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Feb 182010

From Green Right Now Reports

Whether or not cell phone radiation presents a human health risk remains one of those dangling  public health questions. Some studies have suggested that longtime users of cell phones face an increased chance of developing brain or salivary gland cancers. But many others have found no link, prompting some public health groups to give cell phone a clean bill.

Motorola Droid at the high end of the radiation scale at 1.49 SAR when held at the ear

Motorola Droid at the high end of the radiation scale at 1.49 SAR when held at the ear

In the absence of a clear signal either way, and in the  belief that we’d be better off to err on the side of caution, the Environmental Working Group analyzed the radiation from some of the newest model cell phones.

The results, released today, show that some of the top-rated, do-everything phones emit some of  highest levels of radiation.

“Motorola Droid, Blackberry Bold 9700, HTC Magic and LG Chocolate Touch, hyped as the latest and greatest new cell phones in 2010, rate high marks from tech experts for performance and features,” the EWG reported in a news release.

“But the flashy ads don’t disclose that these new models top the radiation charts. EWG has found that all four phones’ emissions are pushing the edge of radiofrequency radiation safety limits set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).”

The EWG is proposing a solution, inform consumers at the point of sale about a phone’s radiation ratings.

“A number of health agencies around the world advise people to reduce exposures to cell phone radiation, driven by recent studies raising questions about the safety of this radiation, particularly for children,” said Jane Houlihan, senior vice president for research at Environmental Working Group.

“That’s why it’s essential for consumers to have radiation output information before they purchase phones for themselves and their families.”

California and San Francisco officials are already discussing potential disclosure requirements. Those would require that the radiation emitted — technically known as the Specific Absorption Rate or SAR, a calculation based on emissions ouput measure again a kilogram of body weight — be placed on a phone’s label.

Federal law requires that a phone’s SAR level be disclosed to the FCC, but this information rarely makes it to consumers, the EWG says.

Apple iPhone, middle of the pack of phone's analyzed by EWG

Apple iPhone, middle of the pack of phone's analyzed by EWG

The CTIA Wireless Association, however, points out that consumers can find a phone’s SAR rating online and more importantly, can be assured that any phone sold in the U.S. does not exceed the FCC’s limits for radiation exposure from cell phones, set at 1.6 watts per kilogram (1.6 W/kg).

“The peer-reviewed scientific evidence has overwhelmingly indicated that wireless devices, within the limits established by the FCC, do not pose a public health risk or cause any adverse health effects,” said John Walls, vice president of public affairs for CTIA-The Wireless Association. “That is why the leading global heath organizations such as the American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration all have concurred that wireless devices are not a public health risk.”

One ripple in the theory that cell phone use is safe: People haven’t been using them that long, leaving a lack of long-term studies.

The EWG maintains that given the unknowns, labeling phones would better serve consumers by helping them sort out the high radiation phones from lower-emitting phones.

The non-profit public advocacy group argues that users need this information at least as much as they need the details of a phone’s features and aesthetics.

Motorola Brute, lowest on the list for radiation

Motorola Brute, lowest of those tested for radiation at 0.86 W/kg

There is good news in the EWG report. Three of the new 2010 phones — the Motorola Brute, Pantech, Impact and Samsung Mythic emit “significantly less radiation” than their higher-emitting competitors.

Also, users of any cell phone can take steps to limit dangerous exposure.

By texting, instead of talking, and using headsets or the speaker mode, phone users can limit the amount of time their phone is in direct contact with their head or body.

See the EWG’s list of cell phone safety tips for more info on wise phone use.

For more information in the debate over whether cell phone use increases one’s chance of brain, acoustic or salivary gland cancers, see this recent article in New Scientist magazine.