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New Smart Phones Push the Edge for Radiation

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Motorola's Droid, Blackberry Bold 9700, LG Chocolate Touch and HTC Nexus One by Google, hyped as the latest and greatest smart phones for the 2010 upgrade season, receive high marks from tech experts for performance and features.

The flashy ads and expert ratings don't disclose that these new models are also some of the highest radiation emitters among the phones currently on the market. EWG has found that all four phones' emissions are pushing the edge of radiofrequency radiation safety limits set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Recent studies suggest increased risk for brain tumors among people who have used cell phones for at least 10 years.

But 2010's offerings aren't all bad news. Three new phones -- Motorola Brute, Pantech Impact and Samsung Mythic -- emit significantly less radiation.

EWG has updated its online consumer guide to cell phone radiation, launched last year, to cover the latest mobile devices. The guide contains information on more than 1,000 cell phones and smart phones available on the U.S. market.

To access EWG's online cell phone database click here: http://www.ewg.org/cellphone-radiation

The FCC sets maximum cell phone emissions output at 1.6 watts per kilogram of body weight, a measure known as the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR). A phone's SAR value expresses the amount of radio frequency energy absorbed by the body when using a mobile device. Manufacturers are required to provide their devices' SAR values to the FCC and sometimes disclose this number in technical documentation but often do not display the data where cell phones are sold.

Today, California state senator Mark Leno introduced a bill to require the disclosure of the phone's radiation level at the point of sale. The Leno bill comes on the heels of similar legislation offered by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom requiring retailers to list each phone's radiation level anywhere the price and other features are listed. This information is currently not required to be disclosed to the public in any fashion, is not displayed at the point of sale, and is only available (other than in EWG's guide) through a tedious and complicated search of a Federal Communications Commission database.

EWG's update gives radiation data for new phones given top marks by CNET, PCMag.com, PC World and Consumer Reports. Technical experts at these publications rated phones for performance, usability, features and aesthetics but not radiation output.

Cell phones emit radiofrequency radiation when sending and receiving voice and text messages. Scientists around the world are conducting studies to address the outstanding questions on human health effects of radiofrequency radiation. In the meantime, EWG recommends that cell phone users buy phones with low emissions. EWG's website offers other tips so that cell phone users can minimize radiation exposure. Among them: use a headset or set the phone on speaker, hold the phone away from the head, don't store an active phone in a front pants pocket and text rather than talk.

Richard Wiles is the co-founder and senior vice president for policy and communications at Environmental Working Group (EWG).

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