Cell phone radiation is an inevitable side effect of the way phones work. Everyone knows it exists, the arguments are over how much – if any – is safe. So let’s take a look at the official cell phone radiation ratings and information, starting with answering the question “what is cell phone radiation measured in?”
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What is cell phone radiation measured in?
Cell phone radiation is the name given to the specific kind of electromagnetic radiation around mobile phones. This can also be called an electromagnetic frequency, and the area affected can be called an electromagnetic field.
It’s a type of electromagnetic frequency just like light, radio waves, infrared and X ray. Some of these are perfectly harmless. Some, like light from the sun, can become harmful if it’s too strong or too much – think sunburn, that can cause skin cancer. Others, like X rays, can be very dangerous and are highly regulated and protected against.
Read more: What is EMF radiation?
So, what is cell phone radiation measured in?
The unit is called SAR and means Specific Absorption Rate. The number is expressed as watts – the electrical amount, over kilograms – of tissue.
So the number looks like this: 1.6W/kg.
1.6 is actually the legal limit in the United States. Phones that exceed that limit are not allowed for sale. In the UK the limit is 2W/kg and is decided by the National Radiological Protection Board, part of Public Health England.For the US the limit is set by the FCC.
By learning more about the SAR you can read the literature on cell phone radiation, scientific reports, and government guidance with more understanding.
Your phone’s SAR measurement should be listed in the manual or on the manufacturer’s website.
How is the SAR worked out?
So how is the Specific Absorption Rate calculated?
Researchers from the mobile phone manufacturers carry out tests to measure how much radiation is absorbed by the body. They use models of an adult male head to see how much radiation enters the body and how far it passes.
This measurement should be taken when the phone – and its electromagnetic field – is at full power.
You’ve probably spotted a few problems with how the measurements are calculated. It’s these issues that worry people and mean they aren’t willing to accept reassurances that cell phone radiation is completely safe.
What are the problems with how SARs are calculated?
One of the major problems is the standard “body” used to calculate SAR is a model of an adult male head. This is used to see how far into the brain the cell phone radiation from any particular phone can go.
The average adult male head is larger than the average adult female head and much larger than the heads of teens or children. The radius of the circle of cell phone radiation from around a phone is going to cover much more of the brain of a teenager, or child, even a woman, than a man.
Read more: Mobile phone health risks for teenagers.
These tests are carried out mostly by the mobile phone companies themselves and there have been concerns raised about the potential for bias in mobile phone studies.
The differences in SAR allowed varies greatly by country. The UK allows nearly a quarter more than the US – 2W/kg versus 1.6W/kg. So there’s disagreement over exactly how much is safe.
In any case, the amount of radiation your phone emits can change during the course of a phone call. The SAR is not actually a fixed unit. It increases when phones work harder: when they are searching for a signal, making the initial connection, or low on battery.
Hopefully, you now understand more about what cell phone radiation is measured in. About how the rating system works and what to look for.