Will Google Glass Fry Your Brain and/or Give You Cataracts?
Google Glass ushers in a new trend in wireless devices. A wearable computer with head mounted display, Google Glass captures a lot of attention with its design, functions and life-style implication. Some people have raised concerns that Google Glass introduces new types of radiation exposure risks due to the way in which it is worn. This article explores the implications of on-body wireless devices on radiation exposure.
Like all wireless devices, Google Glass emits electromagnetic radiation, called non-ionizing radiation, in the radio-frequency (RF) range in operation. The prototype Google Glass has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antennas but no cellular antenna. Although there is still no consensus on whether this type of radiation is harmful to human body, growing scientific evidence shows correlation between wireless radiation and adverse health effects, including but not limited to brain tumors, impaired brain function, sperm damage and behavioral problems in children. In May 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” based on increased risk of brain tumors.
Previous studies have found low-level electromagnetic field exposure from mobiles and other transmitting devices could cause harmful heating of tissue, male infertility and cancer.
This is a middle rating on a scale that contains five levels of carcinogens, ranking mobiles below things that are definitely known to cause cancer - such as smoking and sun beds - and alongside things over which there are still questions, such as pesticide DDT and lead.
The WHO says that, while we still need more studies, we should err on the side of caution. It pointed to a study from 2010 that linked just 30 minutes of mobile use a day for ten years with an increased likelihood of glioma, a type of brain tumour.
In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken the fears into account by issuing guidelines for phone makers which limit how much radio-frequency energy that customers should be exposed to.
Mobiles Emit Signals In The Form of Radio Waves
These microwaves are a form of non-ionising electromagnetic radiation.
When we hold a mobile against our ear, the radiation is in direct contact with the tissue in our head. The fear is that this radiation can cause changes to the cells in our brains.
If the DNA in these brain cells gets damaged they may become cancerous and cause brain tumours, in particular gliomas.
These are a rare type of tumour that typically starts in the brain or spine and can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting and seizures. They are usually incurable.
Exposure to ionising electromagnetic radiation, such as that from x-rays and cosmic rays, is known to increase the risk of cancer, but there is no consistent evidence that non-ionising radiation increases cancer risk.
So far, the only known biological effect of radio-frequency energy is heating, which is the principle behind the ability of microwave ovens to heat food.
It’s also feared that the radio waves can alter chemical and electrical reactions in our brains, changing, in effect, the way that the brain’s cells communicate. This may cause emotional disorders.
Google Glass represents a fundamentally new type of wireless device. Unlike, cell phones which are used next to the head only when making phone calls, Google Glass is designed to be worn on the user’s head in the same position all day long. The novel way in which Google Glass is used brings two unique risk concerns with regard to its radiation exposure.
Firstly, scientific evidence indicates that cumulative exposure time plays a very important role in evaluating the health risks of wireless radiation. For example, the Interphone study one of the largest international study on cell phone use and brain tumors coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), shows no risk for general users (average 2 to 2.5 hours cell phone use a month) but a 40% increase in brain tumor glioma for “heavy” cell phone users – defined in the study as 1,640 hours or more cumulative cell phone use, or 30-minute daily use over a 10-year period of time (Interphone Report, 2010).
A 2011 pooled analysis by Swedish researchers indicates a dose response that the risk of brain tumors (both glioma and astrocytoma) increased significantly for every 100 hr of cumulative exposure (Hardell et al, 2011). Other reported cumulative biological effects from exposure include effects on the Central Nervous System (CNS) and DNA damage (Lai, 1998). Google Glass is designed to be worn on the user’s head all day long. The potential cumulative exposure time from Glass is expected to be much longer than from cell phones and therefore the potential health risk for Glass could be much higher than cell phones.
Secondly, scientific evidence indicates that the laterality of cell phone use – whether it is used primarily on one side of the head (ipsilateral use) or on both sides (contralateral use), also plays an important role in evaluating the risk of brain tumors. For example, the Interphone study shows that among heavy users (≥ 1,640 hr), ipsilateral users had a nearly doubled risk of glioma (compared to 40% increase for all) and tumors were more likely to occur on the side of the head most used for calling. The higher risk for ipsilateral exposure was also confirmed in other high-quality epidemiological studies (Hardell et al., 2006, 2009; Khurana et al., 2009). Since wireless energy absorption in brain tissue is non-uniform, “hotspots” are formed in certain area of the brain close to the transmitting antenna. It is the “hotspots” that are most problematic when it comes to the health risk of wireless radiation. Google Glass is designed to be worn in the same position all the time and the same part of the brain in close vicinity to Glass’s transmitting antenna will be subject to the highest localized exposure all the time. As a result, the long-term ipsilateral exposure could give Google Glass users a much higher risk of brain tumors and/or CNS impairment than mobile phone users.
The amount of RF radiation absorbed by a user’s head and body is evaluated by its Specific Absorption Rate (SAR). SAR is defined as the power absorbed per mass of body tissue when exposed to wireless radiation. In the United States, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) sets the SAR limit for public exposure to be 1.6 W/kg averaged over 1 gram of tissue. All wireless devices must be evaluated for their SAR values before going to market.
According to the SAR Evaluation Report for Google Glass by UL CCS, the highest 1-g SAR in head for Glass is measured to be 1.110 W/kg, which comes from its Wi-Fi antenna. Since Google Glass has a SAR level below the safety limit of 1.6 W/kg, it is considered “safe” according to the FCC safety guideline.
The current SAR standard of 1.6 W/kg was based on short-term or acute exposure (30 to 60 minutes of exposure) studies of animal behavioral disruption in the 1970s. There is scientific evidence showing that a longer exposure time at a lower level of RF radiation can also result in animal behavioral disruption and other biological effects (BioInitiative Working Group, 2007, 2012). However, long-term or chronic exposure to RF radiation has never been assessed in the current SAR standards. Therefore, one can reasonably argue that the current safety standards may not provide sufficient protection for Google Glass users.
Due to the unique way in which Google Glass is used, when it comes to reducing radiation exposure, most expert-recommended precautionary approaches for cell phone radiation won’t work for Glass. For example, the widely recommended “distance is your best friend” approach is not applicable for Glass – Glass users cannot hold Glass away from their heads, use a speakerphone or wear a headset; neither can they switch sides frequently or text.
The good news is that Pong has a patented technology that is independently proven to reduce exposure to both cellular and Wi-Fi radiation from wireless devices while optimizing the devices’ performance. For example, when pairing with iPad Mini, Pong’s technology can reduce Wi-Fi radiation exposure by 73%. Pong’s technology could be readily adapted for Google Glass to provide a precautionary solution for Glass users.
Nine Ways to Make Google Glass Safer
I’ve posted a summary of the emissions tests I’ve taken from Google Glass, as well as an introduction to a discussion of the risks presented by exposures such as these. Just as cars have seat belts, anti-lock brakes, and air bags to make the risky practice of driving down the highway at 65 miles an hour tangibly safer, so should manufacturers of microwave-emitting technology take similar remediating steps to help reduce the risk associated with using their products.
And that’s just not going to happen unless more people understand the risks of EMF exposure, and demand action from manufacturers of the wireless technologies that are increasingly the dominant source of such radiation exposures in the general public.
For reasons I’ve explained before, Glass need not emit more dangerous radiation than a cell phone, to be more dangerous than a cell phone. Glass is just different; it’s designed to be different, and to be used differently. It’s designed to be used in immediate proximity of the brain for extended periods at a time, on a regularly recurring basis — generally, in tandem with your cell phone.
As I’ve also explained, it will almost certainly take a period measured in decades to have conclusive proof of the risks associated with strapping a microwave transmitter to your brain for extended periods, as is the case with those who wear Glass.
So, right now, as the manufacturer of first consumer application of its kind, Google has a choice:
Ignore the scientifically-demonstrated risks stemming from non-ionizing EMF exposures and tissue heating, and hope for the best? or…
Assume a precautionary approach to product design that minimizes radiation exposures to the brains of their customers, until definitive proof exists of the exact health risks?
I would reiterate, how Google responds to this question will impact not only its customers, but the customers of similar wearable technologies that will soon emerge from many different manufacturers. It will impact all of us, sooner or later (and, given how technology works, probably sooner).
In other words, this type of technology is inevitable. How the early players like Google address questions of human safety will establish the standards by which these issues are addressed over a period of generations.
I recently engaged in an exercise. Someone asked me, how can we make cell phones safer? I could imagine a couple of minor innovations, to suit specific use-cases, but by and large, from my non-engineering understanding of cell phone technology, there really isn’t a way to make it notably safer (at least without redesigning the entire cell network infrastructure). Your iPhone has to send microwave signals, in basically every direction, over really long distances. So, minimizing time spent speaking on cell phones, and using a tethered headset when you do… that’s basically all you can do to minimize your risk from cell phone radiation, without giving up your cell phone.
I believe that Glass is different. The technology is different. The form factor is different. The use-cases are different. These differences lead to more extended exposures to EMF radiation than would come from average cell phone use.
However, after playing with Glass, and coming to understand it more, I am increasingly convinced that these differences enable some relatively simple changes to the design of the product, that could lead to a significant reduction in EMF exposures.
Indeed, I suspect that Google could not only make Glass safer than it is, but that it is possible for Glass to be a safer product than a cell phone.
Well, I’ve written a list of some of the changes that Google could make to Glass. Some suggestions have virtually no impact on customer experience. Others do involve some trade-offs or sacrifices. And while I think all should be implemented, in actuality, each could be implemented on its own.
Some of these items will bring minimal or no negative impact to the consumer experience. Others, I believe, will lead to objections from some customers who wish to have no restrictions in their engagement with digital information. Still, Google is currently defining a product segment. They have a lot of flexibility to make changes of these types, if they believe there is evidence of a real health risk, and care about their consumers’ brains.
None of this is rocket science (certainly not for a company that creates self-driving cars). It’s actually easy to make Glass a safer product, from the perspective of EMF exposures. If Google considers it a priority to do so.
Software Design Alterations:
Add an “Airplane Mode”
Right now, a lot of what Glass does requires internet access. But, not all of it. Taking photos, videos, accessing stored media, reading already-downloaded headlines… all of these are examples of things that can be done without WiFi or Bluetooth access on Glass.
It appears that Google has designed the operating system such that, you can never actually disable WiFi or Bluetooth on Glass. There is no equivalent to Apple’s “Airplane Mode”. So, whenever you are wearing Glass, you are being dosed with microwave radiation — whether or not you’re actually doing anything on Glass.
Glass needs some means of disabling wireless communication on Glass. And, to encourage consumers to utilize it, it should be so easy, that it’s basically just a click away.
Disable Use When Charging
In general, Glass has negligible ELF emissions. However, when Glass is plugged into a device or power source, Glass becomes an ELF conductor, emitting ELF at notable levels — up to levels (50 mG in my tests) that really need to be taken seriously. Even when plugged into a notebook (that itself, was not plugged into an AC power source), ELF emissions were between 2 and 4 mG.
Also, in my tests, charging appears to heat Glass considerably above the temperature at which it would otherwise be operating.
There is an easy fix, also accomplishable with a software update. Do not allow Glass to be used on the head when connected via USB cable to any source. Then, there will be no circumstances in which Google’s consumers will be exposed to ELF from Glass.
Add “Too Hot” Mode
That just isn’t safe to hold up against the brain. The iPhone has a mode in which the device must cool down before being used. I do not believe that Glass has an equivalent mode — or, at least, I have not encountered it. Glass should not enable usage when it is too hot to be held against the head.
Restrict Video Playback Bitrate
At other times, playing video led to notably lower levels of EMF radiation.
I believe (though do not know for sure) that the different levels of EMF radiation that I measured correspond to the different bitrates of the different videos that I have watched. And the higher the bitrate, the more data throughput, the higher the emissions. If I am right, there are videos that, when played back on Glass, will lead to EMF emissions in excess of FCC regulations (and, if I am wrong, I expect someone from Google will be able to tell me as much).
It also seems that playing video increases the temperature of the device. Again, based on my assumptions, I believe that capping bitrates would effectively cap the temperature increases associated with video playback.
Bitrate on videos deployed through approved Glass apps should be capped to a value that is demonstrated not to lead to EM emissions in excess of Google’s published SAR value for Glass (1.11 W/kg).
Focus Media Synchronization When Glass is Not Worn
occurred on-demand, there would be less EMF exposure
for the wearer.
Now, as a consumer of technology, I completely understand why this is appealing — who wants to wait even a couple of seconds for updates-on-demand?
But, when the microwave transmitter that enables this functionality is immediately next to my brain, I have to start wondering what the value is of this instantaneous, and continuous, transmission of data.
Given that EMF emissions from WiFi technology correlate to the amount of data throughput, it seems to me that a “sync everything all the time” approach to Glass leads to many unnecessary exposures.
Instead, I believe that the approach should be: non-text media should only be synchronized:
Upon human request; or,
When Glass is worn not on the head (which Glass is already able to detect)
Will it take a little longer for your videos to be uploaded? Yes (unless you explicitly choose to upload them). But, in exchange, you’re dosed with microwave radiation for a notably smaller portion of the time when you wear Glass.
Disable WiFi And Bluetooth When Unsupported
or minor amounts of EMF, when no WiFi networks or
Bluetooth devices are nearby?
As it is, I understand the WiFi card in Glass is always on, whether or not there is a supported WiFi network within reach. Similarly, the Bluetooth chip is always on, whether or not your paired phone is.
This means, consumers are being dosed with microwave radiation from Glass’ WiFi and Bluetooth even when they have no available WiFi and Bluetooth options. That’s a completely gratuitous dose of radiation.
At a minimum, it seems to me that WiFi & Bluetooth on Glass should not be operative when no such possible connections exist.
Power-Up WiFi On-Demand
you can be dosed with EMF.
From my experience, it does not take long for a WiFi enabled device to join a WiFi network. Vastly less time than it takes, for example, for my phone to find coverage.
Given this, it seems to me that the WiFi card on Glass should only be powered up when it is actually needed. That is, when a supported WiFi network is within reach, and when the user:
has requested an action that requires WiFi; or,
takes Glass off.
Given that this feature would affect the product experience in ways some consumers might find off-putting, “Enable On-Demand WiFi” could be a toggle in the Settings card.
Hardware Design Alterations
Use Non-Conductive Materials
non-conductive materials to choose from.
Which means that use of titanium in Glass (as opposed to some high-performance, non-conductive synthetic plastic, for example) increases the amount of EMF radiation to which consumers are exposed (in particular, on the contralateral side of the head from which the Glass computer is worn.)
Thus, the titanium in the Glass frame (which wraps the entire head, and straddles the nose) should be replaced with a non-conductive material, to reduce completely extraneous amplification and relay of the EM emissions from Glass. And, in general, I believe that Google should use only non-conductive materials throughout Glass, unless a conductive material is specifically required for the function of the part.
Move Away From Brain
Many people do not realize that the strength of electromagnetic radiation diminishes exponentially with distance. This is why every little bit of space that you can create between the source of EM emissions and your body is important (as evidenced by the fact that Apple says iPhones are not designed to be held or used within 10mm of the human body).
Thus, Glass should be redesigned to hold the microwave transmitter (and, probably, the entire computer portion) as far away from the brain as possible, given the supported use cases. Quite literally, every millimeter of distance that Google designs to exist between Glass and the brain, makes Glass safer to use, from the perspective both of EMF exposure and tissue heating. Ideally, Glass is redesigned not only to increase the space between the brain and the computer, but also to move it away from the temple (where your brain is not shielded by bone).
I should add, I consider the brain to be a pretty important organ. However, there are numerous reasons to be concerned about the effect of cell phone radiation on the eye (notably, cataracts, which can form much more rapidly than brain tumors). So, the distance between the Glass computer and both the brain and eye should be maximized.
Next-Generation Bug / Microwave / ELF / Spy Phone / GSM And Camera Detectors (Buy, Rent, Layaway) tinyurl.com/2eo8mlz Open...
— Spy Store Rentals (@MontyHenry1)
Nanny IP (Internet) Cameras, GPS Trackers, Bug Detectors and Listening Devices, etc, (Buy / Rent / Layaway): tinyurl.com/396jlw6...
— Spy Store Rentals (@MontyHenry1)
• Video is Recorded Locally To An Installed SD Card (2GB SD Card included)
• Email Notifications (Motion Alerts, Camera Failure, IP Address Change, SD Card Full)
• Live Monitoring, Recording And Event Playback Via Internet
• Back-up SD Storage Up To 32GB (SD Not Included)
• Digital Wireless Transmission (No Camera Interference)
• View LIVE On Your SmartPhone!
* Nanny Cameras w/ Remote View
* Wireless IP Receiver
* Remote Control
* A/C Adaptor
* 2GB SD Card
* USB Receiver
FACT SHEET: HIDDEN NANNY-SPY (VIEW VIA THE INTERNET) CAMERAS
* Transmission Range of 500 ft Line Of Sight
* Uses 53 Channels Resulting In No Interference
* 12V Power Consumption
* RCA Output
* Supports up to 32gig SD
* 640x480 / 320x240 up to 30fps
* Image Sensor: 1/4" Micron Sensor
* Resolution: 720x480 Pixels
* S/N Ratio: 45 db
* Sensitivity: 11.5V/lux-s @ 550nm
* Video System: NTSC
* White Balance: Auto Tracking
* You Buy Our DVR Boards And We'll Build Your Products! (Optional)
Our New Layaway Plan Adds Convenience For Online Shoppers
Phone: (1888) 344-3742 Toll Free USA
Local: (818) 344-3742
Fax (775) 249-9320
Google+ and Gmail
AOL Instant Messenger
Yahoo Instant Messenger
Alternate Email Address
Join my Yahoo Group!
My RSS Feed