Underestimation of Cell Phone Radiation: A Call for Improving Safety Standards


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The current standards for certifying the safety of the use of cell phones need to be reviewed, and the methods for testing absorption of radiation among common users have to be modified. These are the strong recommendations of Om P. Gandhi, et al, who concluded in their October, 2011 study that absorbed cell phone radiation is underestimated by the standard testing and certification processes conducted by non-governmental, non-accountable agencies which are funded by the cell phone industry.

Measuring Cell Phone Radiation Absorption

Cell Phone Radiation Absorption: Image by Tim Parkinson

While current worldwide standards in the certification of the safety of use of cell phones assure the public that there are no serious long term effects of using these devices, studies conducted by scientists like O. P. Gandhi show otherwise. On the basis of their findings, they recommend that the certification process should be modified using more appropriate devices and that tests should be conducted by government agencies instead of institutions that are not accountable to the public.

In their published article, “Exposure Limits: The underestimation of absorbed cell phone radiation, especially in children” the authors argue that the absorption of cell phone radiation may be underestimated using the SAM Cell Phone Certification Process currently being employed.

To measure the absorption of cell phone radiation, cell phone compliance testing currently uses the Specific Anthropomorphic Mannequin (SAM) as a model. SAM represents a large adult male, weighing about 220 lb (100 kg) and standing at 6 foot 2 in (188 cm) in height. Thus, only a small part of the general population (3%) is being considered when this standard for testing is used. Women and children, who are typical mobile phone users, certainly would not be represented by this method of testing. Considering that children and women have smaller skulls and more bone marrow, with greater tendency to absorb radiation, it is highly possible that the absorption of cell phone radiation by women and children is being underestimated by current measures.

Other studies also show that cell phone radiation can affect different parts of the body depending on the location of the phone, such as when the phone is placed on a shirt pocket near the heart, and these are not taken into consideration in the current SAM modeling process of certification. Other conditions that are excluded from this method of testing are cell phone use by pregnant women and people of varying physique, and possible exposure of the eyes and thyroid to radiation.

The Need for Computer Simulation Certification Process

A revised finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) algorithm, which is an accepted computational method for specific absorption rating (SAR) modeling, has been approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) but is not being

Cell phone radiation testing is inadequate: Image by Webzoneme

employed to certify cell phones. The authors propose that is a superior method of testing, since it considers the different modes of use of mobile devices, anatomical head sizes based on MRI and CT scans, and tissue properties of the different parts of the head.

Using The FDA’s “Virtual Family,” consisting of children of different ages, women and men of different ages, women who are pregnant, and an obese male, studies were done to determine different brain tissue properties for use with computer simulation. Results showed that the Specific Absorption Rating in children was more than 150% greater than that for adults and that the radiation’s depth of penetration to the brain and other tissues was deepest in younger children.

With three orders of magnitude higher resolution, different tissues like the eyes, thyroid and heart can also be evaluated under this process.

Cell Phone Radiation Testing Recommendations

Aside from improving the process of cell phone certification, the authors recommend other measures which can help prevent serious effects of absorbing electromagnetic radiation from mobile devices such as using wired headsets, hands-free kits, texting instead of calling, and keeping the cell phone away from the head and body. They also assert that certification and safety measures should be assigned to government agencies that can be held accountable to the public instead of bodies that are non-governmental and funded by the phone industry.


Om P. Gandhi, L. Lloyd Morgan, Alvaro Augusto de Salles, Yueh-Ying Han, Ronald B. Herberman, and Devra Lee Davis. Exposure Limits: The underestimation of absorbed cell phone radiation, especially in children. (2011). DOI: 10.3109/15368378.2011.622827. Accessed October 27, 2011.

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