Cell Phone Radiation Debate Continues

We've heard numerous arguments to back up both sides of the cell phone radiation debate. Some research indicates they are safe, others disagree. Now, a new study is fueling the argument that cell phones could cause serious side effects. According to a 10-year study from the World Health Organization (WHO), there's a proven link between the long-term use of a cell phone and increased risks for brain cancer and tumors.

The study, headed by Dr. Elisabeth Cardis, shows an 18% increase in brain tumor development with long-term cell phone usage. The United States did not participate in the Interphone study but Senator Tom Harkin, the head of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has promised to look into the question of a link between cell phones and brain cancer.

In an attempt to help make cell phones safer, there are companies that offer what's known as a SAR Shield, which can attach to any cell phone and potentially reduces harmful radiation waves by upwards of 89%. The SAR Shield combines technology from the same material that's used to shield Stealth Bombers from radar detection and telecommunications fields into a flexible sticker that's no larger than the size of a nickel. This sticker absorbs the electromagnetic waves (radiation) emitted while your phone is in use. It's currently the only tested and FCC-approved device that's been proven to lessen the specific absorption rate by upwards of 89%.

SAR Shield pad next to BlackBerry, right

SAR Shields sell for as little as $15.  Based on tests from the ABC TV show 20/20, some of the country's most popular cell phones can exceed the radiation limit. According to reports from 20/20, the government-testing guidelines are so vague that a phone can pass the Federal Communications Commission's requirements when tested in one position and exceed those maximum levels when held in another position.

Left: Normal Thermographic
Right:  Thermographics after 15 minutes of cell phone use

The following is a list of the highest and lowest rated cell phones, in terms of the SAR radiation rating.  Values are measured in watts/kg.

statistics, credit:  CNet Reviews

And if you were wondering where your beloved iPhone ranks, though it didn't make the top 20 highest or lowest list, it all depends.  First gen iPhones are somewhere in the middle at a SAR of .974, while 3G iPhones are near the top at 1.38, though the new iPhone 3GS is more middle of the pack at .79.
Regardless of which argument you believe one thing is certain: the debate about cell phone safety will continue. Many experts say that it's hard to predict the long-term effects of cell phone radiation, especially since many people have only been using cell phones for the past five to ten years.