Henry Lai, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington who has researched the issue in the past, reviewed EWG’s report and says the group is on the right track. “There’s no solid conclusion right now on whether cellphone use leads to increased health risk,” he says. “But all the data shows cause of concern, and that’s very well brought out in the report.”
Cellphone radiation is transmitted by the antenna and the circuitry inside the handset by sending out electromagnetic waves (radio frequency radiation) to transmit their signal. The radiation emitted by the antenna is not directional, which means that it propagates in all directions more or less equally. Factors such as the type of digital signal coding in the network, the antenna design and its position relative to the head determine how much radiation is absorbed by a user, says EWG.
Other household appliances, such as microwave ovens, emit radiation, but no other device is in such close contact with the human body as a cellphone. “You don’t put your head inside the microwave,” says Lai. “And unless you are standing very, very close to it, the radiation from microwaves is very low.”
The Federal Communications Commission sets the acceptable U.S. radiation standards for cellphones. The effects of the radiation depend on the rate at which energy is absorbed by a mass of tissue. This is called as the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) and measured in watts per kilogram (W/kg). Most handset makers use private certification companies to test the SAR on their devices.
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