If you’re concerned about the effects of cellular phone radiation on your health and your family’s, using low radiation cell phones is one of the quickest and most sensible ways to lower any potential risks.
A mobile phone’s radiation level is measured in terms of Specific Absorption Rate or SAR. Specific absorption rate (SAR) is a measure of the rate at which energy is absorbed by the body when exposed to a radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic field such as when using the cell phone. It is defined as the power absorbed per mass of tissue and has units of watts per kilogram (W/kg). SAR is usually averaged either over the whole body, or over a small sample volume (typically 1 g or 10 g of tissue). The value cited is then the maximum level measured in the body part studied over the stated volume or mass. [source: Wikipedia]
All cell phones emit radio frequency (RF) energy and the SAR levels vary by model. For a phone to receive FCC certification and be sold in the United States, its maximum SAR level must be less than 1.6 W/kg. In Europe, the level is capped at 2 W/kg, while Canada allows a maximum of 1.6 W/kg. Low radiation cell phones are phones whose SAR values are well below the defined FCC limit.
Low Radiation Cell Phones – Lowest SAR Levels
The list below is based on SAR information available from manufacturers and/or FCC, as well as product features, functionality, availability and user reviews. This list may grow or change at any time.
Do Low Radiation Cell Phones Guarantee Safety?
The issue is not really quite as straightforward as you may think. The effects of radiation on people vary depending on factors such as age, body type and state of health. The SAR measurement is not as precise, a fact that the FCC readily admits, and studies have shown that non-thermal biological effects occur at SAR levels below the FCC-defined limit. (Radiofrequency radiation produces both thermal and non-thermal effects in biological systems. The thermal effect is indicated as a rise in temperature of the irradiated system and is accompanied by physiological responses depending on the intensity and duration of the radiation. Non-thermal effects show as changes in cellular metabolism caused by both resonance absorption and induced electromagnetic fields and, when neural structures are involved, are often accompanied by a specific behavioral response. It is these non-thermal effects that can be produced even by low radiation cell phones that still necessitate precautionary measures.)
The following bits of information were culled from the Cell Phone Radiation Science Review, a recent report by the Environmental Working Group:
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FCC implemented the first cell phone radiation standards in 1996, adopting limits on the advice of industry. These limits were set up to protect against high-dose thermal effects, allowing for a 20-fold higher exposure to the head (1.6 W/kg) compared to the rest of the body (0.08 W/kg). They do not account for a child’s higher exposure and greater susceptibility to the radiofrequency radiation.
The FCC limits for cell phone radiation exposure, based on IEEE recommendations, allow the following SAR levels for whole-body exposure and for localized or partial-body exposure:
- Partial-body exposure (head): up to 1.6 W/kg, averaged over 1 g of tissue;
- Whole-body exposure: up to 0.08 W/kg, averaged over 1 g of tissue;
- Hands, wrists, feet, and ankles: up to 4 W/kg, averaged over 10 g of tissue.
However, FCC, the industry, and the scientific academia all recognize significant precision problems with SAR measurements. Studies have shown that it is difficult to generalize between the SAR induced in two given heads, for people of different ages or body types. Although significant improvements have been made in how the measurements are made, FCC in 2008 reported continuing “issues and concerns in applying these [SAR] procedures correctly”. Additionally, two modeling studies carried out in Japan demonstrated that when short subjects are exposed to high-power cell phone radiation the whole body SAR can be substantially higher than the current standard. [Choosing low radiation cell phones provides more leeway in light of this revelation.]
The current SAR standards for radiofrequency radiation were based on animal studies conducted in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Based on those studies, FCC, on the recommendation of the IEEE, adopted an SAR level of 4 W/kg as the point of departure for determining legal SAR limits for cell phones. In contrast to the FCC position, an independent analysis by the EPA scientists concluded, on the basis of the same body of data, that biological effects occur at SAR levels of 1 W/kg, 4 times lower than the level chosen by IEEE. Based on the EPA analysis, a point of departure at 1 W/kg SAR may well be a more scientifically defensible hazard level that should be used for determining legally acceptable exposure limits. In fact, the EPA scientist in charge of editing the 1984 report, D.F. Cahill, published a peer-reviewed paper where he indicated that SAR of 0.4 W/kg is likely to be a conservative threshold point, 10 times lower than the departure point chosen by IEEE. This conclusion is supported by a growing body of studies from researchers world-wide that observe biological effects of cell phone radiation at SAR values significantly below the limits adopted by FCC.
It should be noted that the IEEE-recommended SAR of 4 W/kg as the point of departure for adverse health effects corresponds to short-term exposure and does not take into account long-term or chronic exposure. Thus, the existing FCC cell phone standard may well be insufficient for protecting human health from potential effects of life-long use, especially for susceptible populations such as young children.
The current SAR standard may pose especial risk to the health of children. Children’s tissues have higher numbers of ions compared to adults, resulting in greater conductivity and increased capacity to absorb radiation. Children’s heads also have smaller thicknesses of the pinna, skin and skull, reducing the distance from the handset to the peripheral brain tissues. These factors result in higher SAR exposure for young children. According to a recent study with SAR testing models designed to correspond to the 5-8 year old child, a child’s head would absorb twice the radiation of an adults’. Similar results have been reported by the University of Utah researchers in 1996 and by the researchers from the Nagoya Institute of Technology (Japan) in 2003. Due to higher absorption of radiation, when a child uses a high-emitting cell phone, he or she could easily get an exposure over the current FCC limit.
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As you can see, opting for low radiation cell phones is a much desired solution towards minimizing any potential consequences from exposure. But employing other precautionary measures should still apply, since studies have shown that low SAR levels still have some non-thermal effects, the long-term consequences of which are yet to be known. Using low radiation cell phones with a scientifically proven cell phone radiation shield, for example, will go a long way towards safeguarding your health.
- Apple iPhone 3G/3GS/4/4S Radiation Ratings (SAR)