Posted on April 14, 2020
Playing it safe in the digital age doesn’t just mean avoiding malware and using a secure password. With all of the benefits we gain from our devices, there is — literally — an unseen element that shouldn’t be forgotten. As with anything electrical, our personal electronic devices and computers emit a measurable amount of radiation, the health risks of which are still being studied. Of course, we’re not giving up the convenience and utility they bring. Fortunately, Carlsbad-based SafeSleeve has us covered.
Cary Subel, SafeSleeve’s CEO and co-founder, first became aware of the risks back when he was a student at Torrey Pines High School and one of his friends, whose father was a neurologist, warned him against using his new laptop on his actual lap. “I took it with a grain of salt, but that idea never left my mind, and I found myself in college not wanting to use my laptop on my lap,” he remembers. “Studying engineering, we’re very solution-oriented and I was just thinking, ‘There’s got to be something I can put under the laptop to redirect or block or absorb the radiation so I can still use it on my lap and not have to worry about this.’” Teaming up with Alaey Kumar, a fellow student and frequent partner in his engineering studies, the pair plunged into researching the issue, engaging professors and using the resources available to them within their major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Following graduation, a prototype was developed similar to a regular laptop sleeve, and they successfully crowdfunded their efforts on Indigogo. “We started to get really good feedback and we saw that we had something here,” says Subel. “I think we had really good proof of concept that people were looking for a solution and we might have developed what we think is a really good one.” A cell phone case followed, and Subel and Kumar, SafeSleeve’s co-founder and COO, were able to take on leading the company full-time.
As general awareness of radiation exposure grows, the research currently used to measure the issue still hails from the virtual dark ages of tech, long before the first iPhone was ever created. “The FCC regulations for cell phone use exposure levels are based off studies that were done in the early to mid-’90s, and they were done to simulate a 200-pound adult male and the usage patterns that might have been more common in the early ’90s,” says Subel. Additionally, usage guidelines buried within phones’ settings hardly apply to actual practice, as they dictate holding the device within a certain distance from the body. “Whether it’s a foot or a few millimeters, ultimately, you’re using it in direct contact with your body most of the time,” Subel says. “So, they’re within the regulations if they’re at that distance that you never actually keep, and my speculation is that’s because if it does come down to a lawsuit, manufacturers can say ‘well, you didn’t use it as directed.’”
Your phone case likely isn’t doing the trick, either. “[Radiation] is going to go through pretty much any material out there that’s not specially formulated to block it,” Subel warns. He adds that no matter what you rest it on, be it a pillow, an airplane tray, a wooden table, or even most types of metals, it can be penetrated by the radiation emitted from your computer or phone.
Despite the frightening implications of this information, Subel says, “I hate the idea of scaring people into using our products. Obviously, we’re trying to educate and it’s a scary thing, but we prefer to be more solution-oriented.” The SafeSleeve product suite has grown since its initial debut to now include cases for phones (iPhone, Galaxy, and Pixel models), tablets, and computers as well as lap desks and accessories.
Not bulky and certainly not strictly utilitarian, designs are sleek, chic, and beautifully constructed. iPhone cases come in an array of colors to appeal to just about everyone. And of course, all include the company’s shielding material that combines radiation absorbing, recirculating, and deflecting so you can talk, work, post, and scroll safely. safesleevecases.com Deanna Murphy