2014) researchers found that for plane wave exposure at occupational levels, the whole body SAR in the fetus can exceed the basic restrictions for the general population by at least 1.8 dB, and in the near-field of professional devices, the 10 g SAR can be non-compliant with the product standard for the general public by > 3.5 dB. 

Click to hear to read about a study that considered pregnant women’s exposures to electrical fields and found that ICNIRP guidelines could be exceeded.
What is the “anatomically correct” Virtual Family?
Click on image to enlarge
The Virtual Family models – Ella, Duke, Billie, and Thelonious are computerized whole-body anatomical human models. The human body consists of different tissues from the bones to the skin to veins and organs. Radiation moves through each of these organs and tissues at a different pace because of the density and unique composition of each tissue. The Virtual Family has approximately 300 different organs and tissues. They were originally developed for electromagnetic exposure evaluations. The Virtual Family models are DUKE: 34-year-old male, ELLA: 26-year-old female, BILLIE: 11-year-old female and THELONIOUS: 6-year-old male.

The Virtual Family V2.0 models consist of simplified CAD files optimized for finite-element modeling in third-party commercial platforms such as ANSYS and CST. For the purpose of simplification, the approximately 300 organs and tissues of version 3.0 are combined into 22 high-resolution tissue groups.

The family has been expanded into the Virtual Population with several other models such as pregnant women, people of larger stature and teenagers.

Click here for more information on the Virtual Family
Meet The Scientists Behind the Research
Dr. Om Gandhi

Dr. Om Gandhi, a pioneering researcher in EMF exposure, explains why the recent rapid increases in wireless devices have made existing US EMF exposure ‘guidelines’ dangerously outdated.

Professor Alvaro Augusto de Salles

On Reducing Cell Phone Risks

Professor Alvaro Augusto de Salles

Antennas and Health Risks 

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