SAR vs. EMR: An Expert Clarifies His Stance on Cell Phone Radiation

A leading expert on cell phone radiation wants to set the record straight about what information consumers must have to protect their health. Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at UC Berkeley, is seeking to clarify comments recently published in the San Francisco Chronicle that he says were mischaracterized.

The article in questions detailed the demise of a San Francisco ordinance that would have required retailers to post the specific absorption rates (SAR) for the cell phones they offer for sale. SAR is a measurement of the levels at which radio frequencies penetrate body tissue. The San Francisco ordinance, which was tabled by the Board of Supervisors amid threats of legal action from the cell phone industry, would have been the first of its kind in the country.

As was reported <"">here yesterday, the Chronicle article characterized Moskowitz as asserting that SAR is not a very useful measure because it is the “peak reading on a variety of tests conducted on cell phones,” and “doesn’t indicate the average amount of radiation a user would generally be exposed to.”

But according to a press release issued by Moskowitz, that’s not exactly what he meant.

“Although the SAR is not a perfect measure of exposure, consumers have a right to know a cell phone’s SAR, the maximum radiation exposure, before they purchase a new phone,” his release says. “Just like the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) requires car manufacturers provide gas mileage ratings for typical city and highway driving, the Federal Government should also require that cell phone consumers be provided with estimates of typical radiation exposure.”

The release also calls on the federal government to lower the SAR legal limit, which at this time stands at 1.6 watts per kilogram.

But while it’s clear Moskowitz does feel SAR is important, the statement also implies that another measure – the phone’s electromagnetic radiation (EMR) exposure rate – may be much more important. According to the statement, phones that operate on Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) emit more EMR than those that operate on Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA).

Carriers that utilize CDMA include Verizon and Sprint, while those that utilize GSM include AT&T or T Mobile. According to Moskowitz, few people, other than industry-supported scientists are aware of the GSM vs. CDMA issue because the mass media have not covered it. In addition to cell phones, other sources of EMR include cell towers, cordless phones, “dirty electricity,” Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and more recently, Smart Meters

In his statement, Moskowitz calls on the federal government to fund research on the health effects of exposure to EMR. He further proposes a $1 per year fee on cell phones that would generate $300 million annually in the U.S. for research and education regarding EMR health effects.

Finally, Moskowitz calls on the federal government to adopt mandatory harm reduction measures, such as requirement to include wired headsets with every phone). His release points out that simply keeping a cell phone ten inches from the body, compared to an inch, results in a user being exposed to 100 times less radiation.

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