Is it safe to carry your smartphone in your pocket? GAO requests energy limit reevaluation

Is it safe to carry your smartphone in your pocket? GAO requests energy limit reevaluation

Summary: I carry two phones in my shorts all summer and some recent reports have me a bit freaked out and thinking I may be harming my body with this practice. The GAO requested that the FCC reassess cell phone energy limits, but that will likely take years to get valid results. Do you take precautions to limit smartphone exposure?

TOPICS: Mobility, Android
Is it safe to carry your smartphone in your pocket? GAO requests energy limit reevaluation

A couple of reports came across my desk that frankly have me a bit freaked out about carrying my multiple mobile phones, I usually carry two phones from different carriers, in my pants and shorts pockets. My wife showed me an article she was sent from the Internet, discussed on this website, about a woman who reportedly developed cancer in the shape of her cellphone in an area where she regularly carried it (in her bra). The GAO also just issued a report today stating that exposure and testing requirements for mobile phones should be reassessed. We have seen conflicting studies over the years regarding possible harmful effects of cell phones, but they have all focused on making and receiving calls. Given today's saturation of smartphones and heavy data usage, I personally want to see more studies on whether there are any valid concerns on heavy data usage and placement of phones in our pockets.

You have probably read about the details of cell phone radiation levels and SAR ratings and may have even checked to see where your own mobile phone falls in the spectrum. In the US, the maximum SAR level for FCC-certified devices is 1.6 watts per kilogram. I understand that SAR (specific absorption rate) is a measure of RF energy absorbed by the body and typically this was applied to talking on the phone with it held to your head. The basic recommendation has always been to use a Bluetooth headset and keep your phone away from you. However, calling is not even the primary communication means today with text messaging and wireless data becoming more prevalent. Are there long term consequences to holding mobile phones in our hands or in our pockets for extended periods of time?

There is a free Android app, Tawkon, that uses algorithms to try to inform you when you are likely experiencing significant radiation levels. It looks like the app only measures this for calls with the warning to use a headset. I understand they are working on an updated version to predict radiation levels for data usage and that is what I am primarily interested in. Tawkon was rejected by Apple for the iPhone and the latest version for Android looks useful. Being that it is free, I intend to at least give it a try on my HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III.

The GAO (Government Accounting Office) recommends that the "FCC should formally reassess and, if appropriate, change its current RF energy exposure limit and mobile phone testing requirements related to likely usage configurations, particularly when phones are held against the body." This sounds to me like they too are interested in current usage configurations, such as prolonged text messaging or social networking. These studies generally take quite some time to perform because to be valid you really need a long term usage scenario or else results are just guessed using algorithms and theories.

As a father of three teenage daughters who rarely ever make calls, but text quite a bit I am concerned for their long term health. We actually have taken steps to encourage reducing direct exposure to their phones (limiting usage times) and it gets seized for a week if it is found in bed after they go to sleep. As a tech enthusiast who covers the mobile phone space and evaluates and uses a ton of smartphones, I want to know if I am putting myself at risk as well. My life has been enhanced by smartphones, but if it means I might possibly encourage cancer or other health problems then it isn't worth it.

Topics: Mobility, Android

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  • The Non-Ionizing Radiation Scare Goes Back 25 Years

    Study after study has been done over the last quarter-century into the supposed health effects of non-ionizing radiation. And yet to date there has not been one single reproducible result.

    We saw the same thing with ESP research: every now and then some researcher would claim to have found something, but it was never reproducible by anyone else, or even by the same lab.

    At some point you have to conclude that all you're seeing is random background noise. In other words, your'e seeing nothing at all. Absence of evidence does indeed become evidence of absence, after you've looked long and hard in every conceivable place.
  • Sometimes the tried and true ways are best.

    I've always found that a tinfoil hat works best in protecting the brain from nefarious electromagnetic radiation effects, although, of course, that's only from covert government programs. I guess maybe we should think about adding to that tinfoil jockey shorts.

    (Of course, if the hat isn't working, that idea may have been planted ...)
  • I have found

    That reading ZDNet does more harm to you than your cellphone ever would. =D
  • Repeat after me


    Repeat for twenty minutes each day or until sufficiently inoculated against ignorance.
    • Let me take this even further.

      Your cell phone is a transistor radio for crying out loud. Talk about irrational hysteria. Put the word radiation in front of anything and people go into a panic.
  • Don't carry it in your underwear

    or the heat might cause some unforeseen problems ;-)

    Otherwise you're safe.

    I have a complete eLearning module on Ionising radiation, if you'd like to learn the difference.
  • What to look out for!

    Your gummint will cause you more harm than will your phone!
  • Are you kidding???

    Try websites with real information.. or