Sydney Morning Herald, 2.10.09
Handsets from high profile manufacturers such as BlackBerry and Motorola might be beaming out higher levels of radiation than those of some of their peers, says a recently published report.
The ranking of more than 1200 mobile phones was published online by The Environmental Working Group to draw attention to the issue of mobile-phone safety, which is the subject of vigorous debate among scientists.
The group ranked phones according to their radiation emissions. Topping the list was Motorola's Moto VU204, while BlackBerrys featured heavily at the top of the smartphone category. Four other Motorola handsets featured in the top 10, while the two lowest radiation emitters were the Samsung Impression and the Motorola RAZR V8.
Phones must have a maximum radiation rating of under two watts per kilogram to be considered safe by most international standards and the maximum levels for handsets in the EWG rankings ranged from 0.12 to 1.6 watts per kilogram.
The EWG cites research on its website linking prolonged use of mobile phones with brain tumours and other health problems as justification for publishing the figures. Because the rankings revealed a wide variety of radiation emissions, which it measures as the specific absorption rate (SAR), the organisation has called for these levels to be publicised at the point of sale.
"Because cell phones have become a virtual necessity, we're convinced that it's smart to buy devices with lower emissions, until the public health research catches up with these amazing products," it said.
According to the list, newer phones did not necessarily emit less radiation than older models with the Apple iPhone 3G S in the top third of the list with an output of 1.19 watts per kilogram.
Mobile handset makers such as Motorola claim there is no established link between health risks and mobile-phone use.
"All Motorola mobile phones comply with national and international safety guidelines for radio-frequency energy exposure. These standards provide wide margins of protection for users and the general public.
"Although SAR values for products vary, all SAR values for Motorola products are within safe exposure limits and all products are considered equally safe," the company said.
The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association said there was a large body of research endorsed by public health organisations such as the World Health Organisation that "continue, without exception, to find there is no substantiated scientific evidence of health effects" from mobile-phone usage.
Chris Althaus, chief executive of the association, said he was not sure of the value of the EWG ratings as a benchmark, given the other variables that could influence phone emissions.
"The mere fact that a handset is on the market means that it is compliant with international and national standards that are conservative by their very nature," he said.
However, others in the scientific community insist that we need more research into the long-term effects of mobile-phone usage. Of particular concern is the affect of radiation on children's development, behaviour and brain tissue.
Professor Bruce Armstrong, chairman of the University of Sydney Cancer Research Network, said he had recently taken part in an international study on the safety of mobile-phone radiation. Until the findings of that study are made public this year, he said it would be "prudent for a person to do anything to minimise any risk that there might be".
"I don't think anyone can honestly say at this point that there is no risk and I certainly support this group's initiative to publicise this data. If I were buying a mobile phone and that information was available, I would certainly consider it in part of my decision-making process," he said.