Fooling people with radiation protection

I happened to see an advertisement for a “chip” that is intended to minimize the radiation from your cell phone, thus lessening the bad effect of radiation on your brain. The price for this device is 25 euros. I contacted the importer of the product to get more information on how it works, what its effects are, and how it is to be used.

The importer was very helpful in getting me three sample chips, but their information on how this device is supposed to work was limited in the extreme. They claim also on the package that the chip “provides protection for over 99.95% of cell phone radiation”. When I pointed out to them that the sole function of the mobile phone is to maintain a radio link between itself and the base station, and that if you decrease that radio link’s radiation by that much, you have no contact at all, they said that “they use the device and it works.” At this point I became quite irritated.

Let’s have a look at the claims. 

“Radisafe is developed using a unique combination of minerals”. I dug into this and found this device to be pressed out of a mineral called shungite with some tourmaline thrown in for good measure. According to Wikipedia, Shungite is  “a black, lustrous, non-crystalline mineraloid consisting of more than 98 weight percent of carbon.” This device is probably the highest-priced carbon product on the planet per weight. If you take a mineral that is 98% carbon, grind it to a powder, press a button out of it, it still is nearly all carbon. You could take a piece of burnt wood and get the same button out of it.

The protection provided by this product is the biggest oddity. They claim to have tested this protection at “CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF ELECTRONICS AND MATERIALS SCIENCE, California ,USA”, and indeed there is a link to a test report. If you look at it, you will not be seeing much. They merely claim that Radisafe provides a 99.95% signal absorption at a frequency of 9.375 gigahertz. They do provide a list of standards they claim to have used in testing, but nothing on the test setup.

To have such an absorption rate would mean that the system should be encased in a box built out of the material. The antennas in mobile phones radiate in many directions, not just into this little button. Also, should the device actually absorb all that radiation energy, it would heat. When I tested this, I found no trace of heating actually occurring. Also, the oddest part of the claim is the frequency. Why test at 9.375 GHz, when the actual frequencies used in mobile phone and WLAN technologies are between 698 MHz and 2.690 GHz?

They also claim this device will increase battery life. This is another anomalous idea. If you cause the signal level of a mobile phone to decrease, the phone will attempt to recuperate by increasing the power to the transmitter. This would of course lead to the decrease of battery life. There is no mechanism that could reverse the drain on the battery if you have to use more power in the transmitter – that is not merely a false claim, it is also illogical.

They also claim that this device will increase the connectivity of the device. I fail to see any natural method how you can first decrease the radiation power of a mobile phone and then get better signal with it. That is simply stupid. However, the stupidest claim of them all is that you can attach such a device on your microwave oven, as well as your television.

Well of course you can attach them, but what sort of radiation does your television emit, outside the visible signal that your eyes see as the picture? A little heat. And given that your microwave oven is tested to keep the radiation inside itself before you can market it, why do you need this button on it? No reason at all.

It is claims like this that make me feel so sad for people who buy these devices, as well as mad at the people who make money out of the sorry folks.

And then there is the claim that the device will decrease the heat generated by the mobile phonw during conversations by 80%. Again, this is backed by a test report from an Indian test lab. However, this report has no information about the test situation beyond naming the type of thermometer. How the phone is held during the test affects the temperatures much more than this chip, and there is no report on this.

The importer claimed that the device works on WLAN and any other source of radiation as well. To test this, I placed all three devices sent to me on my own WLAN, and measured the radiation using my laptop as the receiver. I left the systems on overnight. The results were clear:

N 14617 14617
Average signal 99,7563 96,1176
Average RSSI -24,4212 -34,8197
Max signal 100 100
Min signal 95 92
Max RSSI -21 -24
Min RSSI -36 -40
Envelope RSSI 15 16

The average signal went down by 4 percent, not 99.95% as claimed, using all three chips on the WLAN. In a way you can then assume that one chip is responsible for 1.3%. That’s a nice result from my point of view because a WLAN with no signal is as communicative as a hockey puck. As for the reason of that reduction, I am not sure, I should actually measure a few more times with the devices on and off the WLAN.

But in any case, the net result is clear. PT Barnum is right – there is a sucker born every minute, and whoever buys this device at 25 euros a whack will get nothing for the money.


About heikkihietala

Heikki Hietala has worked at the crossroads of IT and language since 1986. He studied at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. With an M.A. in English Philology and minor degrees in Communication and Information Technology, he has seen action at Microsoft, McKinsey & Company, Lionbridge, Bates Advertising and since September 2003, HAAGA-HELIA University of Applied Sciences. His interests of late have been user interface design and usability, 3D Design using Blender, and information technology for the small and medium enterprises. In his spare time he writes fiction in English. His novel, "Tulagi Hotel", was published in 2010 and a short story collection, "Filtered Light and Other Stories", in 2012. Tulagi Hotel is now available in Kindle and in paperback (also at Akateeminen Kirjakauppa), published by Fingerpress UK. "Hotelli Tulagi" on saatavana myös suomeksi kirjakaupoista kautta maan.
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