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Innovation

My mobile radiation health fear: apoplexy

Exradia is a London-based company at MWC, and I´ve just come out of its press briefing. I don´t honestly know quite where to start.
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

Exradia is a London-based company at MWC, and I´ve just come out of its press briefing. I don´t honestly know quite where to start.

Let´s get the facts out of the way first. Exradia makes Angel-brand mobile phone batteries that contain extra electronics and a coil of wire. This wire emits a low level, low frequency, randomly modulated magnetic field.

That´s it.

What Exradia claims for this technology - which it calls Wi-Guard - is something else again. It says that it eliminates possible risk from the biological effects of mobile phones - and yes, the company uses the word eliminate. Moreover, when I talked to the CEO, David Shick, he said that the device "completely neutralises all known biological effects". And, as he´d gone on at length about the dangers to children of mobile phones, pointing out that official government advice is to restrict mobile use among the youngest, I asked if that meant he was recommending that children could safely use mobiles if they had Wi-Guard. Yes, he said. "Governments should change their guidelines and get behind our technology."

That´s an amazingly strong statement.

Other problems he quoted as being linked to mobile phone radiation were disrupted sleep, male fertility, DNA breakage - in all, some forty effects. Of course, nothing has been proven. No link has been shown. Many studies show nothing.

But, says Exradia. "it is an indisputable fact that the EMF from mobile phones has a biological effect on the brain and body... Exradia makes no claims about how the biological effects might affect the health of technology users in the long term... More research is needed. In the meantime, Wi-Guard means you can eliminate the possible risks from these biological effects and make your life safer - the same way a seat-belt makes you safer in the car."

That´s another extremely strong statement.

As you might imagine, I have one or two small issues with this.

Firstly, everything we do has a biological effect on the brain and body, from our first breath to our dying sigh. Effects do not equate to harm.

I talked to the CTO and the PR after the event, and although the CTO did have an interesting line I´m going to investigate - briefly, that pulses of electromagnetic energy at a certain frequency seem to make electrolytes flow around the outside of a a cell, and this triggers an immune reaction - that is infinitely far from anything the company is claiming.

For a start, even if all the studies that the company uses in support are of good quality and valid (see Ben Goldacre's Bad Science blog for many examples of how medical studies can be neither): as the PR admitted, they are all in-vitro studies. That´s when you take cells or other biological systems, plonk them in a test-tube or a petri dish and expose them to the conditions you´re testing for.

No scientist worth their salt would say that in-vitro tests are enough to come to conclusions about what happens in real bodies - in-vivo. But Exradia has taken these tests and said that they prove that the technology "eliminates possible risks from these biological effects".

There are any number of ways that the in-vitro observations might not be replicated in-vivo

But no, Exradia is saying that it will make your children safer. It will protect your testicles. Furthermore, in a survey the company commissioned, it said that 96 percent of Europeans wanted mobile operators to implement Wi-Guard technology - and yes, we´ve asked to see the survey questions, metholodogy, sample size and return data. We doubt that 96 percent of Europeans have any idea about Exradia.

That didn´t stop the PR from comparing the mobile phone companies to the tobacco lobby - all, that is, apart from the handset maker who´s incorporating Wi-Guard already, who he couldn´t name and was off the record anyway. (I did point out that you can´t make something off the record after you say it. Sorry, Didier).

So, we´re on it. We´ll be talking to the company again, and going through their claims with care.

I did ask one final question. No, the PR doesn´t use Wi-Guard himself.

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