SAR Levels - What Are They and How Dangerous Can They Be?

Your Phone Can Be a Hotpot of Radiation Emissions: Find Out How

For many years, there has been speculation about the harmful implications of keeping mobile devices close to the human body. You may have heard the speculation and sought credible scientific facts to back up the claims.

Thankfully, solid evidence now exists to prove the levels of radiation emissions in modern smartphones. The BFS (German Federal Office for Radiation Protection) made a list of mobile phones with the highest emissions. This data can be helpful to new and existing users to understand how much their phones expose them to harmful radiation, as measured by Specific Absorption Rate (SAR). 

This piece highlights crucial takeaways from the report and the top offending smartphones on the list. So, is your smartphone a culprit in SAR readings? Read on to find out.


What Exactly is Radiation?

Many people take radiation and radioactive energy to mean the same thing. However, both phenomena belong in different categories but are frequently mixed up thanks to the mainstream media using both terms interchangeably.

Radiation is concentrated energy of any kind that travels at the speed of light. Radioactive energy, following that logic, is a subset of radiation, and you can have other forms such as microwaves, radio waves, and X-rays.

Radioactive energy is a specific form of radiation where the individual atoms in matter want to radiate their energy in particulate form. Therefore, you can surmise that all radioactive energy is a form of radiation, but not all radiation is radioactive.

By its nature, radioactive energy and radioactive materials can be harmful to organic tissues like the human body. While the radioactive matter is shedding its atoms through radiation (a process called radioactive decay), the particles can settle on living cells and alter their nature.

When is Radiation Harmful?

Given the fact that certain radiations can harm your body, you might want to know when you're in a dangerous situation with them. Typically, we categorize radiation into ionizing and non-ionizing agents.

Ionizing agents are radiation types that penetrate living tissues and take away some of their electrons. Over time, the phenomenon can destroy the tissue, causing cancerous growth. X-rays are a great example of ionizing radiation, and that's why you must use EMF protection and other safety apparatuses, like lead aprons, when exposed to them.

On the other hand, non-ionizing agents are types of radiation that can pass through living tissues without robbing them of electrons. Micro and radio waves are prime examples. While the general consensus may be divided, journalistic evidence points to a variety of possible health effects due to long-term exposures.

Where Does Your Phone Come In?

Your phone transmits electromagnetic waves similar to radio frequencies. That's why cell towers look similar to TV and radio broadcasters. Your body tissues absorb some of them as your smartphone sends and receives these waves. Since they are primarily non-ionizing, the electromagnetic waves aren’t harmful unless you get exposed to them constantly and for a long period.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn’t be wary of cellphone emissions. When localized, these radiations can have negative health implications in the long term. Regulatory bodies use the SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) to measure how deep radiation energy from smartphones can penetrate the body. The unit is watts per kilogram, and it might interest you to know that 2W/kg is the onset of harmful radiation, which can affect you when the phone is in your pocket or on the side of your head.

The Worst Smartphone SAR Culprits

Several regulatory bodies like the BFS and private sources like SafeSleeve have identified smartphone models with some of the worst SAR readings. For instance, the Motorola Edge had a woeful score of 1.79W/kg, too close to the danger zone. It is worth noting that these limits were set years ago by the FCC. The limits were based on FCC studies that were conducted in the 90s that reflected typical usage during the time period and based on the simulated effects on a 200 lb, adult male user. Clearly, the FCC limits were not set according to current usage patterns and did not account for the massive variety of the types of people that use cell phones, including children. 

Related: “FCC Investigating Levels of Radiation emitted by Cellphones - Apple and Samsung Class Action Lawsuit” 

The Bottom Line

Smartphone radiation energy is a concept to which you must pay attention. It’s best practice to remember to not put mobile devices close to the body very often, especially now that newer models have higher SAR readings. The negative effects may show up down the line.

What else can you do to protect yourself? Your primary course of action should be to limit contact with smartphones at any SAR level. However, since this isn’t reasonable for most in today’s highly connected world, here are some other ways users can reduce their exposure:

  • Avoid using cell phones for a long period. Mobile devices shall only be used for brief conversations or in case of unavailability of landline phones.
  • Refrain from making phone calls or using devices such as tablets in places with bad reception. The amount of radiation the cell phones emit is based on how strong or weak the reception is. Weaker reception means greater radiation.
  • Use wired devices or hands-free technology, such as wired headsets. This allows the user to keep a safe distance from devices; thus, thwarting the aggressive emission of radiofrequency radiation
  • Invest in anti-radiation shields and protective cases for your cell phones, tablets, and laptops. These products provide lab-tested shielding technology that can block over 99% of radiofrequency and 92% of extremely low-frequency radiation. You can find yours here