My grandfather lived well into his 90’s. Physically, he was in excellent shape ’til even the end. In his mid 80’s, he rode major roller coasters and The Power Tower with me at Cedar Point. He had the strength of a horse and plenty of endurance. But eventually, he succumbed to Alzheimer’s.

It takes just one hand to count how many times I saw him sip a drink during the two decades we shared together on earth. He never smoked, but always shared how others picked on him for that his whole life.

1953 ad for Chesterfield cigarettes being healthyFolks thought he was crazy to even suggest the idea that cigarettes were unhealthy. Even his wife, my grandmother, was a nurse who smoked a couple packs per day. Likewise for pretty much everyone else around him.

For probably 50 years, he had to deal with these critics of his tobacco free lifestyle…

“They would say something is wrong with me, because I don’t smoke. They would say I’m stupid and a conspiracy theorist, because I believe smoking is unhealthy.”

Do you feel like you’re experiencing the same today, but with cell phones?

90% of your friends and family will probably chuckle at you, if you express health concerns about wireless phones or WiFi (which operates at a very similar frequency).

Do cell phones cause cancer? They tell you absolutely not. But what they absolutely don’t understand is biology.

If they did, they would respect the fact that most cancers are very slow to form.

For example, brain tumors caused by radiation take an estimated 10 to 30 years to form. Sometimes even longer (1).

Even with breast cancer, it’s not detectable for up to 8 years after the cancerous cell mutations first started (2).

IARC cancer ratingsDespite that, naysayers will say you’re dumb to question their safety, because they’ve been using cell phones for 15 or 20 years now.

Or using WiFi for 10 years. Speaking of which, that technology has only been around since 1997 (3).

To be clear, officially the answer today is that neither cellular nor wifi causes cancer. However, the World Health Organization has categorized radio frequency electromagnetic fields (which includes cell and WiFi) as being possibly “possibly carcinogenic” to humans, with a Group 2B rating.

They slapped on that classification in 2011. The growing body of evidence suggesting carcinogenicity meant concluding them to be safe was premature. They want to see more safety studies (4).

Given the slow nature of cancers and the countless other risk factors in modern life, it will likely be a number of years until we conclusively know for sure whether cell phones are safe or not.

Avoiding these wireless technologies altogether is not feasible and frankly, not desirable for most of us. They are more than a modern convenience, as many of us have occupations which require their constant use.

Taking the pros and cons (unknown side effects) into consideration, perhaps the best approach is to simply minimize exposure.  One of the easiest ways to do that is with a radiation blocking cell phone case.

Do anti-radiation phone cases work?

Yes and no. It depends on the model. None will be effective at blocking 100% of the radiation, but some can greatly diminish that amount which comes in contact with your head or body.

No, they don’t work in the sense that some models and products being sold are complete scams. While less common now, in the past on Ebay and Alibaba, you would see anti-radiation stickers for iPhone which seem quite dubious, from a technological and scientific perspective.

In the Federal Trade Commission’s page about cell phone radiation scams, here’s what they have to say about shields (5):

“If you’re looking for ways to limit your exposure to the electromagnetic emissions from your cell phone, know that, according to the FTC, there is no scientific proof that so-called shields significantly reduce exposure from these electromagnetic emissions. In fact, products that block only the earpiece – or another small portion of the phone – are totally ineffective because the entire phone emits electromagnetic waves. What’s more, these shields may interfere with the phone’s signal, cause it to draw even more power to communicate with the base station, and possibly emit more radiation.”

So after reading that, do you still want those anti-radiation & battery salvage stickers for your cell phone?

Probably not.

The so-called battery salvage feature is another questionable feature claimed by some sellers. They say it extends the rechargeable life of your battery by two or three fold.

If it were that simple, then wouldn’t the OEMs like Apple and Samsung include them by default?

While the actual word “sticker” is not found anywhere on that FTC page, the “shields” they describe seem to be the same thing. They’re small buttons and rectangles which you stick to the back of your phone.

Now if these sticker shields were using RF blocking material which was enough to cover the entire front of your phone, then they definitely might work at blocking radiation when you hold the phone next to your ear and brain. But if you covered the front of your phone with an RF blocking sticker, then how would you ever see the screen!

Bioexcel anti radiation stickers appear to have been on the market for over 5 years and claim to work by emitting negative ions, FIR, and scalar energy. Some ads for them purport they block EMF radiation “by up to 99%” but we are unaware of published scientific studies to back such claims.

radiation blocking stickerWhile customer reviews on retailer websites appear positive, that doesn’t necessarily correlate with product efficacy. If they ever publish verifiable studies, we will be happy to review them.

A South Korean brand, Kpop, sell something called the EXO 24K gold anti-radiation mobile phone signature sticker. It costs just a buck, which makes you wonder not only if it works, but how much 24k gold can Kpop put in there at such a low price?

Around the year 2000 or 2001, I had ordered anti-radiation stickers online. The instructions said to put them over the speaker slot. The ones I received didn’t work. I know because I tested them.

That was over 15 years ago!

It’s surprising to see stick-on shields are still running strong even today.

Proven technologies

faraday cage

A Faraday cage would be the most effective, but you probably want something more practical. Photo Credit: Antoine Taveneaux (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Throughout the years since that initial sticker experiment, I have extensively researched and used a plethora of different radiation blocking phone cases. None are perfect, but several on the market really can help you.

The following are what I believe to be the three best cases currently for sale. The word “best” is subjective in some regards, because for better performance you may be sacrificing something else, like functionality, ease of use, and aesthetics.

Technically, the most effective would be three mini Faraday cage models, as each would block 100% of mobile phone radiation. But those would not be a practical solution!

That’s why the three I chose are diverse, each with their own pros and cons. Yet all will be better than a bare-boned iPhone or Samsung Galaxy in your pocket.

SafeSleeve review

This is the newest and also my favorite.

It started out as a Kickstarter project, with the idea of creating the world’s first RFID blocking + anti-radiation case and wallet for iPhone.

Unlike stickers, SafeSleeve has published test reports of how much radiation their case blocks. The tests were conducted by a FCC recognized and NVLAP accredited third-party independent lab (it was US Tech out of Georgia, if you’re curious).

These were the results…

Frequency Without Shield (dBm) With Shield (dBm) Delta (dB) Radiation Reduction (%)
800 MHz -40.5 -63 22.5 99.4377
1.7 GHz -23 -41 18 98.4151
1.9 GHz -29 -49 20 99.0000
2.1 GHz -29.6 -55 25.4 99.7116
5 GHz -30 -62 32 99.9369

They didn’t include WiFi which is 2.4 GHz or the less common band used for it which is 5.2 GHz. However based on the 99% radiation reduction seen in neighboring frequencies, it would be a safe bet to make that it works well at WiFi blocking, too.

As far as which of those match your device, that really depends on your carrier. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile all have different frequencies. To further complicate things, in one geographic region of the country they may use one frequency, while another is used elsewhere. It all depends on which FCC licenses they have the rights to in each region.

The good news is you don’t have to worry about that, as the frequencies you see above have you covered, regardless of which carrier you happen to be on.

Keep in mind though that radiation is still coming out of the open sides. If you blocked everything, then your phone wouldn’t have a signal.

SafeSleeve for iPhone 7

Performance aside, SafeSleeve is the winner when it comes to aesthetics. A flip case admittedly may not be the most fashionable accessory to have, but you need that if you want to block the majority of the radiation on both the front and back.

Since it doubles up as a wallet, that drawback becomes acceptable. You can use it to store up to 3 cards of your choosing, whether that be a driver’s license, credit/debit cards, or any other type which fits in those standard size slots.

If you want to use your phone for talking, then the idea is that you keep it flipped over the front of the screen – that way you’re blocking radiation on both the front and back. The speaker still works with the cover on, because there’s a small hole for that. The inevitable drawback of this is that you have to flip the cover open in order to access your keypad.

SafeSleeve Stand and camera slot

You can turn it into a stand for watching Netflix, but my Safe Sleeve iPhone 7 case in leather isn’t very good at that. It stayed in position for the above photo, but it naturally wants to lay flat. Maybe it just needs to be broken in more? If you plan on using the stand a lot, it would probably be better to go with the non-leather models.

Does Safe Sleeve protect against drops? So far, I haven’t had any accidents to find out. And sorry, I’m not going to intentionally try that with my new iPhone 7 solely for the sake of rating it!

On Amazon you can buy the SafeSleeve in leather (pictured) as well as the other colors which are black and grey.

Pong Case review

How does Pong case work? By incorporating a gold-plated antenna in the back, it is able to redirect some of the radiation away from your body, assuming you have the screen facing your body.

How much it reduces radiation though is not 99% like Safe Sleeve. The Pong website says it’s “up to” a 67% reduction when compared to a bare iPhone 6 or 6S. That’s according to the FCC certified lab they used for testing.

Obviously, getting “up to” 2/3rds reduction is better than none at all. So if you refuse to use a model with a flip cover, then by all means the Pong will be the best anti-radiation cell phone case for your needs. Their technology is patented and there are no comparable or similar technologies on the market which do the same thing.

Pong iPhone radiation reducing case

This case you see pictured here was used for 2 years on an iPhone 6. Before that, a similar Pong was used on my iPhone 5 model.

Aside from having only a 67% reduction, another drawback is that if you use it incorrectly, you may actually be increasing your radiation exposure.

Now phones are pretty idiot-proof in the sense that you don’t see people walking around holding the back of the phone to their ear. Humans are dumb no doubt, but at least we all know that it’s the side with the screen which is designed to face our head when we make a call.

phone in jeans front pocketBut when it comes to storing a mobile phone in a pocket, which side faces outward versus inward is largely a preference.

Think about it, if up to 67% of the radiation is coming out of the back and you put that back facing inward, your testicles or ovaries would then be getting up to 67% more radiation. In theory, at least.

This is one of the reasons I had to have my mom stop using the Pong Case I got for her. She would not follow instructions on always ensuring the phone’s back faces away from her body.

If I can’t even get my mom to follow instructions, will you be able to get your young kids to listen to you about this?!

Another factor to consider is if more radiation is coming out of the case’s back, then what does that mean for our fingers and hands as we hold it to text or talk?

Pong iPhone 6 case

Don’t worry, it does fit properly in the camera slot! That’s an iPhone 7, but in my old iPhone 6 case.

The inside (1st photo) looks white, but the exterior yellowed and it happened fairly quickly. While this photo does show a full two years of wear and tear, it wasn’t looking too snazzy after just a few months. Even before enduring climbs and safaris, more than one friend had criticized it… “why do you have such an ugly case?”

All the grooves and crevices are magnets for dirt and grime, too. I would remove and wash it at least once a week.

Despite any potential drawbacks about design, overall it’s better than not using a radiation cell phone case. But between Safe Sleeve vs. Pong, the latter is the 2nd choice in my book.

Try the case in black, because it won’t discolor like mine did.

Pong Research also makes cases for the iPad and its technology is arguably better suited for that. Why? Because serving as a stand to prop up your iPad or tablet, it means you don’t really need to hold it. That’s an ideal setup because higher amounts of radiation are going out the back, versus the front of the screen which you are touching with your fingers and palms.

RF Safe review

This product is very similar to Safe Sleeve. However this company, RF Safe Corporation, has been in business since 1998. You have to respect the fact that they were one of the first to be spreading the word on the potential harmful side effects of cell phones. They seem to also be research-oriented, which is obviously a good thing.

The only reason I currently do not use RF Safe vs. SafeSleeve is because of aesthetics. That is the Achilles heel of this brand.

RF safe case

This is what a used bronze case looks like (not mine).

It’s not ugly per se, especially the black which is very neutral looking. But for visibility purposes, I prefer the white iPhone so I can see it in the dark. That means I also want a lighter-colored case. Unfortunately, the non-black colors options for iPhone 6 and 7, as well as Samsung Galaxy S7, are a bit feminine:

  • Bronze
  • Pink
  • Dark pink
  • Sky blue
  • White

With the clasp on it, the bronze and white look like a woman’s wallet. A big fan of blue here, but their sky blue is something between an Easter Egg and a Tiffany jewelry box. Great colors for the girls, not so much for the guys.

My review of RF Safe is admittedly one-sided being a male. If you’re a female, you might actually like their colors better than Safe Sleeve.

But even with the black, I’m just not a fan of the material they use, given the $40 price point of the product. If it was cheaper, it would be understandable. But since that price isn’t far off from competitors, it’s not my first choice.

Plus, you have to love the credit card slots on Safe Sleeve. You won’t get those with RF Safe.

Now if the matchup was between a Pong vs. RF Safe cell phone case, even though I chose the former in the past, as of today I would choose RF Safe.

Why? Well for starters, there’s even more troubling scientific data available today.

The pre 2010 case-control human studies were not suggesting increased rates of gliomas (brain cancer), but those are being seen in some published 2010 and onward. A similar trend is seen with neuromas (slow growing non-cancerous nerve tumors).

The National Toxicology Program’s 2 year rat study wasn’t around when I had an iPhone 5 (6). After NTP released preliminary results from that in 2016, it really makes you take notice. How much radiation a case blocks needs to be the deciding factor for me now, regardless of how good or not the case looks.

As far as third-party testing by a FCC recognized lab, to the best of my knowledge RF Safe does not publish such a report on their website.

What you will find though are over a dozen videos where they test in real time using industry standard tools like the Trifield XE100 and the Cornet Electrosmog meters. On a test with a Galaxy using the Cornet, you see the meter drop from 1800+ to as little as 1.

RF Safe case for Samsung Galaxy

Even without knowing the exact percentage for radiation reduction from an independent lab, the performance of an RF Safe is likely comparable to Safe Sleeve.

The reason you can presume this is because these two companies are using well-known RF blocking technologies (not proprietary shielding like a Pong case uses). RF Safe uses polyester filaments which are woven with conductive threads.

If you paid an electrical engineer to shield something for you, depending on the application, they would either use MuMetal or this type of mesh shielding. It’s not some new technology, so there’s no question of whether it works, because it does. Regardless, it would still be nice for them to publish third-party independent testing to reassure people of this.

Speaking of testing, buying a meter yourself may not be a bad idea if you’re interested in reducing RF and EMF exposure throughout your home. I actually used this Trifield 100XE meter when house hunting, to check for those very things.