What Is SAR?
FCC Limits for Microwaving Your Body
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allows cell phones to microwave your brain, tissues and organs – just as long as the heat generated within the body doesn’t exceed a certain limit. Isn’t that comforting to know? This heat that builds up when our body parts are exposed to the microwave radiation of our phone is called SAR, an acronym for Specific Absorption Rate.
Each manufacturer submits their own SAR testing results on every phone they want to market. (I guess it’s basically like the honor system.) The FCC checks the manufacturer’s documents to make sure that the SAR levels didn’t exceed 1.6 watt/kg during the test. NOTE: Watts/kg measures the rate at which heat is absorbed by human tissue – so, basically, the longer we’re on a call, the more heat is generated in our tissues.
Each phone is given two separate SAR ratings by the FCC: one when held at the ear, and the other when tested “on the body”. This is misleading because they actually perform the test while the phone is held away from the body in a holster rather than ON the body. When you receive a call or a text message and the phone is in your pocket (next to your heart, breast or reproductive organs)…well, the manufacturer isn’t required to test for that.
The duration of exposure during a SAR test is only 30 minutes. The FCC assumes no one ever makes calls that exceed 30 minutes?! Also, the testing criteria uses a “dummy” the size of an enormous man with a HUGE head larger than 90% of the entire population to represent the “typical user”; therefore, the brains and bodies of children and smaller people are penetrated by the microwave radiation more deeply than allowed during a maximum 30 minute call. This is one reason countries such as France and UK have issued precautionary statements warning against cell phone use by children.
Want to know the SAR rating of your phone?
Check your user guide. Some manufacturers include the SAR rating for the device in the package. Most don’t – and you’ll need to go to the FCC website to find the actual SAR value. Caution: Some websites, i.e., CNET, publish SAR values, but instead of listing the maximum value for the phone, they only list the SAR rating at the ear. This tells you nothing about the rate of microwave radiation exposure when you carry the phone on your body (in your pocket, on your waistband…even if you use a holster.)
Environmental Working Group (EWG) lists phones with the lowest and highest SAR ratings. Although, simply purchasing a phone with a relatively low SAR value does NOT mean it is safe to use smashed against your head or carried/used directly against your body as in a pocket. Manufacturers warn against doing this (read Warning: Never carry your cell phone in your pocket!), as it could expose your body to microwave radiation that exceeds the federal safety limit.
If you can’t find the SAR rating in the information that came with your phone, check the manufacturer’s website. Or, you can go directly to the FCC website once you find your FCC ID number. (They don’t make this easy for us, do they?)
1. Locate your phone’s FCC ID number inside the phone’s case. You may need to remove the battery.
2. Go to www.fcc.gov/oet/fccid/alternate.html and enter your phone’s ID. Look for the SAR values both at the ear and when carried on the body in a holster.
When I checked on my BlackBerry Pearl’s FCC information, I found the following from the actual SAR test report document that was submitted by Research in Motion (RIM), the manufacturer:
The BlackBerry Pearl was “designed to be used in direct contact with the user’s head, hand and to be carried in approved accessories when carried on the user’s body.”
The SAR values listed for the BlackBerry Pearl are 1.22 at the ear and 1.52 in a holster.
Wow! Check that SAR value in the holster – 1.52 is dang close to the maximum allowed 1.6! So, basically, this device tests right at the highest level for microwave radiation exposure WHILE IN THE HOLSTER!!
Hey, RIM…it would have been nice to have the heads up that your BlackBerry Pearl was designed to NOT be carried around in people’s pockets!
Can you see why I became so concerned after wearing it around in my pocket for 8 months!? No one knows the SAR value of this device when worn ON the body. We just know it’s a heck of a lot higher than the SAR value they report. Wonder what body parts my phone was cookin’ during those 8 months….
So, how do you carry YOUR cell phone around?