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Europe and America have a Right To Know About #5G Cell Phone Safety

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Google announced they are testing a new 5G smartphone, a move that aims to expand the company further into the branded hardware market, writes Theodora Scarato, executive director of Environmental Health Trust.

On 10 September, Apple launched three new iPhones (iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max). Not to be shut out of the game, also last month, Samsung released their much-anticipated Samsung Galaxy Fold, the first foldable smartphone. As the leading tech companies vie for first place in the 5G smartphone market, will they also issue clear warnings to the consumer public that their phones are not intended to be used in close body contact?

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On 22 August, the law firm of Fegan Scott filed a class action lawsuit against Apple and Samsung alleging that these two tech companies are misleading customers because their cellphones are marketed on the premise that the devices can always be used in close contact to the body (i.e. in the pocket). But phones in these very positions could result in the body absorbing high levels of cell phone radiation. So high, in fact, that the phones could violate the radiation safety limits set by the Federal Communications Commission.

The litigation was prompted by disturbing findings released in an August 21, 2019 Chicago Tribune investigation into cell phone radiation. The Tribune independently tested several popular cell phones and found that the phones emitted far more radiation than reported by the  manufacturers. Most importantly, radiation levels skyrocketed from two to five times the legal limit when phones were tested in positions close to the body, such as mimicking a phone in a pants pocket.

Many people incorrectly assume that cell phone radiation levels are safe, no matter how or where the phone is being used. But fine print warnings buried deep in the manufacturers’ manuals state that the phone is radiation tested a specific distance away from the body. For the iPhone 7 that distance is 5mm, but for the iPhone 3 it was 15mm.

In 2017, the government of France was pressured by Dr. Marc Arazi into finally releasing data from the hundreds of cell phones they tested since 2012. The  majority exceeded the legal limits when tested at body contact. In response, the European Union strengthened compliance tests so the distance can’t exceed 5mm and several smartphone models have now been withdrawn from the market or software updated. As many models with excessive radiation levels still remain on the market, Arazi of the Phonegate association has now filed legal action against Nokia and Xiaomi stating, “The manufacturers have deceived the users of more than 6 billion mobile phones.”

The radiation levels found in the smartphones tested by France could violate US  limits by 11 times according to published analysis. Fegan Scott characterized the situation as the “Chernobyl of the cell phone industry, cover-up and all.”  This October, the French Health Authority released a report recommending that phones be radiation tested at body contact- not at 5mm. In response to this report,  the French ministries of Health, Ecology and Economy issued a press release statement announcing their recommendation that phones be tested at body contact. They also called for the public to reduce cell phone radiation exposure. US National Institutes of Health scientist published their findings of DNA damage associated with cell phone radiation in their $30 million animal study.  This really should be the crack in the dam. Yet in the US, the FDA has been informed but taken no action.

What’s far more curious is that over the years, phone manufacturers have wordsmithed these fine print warnings such that consumers are confused.

Why not directly state: “If you carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket, or tucked into a bra, when the phone is on and connected to a wireless network, you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure to RF radiation.”

In Berkeley, California, retailers are required to state this exact warning to cell phone consumers after the city passed their Cell Phone Right To Know Ordinance in 2015. It should be noted that after the Ordinance passed, the telecom industry group CTIA litigated all the way to the Supreme Court claiming the ordinance violated their free speech rights.

For two years after the Apple iPhone 6 debut in 2015, Apple shared the following statement regarding the model, “Carry iPhone at least 5mm away from your body to ensure exposure levels remain at or below the as-tested levels.” While this sentence was still on their website on 2 March, 2017, it was removed by 9 November, 2017. Similarly, the iPhone 7 was released in 2016, along with the same online instructions to carry it “5mm away from your body” which disappeared from the Apple website by 9 November 9, 2017.

Apple’s website still includes information that cell phones are tested with a separation distance. However, the text is absent of clear instructions to consumers. Years ago, iPhone 3 filings to the FCC stated “iPhone’s SAR measurement may exceed the FCC exposure guidelines for body-worn operation if positioned less than 15 mm (5/8 inch) from the body (e.g. when carrying iPhone in your pocket).” They clearly stated, “When using iPhone near your body for voice calls or for wireless data transmission over a cellular network, keep iPhone at least 15 mm (5/8 inch) away from the body.” Were iPhone 3 consumers aware of these instructions then? Why not inform users now?

Fegan Scott claims that “research strongly suggests that cell phone manufacturers knew – or should have known – that the radiation levels were well above what they were claiming”.

Babies are handed cell phones to cuddle in shopping carts.  A child's first cell phone is seen as a rite of passage and yet many don’t even know how to turn the phone off. They carry phones in their pockets- as do most men. Women carry phones directly against their body- tucked in their bras and spandex pants.

As with Dieselgate, the problem lies in the test itself.  A 2012 Government Accountability Report found human exposure limits and test protocols decades outdated. A  Harvard expose points to “undue industry influence” in US regulatory agencies and published analysis document conflicts of interest in the international “authorities” many countries rely on.  Phones are simply not radiation tested the way we use them- at body contact. It is time to hit the reset button. Before deploying 5G infrastructure and allowing 5G phones on the market, the US should first hold Congressional hearings on the oversight and safety of wireless devices.

Theodora Scarato is executive director of Environmental Health Trust.

Digital economy

Digital euro: Commission welcomes the launch of the digital euro project by the ECB

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The Commission welcomes the decision taken by the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB) to launch the digital euro project and start its investigation phase. This phase will look at various design options, user requirements and at how financial intermediaries could provide services building on a digital euro. The digital euro, a digital form of central bank money, would offer greater choice to consumers and businesses in situations where physical cash cannot be used. It would support a well-integrated payments sector to respond to new payment needs in Europe.

Taking into account digitalisation, rapid changes in the payments landscape and the emergence of crypto-assets, the digital euro would be a complement to cash, which should remain widely available and useable. It would support a number of policy objectives set out in the Commission's wider digital finance and retail payments strategies including the digitalisation of the European economy, increase the international role of the euro and support the EU's open strategic autonomy. Based on the technical co-operation with the ECB initiated in January, the Commission will continue to work closely with the ECB and the EU institutions throughout the investigation phase in analysing and testing the various design options in view of policy objectives.

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Digital economy

New digital resource launched to support health, social care and industry innovation

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Achieving Innovation is a new resource developed by Life Sciences Hub Wales to inform and guide those working across industry, health and social care innovation. It summarises key research, provides critical insights and delivers fresh perspectives from cross-sector thought leaders.

This new digital resource reviews the wealth of knowledge available about innovation in health and social care to equip those who need it with the most relevant and important information. Life Sciences Hub Wales has worked closely with contributors spanning health, industry, academia and social care providing input.

Innovation is perceived by many stakeholders as essential for catalysing system-wide change and making a difference to patients and people. A recent survey commissioned by Life Sciences Hub Wales for Beaufort Research found that 97% of health and social care regarded innovation as being very important, alongside 91% of industry.

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However, barriers can make innovation more difficult, including a lack of common language, resources, and cross-sector engagement. Life Sciences Hub Wales has created the Achieving Innovation resource to help address these challenges, identifying evidence-based solutions and answers to help navigate the innovation ecosystem and futureproof our health and social care systems.

The resource is set to be regularly updated with new material, and launches with a:

Cari-Anne Quinn, CEO of Life Sciences Hub Wales, said: “This new resource can play a key role in helping stakeholders of all backgrounds navigate the health and social care ecosystems in Wales and beyond. Innovators hold the key to large-scale transformation of health, care and wellbeing in Wales and this resource will support them in achieving this.”

Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, said: “Innovation plays a critical role in supporting our health and social care sectors in Wales to deliver new ideas and technologies in partnership with industry. I welcome Life Sciences Hub Wales new ‘Achieving Innovation’ resource as a key tool for innovators who are working to overcome real challenges and grasp exciting new opportunities. When we established and funded Life Science Hub Wales, innovation was at the heart of its ethos - this ethos has played a key role in our recovery and response to the impact of COVID-19.”

Dr. Chris Subbe, Acute, Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine Consultant at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and Senior Clinical Lecturer at Bangor University, said: “I was delighted to contribute to the Achieving Innovation resource by exploring the importance of making innovation an everyday habit.

In this time of exceptional pressures on our ability to provide quality care we need to find ways to develop talent and ideas from wherever they come. This new resource should empower multidisciplinary innovators from industry and healthcare backgrounds with the information, context and language required.”

Darren Hughes, Director of Welsh NHS Confederation, said: “We welcome the new Achieving Innovation resource from Life Sciences Hub Wales, as we have seen the impact of innovation and service transformation in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The resource supports a deeper understanding of innovation and complements our multi-agency report prepared by Swansea University, The NHS Wales COVID-19 Innovation and Transformation Study Report, which draws from a vast evidence-base of staff experiences from across NHS Wales, examining why and how they innovated and looking at practical recommendations to further this agenda.

“As we embark on recovery, it’s imperative that we capitalize on opportunity to improve service delivery, efficiency, patient outcomes, staff wellbeing, and encourage a culture of learning and sharing best practice across organisational boundaries.”

The resource comes at an exciting time for innovation in Wales, with the launch of the Intensive Learning Academies earlier in 2021. The first of their kind in the world, these world-leading academies are delivering innovation-focussed taught courses, research and bespoke consultancy services, with Life Sciences Hub Wales supporting relevant partners.

If you would like to explore the Achieving Innovation resource, click here

About Life Sciences Hub Wales

Life Sciences Hub Wales aims to make Wales the place of choice for health, care and wellbeing innovation. We help to advance innovation and create meaningful collaboration between industry, health, social care, government, and research organisations.

We want to help transform both the health and economic wellbeing of the nation:

  • Accelerating the development and adoption of innovative solutions that support the health and social care needs of Wales, and;
  • partnering with industry to advance economic improvement across the life sciences sector and drive business growth and jobs in Wales.

We do this by working closely with health and social care colleagues to understand the challenges and pressures an organization may face. Once identified, we then work with industry to help source and support the development of innovative solutions to respond to these challenges with agility.

Our team provides bespoke advice, signposting and support to accelerate all innovation journeys, whether supporting a clinician with a bright idea or a multinational life sciences organisation.

Life Sciences Hub Wales helps to catalyse system-wide change by convening and orchestrating a cross-sector innovation ecosystem. These connections enable us to create valuable networking and matchmaking opportunities.

To find out more, click here.

About the Achieving Innovation resource

The resource launches with:

  • Eight Insights for Achieving Innovation- article collating key insights and themes from across the resource.
  • Directory summarizing support and organisations available in Wales.
  • A narrative review of innovation evidence and literature.
  • A policy review of the Welsh government’s approach to innovation.
  • Blogs authored by leaders from across health, industry and social care focussing on innovation.
  • Podcasts where thought leaders discuss the challenges and opportunities of innovation.

Survey Reference:

A recent survey commissioned by Life Sciences Hub Wales for Beaufort Research found that 97% of health and social care regarded innovation as being very important, alongside 91% of industry.”

Beaufort Research were commissioned by Life Sciences Hub Wales to conduct an anonymous survey into cross-sector stakeholder perceptions around the organisation and the wider life sciences sector in early 2021. This was undertaken to help inform Life Sciences Hub Wales’ future strategic direction.

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Digital economy

Economic analysis of Digital Markets Act

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The European Commission has presented a proposal for The Digital Markets Act (DMA). Its goal is to create fair and competitive digital markets in the EU. It aims to achieve this by introducing new ex-ante regulations that will automatically apply to so-called "gatekeepers". The gatekeepers are to be large internet platforms that meet selected size criteria, writes Robert Chovanculiak, PhD.

In a new joint publication entitled Economic Analysis of Digital Markets Act, prepared by four think tanks: INESS (Slovakia), CETA (Czech Republic), IME (Bulgaria), and LFMI (Lithuania), we point out the shortcomings of the DMA and highlight the possible unintended consequences of this regulation. In addition, we also suggest a way to modify the proposed procedure for regulating internet companies.

Among the main shortcomings is the very definition of 'gatekeepers'. They do not really occupy a dominant position within the economy as a whole. Even within digital services, there is intense competition between platforms against each other, while at the same time their position in the market is constantly being challenged by new innovators.

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The only space where gatekeepers have the ability to influence the rules of the game is on their own platform. However, even though they have full control over setting the terms and conditions for users, they have no incentive to set them unfavourably. This is best seen when it comes to various practices that the DMA proposal restricts or outright prohibits.

In the study, we show that these business practices are time-tested and are legitimately used by many companies in the offline world. Moreover, there are a number of economic explanations in the literature as to why these business practices are not a manifestation of anti-competitive behaviour, but instead provide increased welfare for both the end and business users of the platform.

We therefore recommend that the DMA rethinks the centralization and automation of the entire process of identifying "gatekeepers" and individual prohibited business practices. From the perspective of the CEE region, it is important to maintain the dynamic element of competition. This can be achieved by replacing the static and ex ante approach in the DMA with a polycentric approach where national capacities are involved in decision making while maintaining an open regulatory dialogue in which internet companies themselves have the opportunity to participate.

Robert Chovanculiak, PhD is an analyst at INESS and lead author of the Economic Analysis of Digital Markets Act.

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