Simulation To Protect Us

Now that the proof is there that cell phone radiation can cause us harm, leveraging human body model simulation is more important than ever.

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I hate to say I told you so, but, I told you so.

Back in 2011, I wrote this article, Cell Phone Radiation: Taboo Topic, Interesting Science, and have since kept my eyes open for proof of what I’ve feared for some time now: that our bodies may be adversely affected by the radiation emitted by everything from the myriad electronic devices we carry close to our heads and bodies to WiFi hotspots to IoT connected edge processors — just to name a few.

It turns out that the proof is there.

Late last month, the Environmental Working Group reported that the radiation emitted from wireless devices could cause brain cancer, according to a multi-year study from the federal National Toxicology Program.

According to the EWG’s website:

The results appear to confirm human evidence used by the World Health Organization that declared cell phone radiation a possible carcinogen.

The research found that male rats exposed to radio-frequency (RF) radiation had a greater chance of being diagnosed with a brain cancer called malignant glioma, as well as developing a tumor found on the heart. The radiation levels the rats were exposed to included power levels that current cell phones are allowed to emit.

This study from the National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institute for Health, was conducted on laboratory animals to help determine what the potential risks might be for people, noted EWG president Ken Cook.
“The federal government isn’t exposing rats to cell phone radiation because we’re concerned about rats getting cancer from cell phone use,” Cook said. “These studies are done because of their relevance to people, and this particular study raises serious concerns.”

“By confirming the connection between cell phone radiation and malignant tumors in male rats, the NTP’s study raises concerns for risks to people to a new level,” said David Andrews, PhD, a senior scientist with EWG.

David Carpenter, director of the School of Public Health at State University of New York at Albany, who has followed the issue closely said the study “won’t end the debate, but I can’t imagine anything with more credibility than an NTP report.”

Carpenter told EWG he thought the report could spur other health organizations to take a fresh look at the issue, including the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which in 2011 classified cell phone radiation as a “possible carcinogen.”

EWG’s 2009 report spotlighted comprehensive review studies that showed increased risk of two types of brain tumors, including glioma.

In an effort to help concerned consumers take steps to protect themselves and their families, EWG has created tools and tips that can help reduce exposure to radiation from cell phones, including our Guide to Safer Cell Phone Use and one to help pick the best cell phone case to mitigate radiation exposure.

I was reminded about this topic last week during the Design Automation Conference when I had a chat with Vic Kulkarni, senior vice president and general manager of the RTL Power Business Unit at Ansys.

We were discussing IoT, big data, and the like, and as part of the conversation, he mentioned the growing importance for antenna analysis, which is key for the IoT, obviously. Antenna design and placement are extremely important aspects of IoT design, particularly in the healthcare arena — think FitBit and the like.

This is when the lightbulb went on for me.

Kulkarni explained that while not something electrical engineers might consider on a regular basis, but if their devices are going into IoT products, a number of body models are needed for simulations because each person’s body size, and posture will interfere with the antenna EMI envelope. Ansys has a simulation of 300 body models as well as head models. “In the electronics world, these are not often considered. We think of only .lib, timing, and voltage models, but now you have to think about body models because in the context of various weight, height, posture can effect antenna interference. When you are wearing a FitBit or exercising, or when there are multiple people with WiFi and Bluetooth all turned on, how will it impact each other’s devices? Depending on those things, it may create radiation in living tissue, and protection of living tissue is an important consideration because of the amount of radiation we are surrounded by.”

Bingo!

It is the body models that allow for living tissue and radiation analysis, and this is something we should all be concerned about from every angle – professionally, as we work in the industry that can do something about it; as well as personally to protect ourselves and our children from harm stemming from the devices we have grown to be unable to live without.