Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/02/14/exradia_chip/
Mobile anti-radiation - a telecoms 'inflight life-jacket'?
It's better to be safe than sorry
3GSM column A cynic's first response to the offer of a magic device to protect phone users from radiation is to laugh and go find someone else to talk to. Don't. You may believe that the Exradia chip will never save a single life, or even prevent a single disease, but that doesn't mean they won't sell them.
To understand Exradia, think as a large corporate employer would think about exposure - not exposure to radiation, but exposure to legal liability. Then look at Exradia, and see what that large corporate CEO would see.
For a start, the CEO of Exradia is James Fintain Lawler. He's no snake-oil salesman, and nobody would try to pretend he is: a former CFO of Xerox, with deep understanding of American corporate life, he's onto something. He understands corporate responsibility.
The technology that powers Exradia is, to put it gently, unproven (quite possibly, unproveable) in operation.
Indeed, he knows this. In his pitch, Jim Lawler makes the excellent case that there is an incredible amount of anxiety, expressed by people who can be assumed to know what they are talking about, about the rise in radio frequency emissions, and the effects on human tissue - and points out that it simply isn't possible to say, as yet, whether the effects on human tissue involve effects on human health.
If the effects aren't long-term enough yet, the same applies to the cure (you might argue) but that's not the point. The point is whether there is a risk.
At this moment, the risk is assessed by almost everybody as nil. But nobody in authority can say: "It's safe!" because they would almost certainly be blamed for the next case of ear cancer in a mobile user.
What Exradia claims for its very low cost device is simply that it takes the pulsing signal emitted by a mobile phone's battery as it feeds the wireless signal, and masks that low frequency pulse with a superimposed noise signal. No low frequency pulse, no harmful effects from that low frequency pulse.
If you had to ask me whether I believe it or not, I would have to admit I don't believe a word of it. But if you asked me to sign a document saying there was no harm caused by low frequency pulsing and that a responsible employer could safely ignore a possible cure for that harm, I'd have to admit: "I can't say that." Nobody can - and that's why aircraft carry life-jackets.
To date, there is no known case of a life being saved by the presence of life jackets on aircraft. But there's a comfortable business or two based on the need to provide every seat with one, and to provide a maintenance and inspection service for the jackets, and an update service, and a replacement service.
If you have 2,000 employees and give them mobile phones what's the chance that one of them will develop a brain tumour?
If that employee takes you to court, alleging that you were aware of possible deleterious effects but decided to ignore them, and that you were aware of possible safety measures but decided to avoid spending the money required to put them in place, you may well find (in American courts, particularly) that it will cost you more to defend the case than to settle.
If, however, you can stand up in court, and say: "Your Honour, we investigated this matter, and we have all this evidence to show that the risk could be eliminated by installing this device, and we have taken the best steps available to us to mitigate the harm," then you are probably in a pretty good position.
And you have all this evidence because Jim Lawler has collected it all together in his pitch. "Man made EMFs ihibit the cell's ability to repair strand breaks in DNA molecules. Strand breaks occur all the time, but man made EMFs inhibit healing," he says, quoting a Comet Tail assay, Lai and Singh, of the University of Washington in 2000. He has photographs of DNA strands breaking, and photographs of the same strands healing.
And Exradia isn't asking a huge price. To take advantage of its protection all you need to do is fit one of its chips to the phone battery. And if you don't want to do that, it'll sell you a spare battery for a very reasonable price. There's really no reason, in fact, why you shouldn't buy your phone batteries from Exradia anyway - the cost is pretty much the same as the originals.
Perhaps, phone makers may think the same way. If they source their batteries from Exradia or at least fit their batteries with Exradia chips, the incremental cost would be trivial - and they'll be able to use the Exradia Wi-Guard logo.
And anyway, if there is a Wi-Guard logo, perhaps it will stop people who know nothing at all about wireless and radiation from fretting, and actually improve their health?
I went to the Exradia presentation here in Barcelona expecting to have a good laugh. I came away pretty sure that I wouldn't bet large sums of my own money against Jim Lawler and his Wi-Guard.
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