2013 update: how safe is your mobile/cellular phone?
A 2013 update on the radiation levels for popular mobile/cellular phones and smartphones in the Caribbean.
As we become increasing attached to our mobile/cellular handset, it is important to remain mindful of the radiation emitted by those devices and to adopt practices that could reduce possible harmful effects of prolonged mobile/cellular phone use. In that regard, and since 2011, we have been collating and publishing data on the radiation levels from a broad range of popular handsets sold in the Caribbean. The brands that are tracked are: Blackberry, iPhone, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson. In this post, we update the listing by including some recent releases since our last review.
What are acceptable radiation levels?
Mobile/cellular phones, similar to microwave ovens, emit non-ionising radiation, which heat up a body at the cellular level. The rate at which this energy is absorbed by the body is called the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) – the power absorbed per mass of tissue – with units Watts per kilogram (W/kg).
Within the Caribbean, mobile phone vendors typically reference the SAR limits used in the United States and in Europe:
- In the United States, the SAR for mobile phones must be less than or equal to1.6 W/kg.
- In Europe, the SAR limit for mobile phones is 2.0 W/kg.
However, as mentioned in our first radiation review exercise, there are a number of factors that affect the amount of energy emitted by a mobile/cellular handset, and consequently the amount of radiation to which a user is exposed. They include:
- the distance between the phone’s antenna and the user
- the distance from the nearest base station
- the quality of the mobile device
- the quality of connection
- the level of network congestion at a given time (NCI).
The sections that follow present the SAR for a number of popular mobile/cellular handsets sold across the Caribbean. Although well-known brands are presented, the results vary drastically from model to model, and do not appear to be influenced by the size of the device, or whether it is a no-frills handset or a smartphone.
Since our 2012 review, the following BlackBerry mobile/cellular devices have entered the Caribbean market: the BlackBerry Curve 9320, which was released last year, and more recently, the BlackBerry Q10, and the BlackBerry Z10. Figure 1 shows the SARs for a number of popular BlackBerry handsets that either have been, or are still being, sold in the Caribbean. The latest additions to the list have been highlighted for ease of reference. For the listed devices, SARs ranged from between 1.12 W/Kg and 1.47 W/Kg, all well under both the US and European safety limits.
Since our last review, Apple released the iPhone 5 handset. Figure 2 presents the SAR for Apple’s most popular devices, starting with the iPhone 3G. SARs for Apple’s mobile/cellular smartphones range from 0.52 W/Kg for the iPhone 3G, to 1.18 W/Kg for the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5.
Over the past year, there does not appear to have been any major addition to the Motorola suite of handsets available in the region. Hence the devices reviewed remains unchanged, as reflected in Figure 3. The results range from 0.86 W/Kg for the RAZR V8, to 1.25 W/Kg for the Karma QA1.
Figure 4 shows the SAR for select Nokia devices sold within the Caribbean region. A number of new Nokia handsets have been included in our review and have been highlighted on the graph: the Nokia Asha 302; the Nokia Asha 306; the Nokia Asha 311; the Nokia Lumia 610; and the Nokia Lumia 800.
Those phones, consistent with most of the Nokia handsets sold in the region, tend to be quite economical, and would appeal to those who need a reliable handset, but either cannot afford or do not need smartphone capabilities. SARs range from 0.66 W/Kg for the Nokia N97, to1.51 W/Kg for the Nokia 300.
To the list of Samsung mobile/cellular handsets that we reviewed last year, we have added the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Samsung Galaxy SIII mini. As shown in Figure 5, the SARs range from 0.268 W/Kg for the Samsung i9000 Galaxy S, to 1.03 W/Kg for the Samsung i8190 Galaxy SIII mini.
Over the past several years, Sony Ericsson mobile/cellular handsets have waned in popularity in most Caribbean countries, and as a result, very few models are being sold in the region. The selection included in this exercise has remained unchanged from last year, and as shown in Figure 6, their SARs fall between 1.01 W/Kg for the W705 and 1.18 W/Kg for the C510.
Image credit: Techzblog.in