Most of us have heard about the myriad studies done over the past few years that claim cell phone use leads to a marked increase in salivary gland and brain tumors. And while none of these studies are conclusive–WHO, the FDA, and the American Cancer Society all claim that cell phones are completely safe–they are enough to strike fear into the health-conscious among us. After all, no one thought cigarettes were toxic, either, until one day someone did. All of which is why the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) new searchable cell phone radiation database nearly crashed upon its debut yesterday.
The database allows concerned cell-phone users to search over 1,000 phone models for radiation levels, which cell-phone manufacturers are not required to disclose in advertising or printed materials. Surprisingly, there are drastic differences in radiation levels from phone to phone.
The Blackberry Bold, for example, has an ultra-high specific absorption rate (SAR)–a measure of how much radiation is absorbed by the body when the phone sends signals to the network– of 1.51 W/kg when held to the ear, and the iPhone 3G has a SAR of 1.31 W/kg. In comparison, the Samsung Impression and Motorola RAZR release negligible amounts of radiation, at 0.35 W/kg and 0.36 W/kg, respectively.
But let’s be realistic. Few people are going to buy the RAZR instead of Apple’s tricked-out iPhone just because the former releases less radiation. The EWG’s ratings might tip the scale in favor of one phone or another in the case of two similar models, but otherwise, the database is just a handy tool to have around if someone ever conclusively finds a link between cell phones and cancer.