Microwave Emissions from Mobile Phones Exceed Safety Limits

In his scientific report from early 2019, Prof. Om. P. Gandhi shows that mobile phones fail the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) safety limits both in Europe and the USA. He recommends that the regulators change current compliance testing methods.

As consumers, we generally think that all electronic products we use, including mobile phones, are safe to use.  When it comes to mobile phones and other wireless technology, one of the safety tests that a product needs to pass before it’s released to the market is a Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) test. The results of such test reveal whether the product is above or below a set safety limit.

Prof Gandhi reveals that the current safety standards and the way these tests are carried out are not providing us, the consumers, with true results. And because of that, we can’t rely on them. We’ll explain why.

What is SAR?

 

To make it as simple as possible, SAR is a value stated in W/kg that gives you an idea about how much of radiation you absorb whilst making a phone call (with a phone at your head), downloading files or being connected to wifi.

If you’d like to understand a little more about SAR, please read our article called ‘What is SAR: safety and health concerns.’ [link to article]

Who is Prof Gandhi?

 

Now you might be asking yourself: Who is this professor and why should I listen to what he has to say in his report?

Prof. Om. P. Gandhi , is currently the Chair at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Utah.

Below is a list of some of his professional achievements:

  • author and co-author of over 200 journal articles on electromagnetic dosimetry, microwave tubes, and solid-state devices
  • editor of Biological Effects and Medical Applications of Electromagnetic Energy (Prentice-Hall, 1990)
  • co-editor of Electromagnetic Biointeraction (Plenum Press, 1989).
  • president of the Bioelectromagnetics Society (1992-1993)
  • recipient of the d’Arsonval Medal of the Bioelectromagnetics Society for pioneering contributions to the field of bioelectromagnetics in 1995
  • co-chairman of IEEE SCC 28.IV Subcommittee on the RF Safety Standards (1988-1997)
  • chairman of the IEEE Committee on Man and Radiation (COMAR) 1980-1982
  • recipient of the Microwave Pioneer Award of the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society in 2001
  • scientific advisor of the Environmental Health Trust
  • recipient of the State of Utah Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology in 2002

 

In other words, Prof Gandhi is an expert in his field.

Phones fail safety tests when held against the body 

Prof. Gandhi gives an overview of both of his own findings and of the results of a very extensive cell phone SAR test data report prepared by the French National Agency of Frequencies (ANFR).

Both papers agree on the following:

Most cell phones’ SAR is way above the safety limits when held against the body. They exceed those limits 1.6-3.7 times within the European standards and up to 11 times within the U.S. standards.

If you’re wondering how this is even possible, read on.

What is wrong with current SAR testing methods? 

 

1.Unrealistic distance between phone and body: 

 

According to the professor, over the past 5-10 years, the manufacturers started to recommend we hold a phone between 5-25mm away from the body. Same is done with SAR testing.

But what would happen if we do the same testing at a 0mm distance from the body, the way we usually use a phone?

The vast majority of people usually carry a phone in their pocket or on their body or place it right to their ear when on a call (that is unless they use a loudspeaker or a set of headphones). When browsing, we usually carry a phone in one hand.

It has been already proven that the closer the phone to the body, the higher the SAR reading.

This is why Prof Gandhi believes that without adding distance as part of the set test conditions, the majority of wireless devices won’t comply.

 

2. SAR Measurements at different distances 

 

To illustrate his point, take a look at the below SARs in W/kg measured for representative phones (out of 450 tested). They were held against the flat phantom model of the body at manufacturer-suggested distances (D) and at distances of 5 and 0mm. (Table taken from Reference 1):

The results clearly show that at 0mm distance, none of the tested phones pass the current safety limit of 2 W/kg in Europe and 1.6 (W/kg) in the US.

Unrealistic head/body model: 

Prof Gandhi confirms that the current test model is based on an Army Recruit test model with large head size. Based on this, it is only clear that such baseline isn’t suited to reflect the variety of phone users. What about the SAR in children with a much thinner skull and developing the brain, or in women and men of smaller head sizes?

 

Recommendation: Change current test conditions

Prof. Gandhi strongly suggests that the industry regulators set up compliance testing under realistic conditions. He recommends that:

  • test at 0mm distance to reflect realistic user experience
  • Include a variety of phantom models to include children, women, and men of smaller head sizes.

What’s in it for you?

Now that you have been educated on how things work behind the scenes of mobile phone safety testing, we sincerely hope that you will use your critical thinking and common sense and remember that:

  • A lower SAR rating doesn’t necessarily make a phone safer for daily use.
  • Unless your head is the same size as of a 100g army recruit, you will always absorb a larger amount of radiation.
  • Children absorb far more radiation than adults

 

We don’t ask that you suddenly stop using your phone and other wireless devices. But we do invite you to take care of your body well to build resilience and limit exposure where possible.

 

Read more on our tips on how to reduce SAR. 

 

 

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References:

 

  1. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=8688629
  2. https://ehtrust.org/new-study-cell-phones-exceed-safety-limits-when-phones-touch-the-body/
  3. https://ieeeaccess.ieee.org/?http://ieeeaccess_ieee_org/
  4. https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2019/02/05/smartphone-ownership-is-growing-rapidly-around-the-world-but-not-always-equally/

 

Author Veronika Appleford Divincova

 

Author Bio:

 

Research assistant, educator and content creator at Qi-Technologies.

In life, I believe that with more knowledge and understanding we can make better decisions.

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