Hidden within your cellphone’s manual is a little-known warning that advises you to keep the device at a certain distance from your body — typically 5 to 15 millimeters — to ensure you don’t exceed the federal safety limit for radiofrequency (RF) exposure.
In the real world, however, most people carry their phones close to their body, usually in a pocket. Many women tuck their phone right into their bra, which may be the absolute worst place for a woman to put it, as it could raise their risk of both heart problems and breast tumors, two leading risks of death for women.
Now, cellphone testing by the Chicago Tribune1 reveals several popular cellphones emit far higher levels of RF radiation than legally permitted, which has not only reignited discussions about safety but also led to the launch of at least one class-action lawsuit.
How Safety Limits Are Determined
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The safe distance (listed in your cellphone manual) is based on your phone’s specific absorption rate (SAR). SAR is a measure of how much RF energy your body will absorb from the device when held at a specific distance from your body, typically ranging from 5 to 15 mm, depending on the manufacturer.
Put another way, it’s a measure of the degree to which your device will heat body tissue, which we now know is not the primary way that cellphones damage your body.
However, even though heat generated from your phone does not really damage your body, the SAR could be a good surrogate marker for the actual microwave radiofrequency exposure that does indeed cause cellular damage, as it is the microwaves that heat your tissue. So, typically, the lower SAR rating, the safer your phone, but not for the reasons they are telling you.
The SAR limit set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)2 is currently the only standard set to protect public health, so the fact that even these lenient standards are being exceeded is concerning.
In the U.S.