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Children's exposure to cell phone radiation greatly underestimated

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By Jimmy Downs

Saturday Sept 15, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- A study recently published in Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine has discovered that the exposure to cell phone radiation may have been underestimated particularly in children.  In other words, the current cell phone SAR ratings underestimate the exposure and many users are exposed to more cell phone radiofrequency energy than the "safe" limit.

In the U.S., a cell phone needs to be certified prior to being put on the market for its Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), which is a measure of the dose of radio frequency energy absorbed by the user when the mobile phone is used.  The FCC has adopted a "safe" limit for exposure to radio frequency (RF) energy, which is 1.6 wats per kilogram (1.6 w/kg).  Different cell phones give users different amounts of radiofrequency energy (SAR).  When a cell phone carries a label saying its SAR value is 1.6 w/kg, it means the user absorbs 1.6 watts per kg of body weight when using the cell phone.

But Om P. Gandhi of Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA and colleagues say the SAR valued marked on all cell phones are actually much smaller than the real exposures.  The problem is, the SAR values for cell phones is measured using a plastic model of the dead called the Specific Anthropomorphic Mannequin (SAM), which represents the top 10 percent of U.S. military recruits in 1989 and when this model is used in the current cell phone certification process, the labeled SAR value for typical mobile phone users particularly children is much smaller than the real value.

One factor to consider is the size of a user's head.  The authors say smaller heads receive higher exposure to radiofrequency, that is, even if the SAM value derived from the SAM model is under the "safe" limit, the real SAR can greatly exceed the limit in people with smaller heads, like children.  Another factor of concern is the fluid used in the SAM model, which is not representative of differential absorption of specific brain tissue, nor absorption in children or smaller adults.

Specifically, according to the report, the real SAR value for a 10-year old is up to 153% higher than that the SAM model indicates. When electrical properties are considered, a child's head's real absorption can be more than two times greater, and particularly part of the head - the skull's bone marrow absorbs ten times greater radiofrequency in children than adults. 

The authors say with all factors considered, a new certification process needs to be developed that incorporates different modes of use, head sizes, and tissue properties to ensure all users are not over-exposed to the cell phone radiation.  Long-term use of cell phones has been associated with drastically increased risk of brain cancer.

According to the paper, a superior computer simulation certification process has already been approved by the FCC but is not employed to certify cell phones for whatever reason.   It is expected that a model that includes all the factors discussed by the authors will indicate that none of the current cell phones meets the safe limit of radiofrequency for children and adults with smaller heads.  And many cell phones are not safe for some adults either.
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