Does radiation from cell phones cause cancer? The jury is still out, with a recently released 10-year study organized by the World Health Organization saying no, and advocacy groups arguing that the research methodology was flawed.
Regardless of the controversy, a small Israeli startup isn't taking any chances. In July, Wise Environment began selling a do-it-yourself kit to protect iPhone (http://www.apple.com/iphone/) owners from radiation. The company claims that its product, dubbed Cell La Vie, reduces electromagnetic exposure from the phone by 98 percent.
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The Wise Environment founders are on a mission. "Parents are driving their young kids to use cell phones, to keep in contact," explains Ronny Gorlicki, Wise Environment's vice president of business development. "But at the same time, they want to protect them from future problems," even if it's not certain that those problems really exist.
At only NIS 179 ($47), Gorlicki feels his product is a worthwhile
investment "to defuse the question of what will happen 30 years down the
Starting with the iPhone
Cell La Vie can be a bit daunting to install - it's not a one-click
software app, but a physical product - a thin film you apply to the
front, back and sides of your iPhone with adhesive. The Cell La Vie kit
also includes a spray and pump to make sure your phone is totally clean
before you get started. "People are reticent in the beginning, fearful
that they'll screw things up," Gorlicki tells ISRAEL21c. "But it's no
problem to take it off and do it again. We'll even send a replacement if
Once affixed, the film acts to redirect radiation away from the body.
"Inside the phone is an antenna," Gorlicki explains. "The signal goes in
all directions. We had to figure out how we can cover up the points
where the radiation would penetrate the phone in the direction of the
body while maintaining the quality of the transmission."
Wise has so far focused only on the iPhone because of the extensive
media buzz surrounding the device. "Even people who haven't bought it
are talking about it," Gorlicki says, noting the "huge awareness in the
market of 'green' in general and phone radiation in particular. We hear
from people 'I'd held back from buying an iPhone from concern about
radiation. Now I just made the order because of your product.' "
Since every phone has its antenna in a different place, Wise will have
to develop separate films for every type of phone - and for every
version. For example, Cell La Vie doesn't yet work with the iPhone 4,
which has an entirely different type of antenna (one that has caused
users no end of frustration due to inadvertently dropped calls).
Wise is also focusing initially on smart phones. "They're the ones with
the higher price tag," Gorlicki explains, "So people are more ready to
invest in safeguarding themselves from radiation." Smart phones,
ironically, can increase their radiation levels as they detect signal
strength. The lower the strength, the more the phone has to work to
maintain a minimum quality of service, and as a result the radiation
increases.No instant gratification
Wise Environment has other radiation-protection products in the pipeline
(including one that may actually reduce radiation, not just guard
against it) but is progressing slowly. That's in no small part because
the company is entirely bootstrapped; it's relying now on sales from its
iPhone product, which is available in Israel at iDigital's Apple Stores
and the stationary chain Kravitz, to finance future production.
Gorlicki is optimistic and says sales are going well, pointing out that
"There have already been reorders."
However, given the company's scarce cash situation, sales beyond Israel
will have to rely on distributors. Gorlicki doesn't anticipate opening a
US or European office in the near future. And even if the patent
pending Cell La Vie is as successful as anticipated, Gorlicki says that
raising venture capital money will be tough.
He likens the Cell La Vie product to a mezuzah: "You don't know if it
has prevented some hardships or brought good things to you," he quips.
"There's no immediate gratification in that sense." He says that the
problem is with the VCs, who want to see immediate results.
This is not Gorlicki's first outing with a product that doesn't deliver
satisfaction on first use. In a previous position at Wizcom, he was in
charge of marketing the 'Quicktionary' - a digital pen that you run over
printed text to translate it into multiple languages. "There was a real
learning curve," Gorlicki recounts, "You had to hold the pen correctly,
to start and end it in the right place."
Completely made in Israel
Cell La Vie is not alone in the market; one of its better-funded
competitors is Pong Research, which has been reviewed widely, including
in Wired Magazine and The New York Times. But Pong, by its own
estimates, only reduces radiation by 60 percent and only from the front
of the phone, Gorlicki points out. Both Pong and Wise have had their
results verified, in Cell La Vie's case at MET Labs, a California
testing and certification company.
Gorlicki is proud that his product is entirely made in Israel and hopes
that even as production ramps up in the future, the company will be able
to resist the pressure to export manufacturing to China or another
He says he would be delighted to cooperate with Tawkon, a company whose
product indicates to smart phone users when their radiation levels are
too high. They would be a good match because Tawkon detects the
radiation, he explains, while Cell La Vie actually does something about
Regarding the WHO study, Gorlicki draws attention to the fact that the
research was in part funded by the phone companies themselves. The study
followed thousands of phone users in 13 countries to see whether people
who had brain tumors reported spending more time on cell phones during
the previous decade than other people did. The researchers reported that
they couldn't find any cancer correlation with cell phone use.
The study's main purpose, Gorlicki claims, was to give federal agencies a
benchmark of when radiation levels are too high. If the companies stay
within those levels, they're considered 'kosher.' But, he tells
ISRAEL21c, "we really don't know how much and how long it would take for
someone to reach proportions so high that he or she will get cancer."
Researchers are now considering a new, even longer study of up to 20
Not to mention that cell phone usage has increased dramatically and
phones have advanced technologically in the 10 years since the study was
started. What might have been considered 'average' use in 2000 would
pale in comparison with teenage cell phone use in 2010.
Secondhand radiation a possible danger
Perhaps the ideal scenario for Cell La Vie would be cooperation with, or
acquisition by a cell phone manufacturer or operator. But Gorlicki
isn't optimistic: "They don't want to have anything to do with it,' he
says, explaining that involvement could be construed as an admission
that cell phone use might not be 100% safe.
Even with Cell La Vie's protective film in place, cell phones still pose
a danger - to your neighbor. Gorlicki compares phone radiation to
secondhand smoke. "You could be getting secondhand radiation from the
guy sitting next to you in a restaurant talking on his cell phone," he
warns. Will there eventually be cell phone-free environments, he
Beyond being potentially dangerous to bystanders, Gorlicki reminds us
that cell phone use requires "good hygiene." Even if you're using a
corded headset, you don't want to stuff your phone in your pocket while
you talk. The phone still emits the same amount of radiation. Holding it
away from your body or placing it on a table is the safest bet.
Gorlicki is doing his best to live in his own 'wise' environment - the
company's headquarters are in his home just off of the HaBonim beach
south of Haifa, in northern Israel. "I wake up and take the dogs on a
walk near the shore," he says. "What a way to start the day when you're
working for an environmentally conscious company."