RF Radiation Emission Levels

The parameter used to measure the radiation emitted by cell phones is the specific absorption rate (SAR) given in units of Watts of power absorbed per kilogram of tissue (W/kg). The permissible upper limit for cell phones set by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is 1.6 W/kg of RF radiation.

The SAR value for your phone or for phones you are thinking of purchasing can be found at this website:

The SAR determined by testing your phone will be a number between 0 and 1.6 W/kg. As mentioned above, the SAR is a measure of the RF radiation that your brain absorbs. Knowing that the FCC limit is 1.6 W/kg and that some low-radiation phones have SARs lower that 0.3 W/kg, you will be able to tell where your phone stands regarding RF radiation emission.

Reducing RF Radiation Exposure

If there is an RF radiation risk from cell phones, it is probably small. But if you are interested in minimizing your potential risk, here are some simple steps that you can take:

  • Purchase a cell phone with a low SAR rating.
  • Reduce the amount of time that you spend on the cell phone by using a conventional corded phone whenever possible. Use of a corded phone (also called a “land line”) does not involve RF radiation exposure at all and is the preferred option if you need to be on the phone a lot. Corded phones should be used for normal day-to-day communication needs in homes and offices, especially for very lengthy calls and very frequent calls, just as a precaution.
  • Turn off your cell phone when it is not needed.
  • You can use the speaker phone setting on a cell phone to greatly reduce the RF radiation exposure because the phone’s antenna will not be directly next to your head (and brain). Using text messaging is also a good way to reduce RF exposure to your head. The farther the phone is away from you, the lower your exposure. Hands are very insensitive to cell phone radiation.
  • Cell phone radiation drops off very quickly as you move away from the phone’s antenna. As an approximation, if you double the distance between your head and the cell phone antenna the radiation exposure is reduced to 1/4 of what it was initially.
  • Be aware that cell phones emit RF radiation to some degree even when in the “standby” mode – when they are on but not in use. However, the radiation emitted in the “standby” mode is much lower than that emitted when the phone is in use. The phone is always in contact with a nearby cell site/base station when it is on, thus some radiation is always emitted. You can avoid this radiation by either keeping the phone off and letting calls go to voicemail, or having it away from your body like in a purse or backpack. Keeping a cell phone on in your pants pocket all day is not recommended.

This information is provided by UCI’s EH&S Department.

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