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Friday, June 10, 2011

What's your cell phone's maximum radiation level?

By Sharon Machlis (Computerworld)
June 3, 2011

Computerworld - With recent news of a possible link between cell phone radiation and risk of brain cancer, you may have a new-found interest in knowing how much radiation your mobile handset is giving off -- or, more importantly, how much your body might be absorbing.

The FCC's legal limit for mobile phones is 1.6 Watts of radiofrequency energy per kilogram, using a measure called Specific Absorption Rate (SAR).

The Environmental Working Group, which tracks SAR data for more than 1,300 cell phone and smartphone models, notes that several factors besides your handset affect your actual level of exposure. For example, distance from the cell tower plays a part: If the connection is weak, the handset needs to generate more radiation to make a connection to the tower. Network frequency and technology may play a part, and even the age of the user is an issue.

"Children and teenagers would likely get higher radiation dose than adults from the same phone," EWG spokesperson Leeann Brown said in an email.

Distance from the phone also matters. Using a headset or the speaker -- or texting instead of talking -- are inexpensive ways to cut down your exposure, EWG advises. The organization has posted 8 cell phone safety recommendations on its Web site.

The FCC also cautions that SAR alone doesn't tell the full cell phone safety story, since it measures maximum possible and not typical radiation levels.

There's a fairly wide range of SAR levels for cell phones tracked by EWG using data from vendor Web sites, last updated in December 2010, ranging from the LG Quantum's 0.35 W/kg to several Motorola models that come in just at 1.60 W/kg.

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