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The cell phone has revolutionized our lives in countless ways. However, with great benefits come potential risks. One particular area of interest revolves around a metric called the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), which quantifies the rate at which the human body absorbs energy when exposed to a radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic field. Understanding SAR and its implications on our health is becoming increasingly important as we further integrate mobile technology into our daily routines.
In this article, we will delve into the world of SAR, EMF radiation, and how they potentially interact with our health. From the science behind these phenomena to strategies for minimizing exposure, we’re going to explore it all.
The Science Behind SAR and Cell Phone Radiation
Cell phones communicate by transmitting and receiving signals in the form of RF electromagnetic waves. These waves carry the voice, text, and data we send and receive.
What’s important about this for our discussion is that, like any electromagnetic waves, those emitted by cell phones also carry energy. When your phone is near your body, some of this energy can be absorbed by your tissues, and that’s where SAR comes into the picture.
SAR value essentially tells you how much RF energy your body could potentially absorb while using a particular cell phone. Higher SAR values imply a higher potential exposure to RF energy.
Introduction to Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)
A cell phone’s Specific Absorption Rate, known as SAR, quantifies the RF-EMF radiation absorbed by the human body when using the device. For instance, a SAR of 0.5 implies that the user absorbs 0.5 watts of RF-EMF radiation per kilogram of their body weight. In theory, a phone with a higher SAR would potentially expose the user to higher levels of radiation in comparison to a phone with a lower SAR.
However, the challenge lies in the subjective nature of terms like “high” and “low.” The existing regulations by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States provide loose guidelines on cell phone SAR levels. According to the FCC, cell phone manufacturers must not distribute devices with a SAR exceeding 1.6W/kg.
One critical issue arises from the laboratory tests used to determine SAR, which assume an average-sized adult male as the user. These tests neglect considerations for smaller individuals, children, and pregnant women. Moreover, the tests are based on radiation levels during a 30-minute phone call, disregarding the fact that many users primarily engage in texting and using apps.
The FCC’s regulations were last revised in 1996 when cell phones were not utilized in the same manner as they are today. In the present era, cell phones serve multifaceted purposes and remain in close proximity to us throughout the day and night. To truly evaluate a phone’s safety through SAR, measurements should align with activities prevalent in contemporary society.
Furthermore, certain studies indicate that biological impacts from RF-EMF radiation become evident at levels as low as 0.22W/kg, with potential reproductive implications emerging at a mere 0.16W/kg. These figures are significantly lower than the FCC’s established standards. In essence, relying solely on an acceptable SAR rating does not guarantee the safety of all phones available on the market.
Finding Your Phone’s SAR
Discovering the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of most phones is a relatively straightforward procedure. Multiple approaches exist to obtain this information, and we will explore them in detail below.
Discovering the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of your phone can be a swift and effortless process through the utilization of a feature known as Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), commonly referred to as a quick code. By inputting a series of digits as if initiating a call, some individuals can promptly access their phone’s SAR information. The specific USSD code you need to use is:
Designed to unveil your phone’s test history, this code also includes the SAR values of the device. However, it is important to note that this method may not work universally across all phones. For instance, when we attempted this on a Verizon network with a Samsung 8+, the call connected to Verizon’s “call cannot be completed” recording. Similarly, on an AT&T network with a Samsung Note 10+, dialing the command resulted in an error message stating “command not supported.”
Results may vary, but it might be worth a quick attempt if you wish to discover your phone’s SAR.
User Manual or Manufacturer’s Website
To discover your phone’s Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), there is an alternative method that involves consulting the user manual or the manufacturer’s website, as mandated by FCC regulations.
Major phone manufacturers typically provide SAR information on their websites, albeit it may require some navigation. For instance, Apple includes an RF exposure section on its website, accessible by visiting their homepage and scrolling to the bottom. Clicking on “Legal” and scrolling down again leads to the first menu, “Hardware and Software,” where you can click on “RF Exposure” and locate the SAR details for your specific product.
Similarly, the SAR page on the Samsung website may be slightly concealed. For optimal results, a quick Google search is recommended using the query “(your phone’s make and model) SAR.” Locate the first non-sponsored search result from the manufacturer, such as Samsung’s own SAR page, where you can input your phone’s precise model number.
Additionally, the user manual proves to be a valuable resource for SAR information. Although the specific location may vary by manufacturer, the SAR data is typically located near other legal information within the manual.
An additional method we will explore to discover your phone’s Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) involves referring to the FCC ID website, which is operated by the FCC. This website provides access to a database where you can search for your phone’s SAR, but you will need to know the phone’s FCCID, consisting of the grantee code and product code.
Locating the FCCID is typically straightforward, and you can refer to your phone’s user manual for assistance. Alternatively, the FCCID can be found printed on the device itself, although its specific location may vary depending on the model. For example, on a Samsung 8+, you can locate the FCCID on the back of the phone. For instance, on a Samsung 8+, you can find the FCCID noted on the back of the phone.
Once you have obtained your phone’s FCCID, navigate to the FCC ID search website. The grantee code corresponds to the first three to five digits of the FCCID, while the product code encompasses the remaining digits, which may include numbers, letters, and dashes. By conducting a search with your phone’s FCCID, the website will direct you to a page displaying the SAR information.
An alternative approach to uncover your phone’s Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) involves accessing the device’s settings. The precise location of this information may vary depending on the make and model, requiring some exploration. Typically, the SAR details can be found within the phone’s legal information, although it may be somewhat concealed. Utilizing the search function within your phone’s settings menu, if available, can prove to be the most convenient method for locating the relevant setting.
Lowest SAR phones
An array of devices with notably low SAR scores are available in the market. If you’re in search of a new phone, we recommend considering one of the options listed below.
Samsung Note 10 and 10 Plus
Among the popular phones available today, Samsung’s Note 10 and Note 10 Plus stand out with impressively low SAR levels. The Note 10 Plus boasts a SAR value of just .208W/kg, while the standard Note 10 has a rating of .223W/kg. These figures are significantly below the FCC’s safety standard of 1.6W/kg and are in proximity to the threshold of .22W/kg where biological damage may occur.
In addition to their low SAR levels, both the Note 10 and Note 10 Plus offer a myriad of enticing features. These include a multi-camera system, an integrated stylus, and expandable storage, among others. With such remarkable features, these phones present a compelling choice for potential buyers.
Verykool Vortex RS90
The Verykool Vortex RS90 emerges as a remarkable phone with an even lower SAR than both the Note series. With an impressively low SAR rating of .18W/kg, the Vortex RS90 stands out among its counterparts. While it may be considered a relatively basic phone, its key selling point lies in its rugged durability. Despite lacking the extensive features of the Note 10, the RS90 can endure accidental falls and impacts, making it an ideal choice for those seeking a robust and reliable device.
Positioned as the ultimate minimalist phone, Mudita’s Pure offers a sleek and uncomplicated design coupled with an exceptionally low SAR value. With its e-ink display that reduces eye strain, along with essential features like a built-in speaker and Bluetooth functionality (which is recommended to be kept switched off), the Pure aims to provide a user-friendly experience. While the precise SAR figures haven’t been disclosed by the manufacturer yet, the Pure is advertised as an ultralow SAR phone.
Although still in production, the Pure has successfully achieved its Kickstarter goal and is currently available for pre-order. While it may not offer a multitude of features, if you seek a basic phone with a focus on low SAR emissions, Mudita’s Pure is expected to fulfill your requirements.
Do All Samsung Phones Have Low SAR Ratings?
Samsung has earned a reputation for manufacturing phones with low Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) values. This can be attributed to a pivotal change in FCC regulations in 2003. Prior to this, cell phone manufacturers were mandated to use omnidirectional antennas, which emitted signals in all directions. However, after the requirement was lifted, Samsung introduced a novel antenna design that redirected radiation away from the user during phone usage.
This innovation significantly reduced the SAR levels of Samsung phones. While the Note series from Samsung currently stands among the top phones in terms of SAR performance, it’s important to note that not all Samsung models share the same characteristics. For instance, the Samsung Galaxy S10 has one of the higher SAR values compared to other popular phones. Therefore, even when opting for Samsung, it is advisable to verify the SAR rating of your specific phone model.
Does a Low SAR Mean Your Phone is Safe?
The Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) may not necessarily provide an accurate representation of radiation exposure for everyone. As mentioned earlier, SAR is determined by measuring the RF-EMF absorption of an average-sized male during a 30-minute phone call. If you do not fit this specific profile or primarily use your phone for shorter calls, the SAR might not reflect your true level of exposure.
Nonetheless, SAR can serve as a useful indicator of phone safety. A low SAR suggests that a phone emits less radiation compared to others in the market. However, it is crucial not to solely rely on SAR values and instead adopt additional safety precautions to minimize the risk of health problems related to electromagnetic fields (EMF). Implementing measures such as using an RF-protective phone case, limiting call durations, utilizing a wired headset, and keeping the phone at a distance from your body are prudent steps to safeguard against EMF exposure. Combining a low SAR phone with lifestyle adjustments provides a stronger foundation for reducing exposure to EMF.
In our tech-driven world, understanding the potential health implications of the technology we use every day is essential. While more research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects of RF exposure from cell phones, staying informed and taking simple steps to reduce exposure can go a long way in mitigating potential risks.
Remember, knowledge is power. The more you understand SAR and cell phone radiation, the better equipped you’ll be to make informed decisions about your cell phone usage.