The Environmental Working Group this week released its latest radiation ratings for cell phones and smart phones. Apple's iPhone models can be found in the middle of the pack, unlike a number of its competitors.
Like the rest of us, the EWG staff say they can't do without mobile telephony and computing. However, they point out that the emissions from the devices may present a risk for head cancers (brain and salivary gland tumors) especially over a long exposure. The Federal Communications Commission sets maximum cell phone emissions.
In the meantime, we think it’s smart for consumers to buy phones with the lowest emissions. Before you buy, check out devices you’re considering for radiation output. Levels vary widely, from 0 .3 to 1.6, the legal limit, measured in watts per kilogram of body weight, also known as SAR (specific absorption rate), the amount of radiofrequency energy absorbed by the body when using a wireless device phone.
The plain iPhone 3G ranged from .24 to 1.03 W/kg and the iPhone 3GS spanned 0.52 to 1.19 W/kg. The first-gen iPhones are even lower. A list of all the phones tested is here.
At the bottom of the list was the Blackberry 8820 (1.28 - 1.58 W/kg), followed by three Motorola models (the Motorola i880, Moto VE440 and Motorola i335) and the Palm Pixi.
Of course, the easiest way to avoid the exposure issue with smart phones (or even dumb ones) is to use a wired headset with these devices. The EWG offers a list of tips to help avoid radiofrequency energy exposure.
A tip of interest to iPhone users is to avoid talking in low coverage areas. This may prove difficult for most AT&T customers.
Fewer signal bars on your phone means that it emits more radiation to get the signal to the tower. Make and take calls when your phone has a strong signal.
More about headsets. As I've mentioned in other posts, I'm a fan of passive noise reduction. I've liked what I heard of the Etymotic hf2 headset, which offers great sound in the ear as well as a good outgoing sound (and so it should for a retail price of $179). However, I don't own a pair — yet. For now, I still do most of my music listening on a regular iPod nano with my Etymotic ER•4 headphones and I want to get the value out of them before heading to fancier headset (FYI: I purchased my ER•4s online without any editorial discount; its list price is $299).