Monday, October 24, 2016

Do iPhones emit more radiation than Samsung Galaxy phones?

Caveat Emptor:  In the following post, I re-iterate the concern of the U.S. Government Accountability Office that it is deceptive for the FCC to apply the SAR test in a manner that does not reflect how consumers actually use cell phones. I do not endorse use of the SAR test per se for cell phone safety certification because the test fails to address the risks from exposure to non-thermal levels of microwave radiation. We need to adopt biologically-based safety limits and an appropriate testing procedure. See my earlier post, "What's Wrong with Cellphone Radiation Safety Limits," for more information.

Several recent news stories reported that Apple iPhones emit twice as much radiation as Samsung Galaxy phones (Cho Mu-Hyun, “iPhones 'emit double the radiation' of Galaxy handsets: Korean agency,” ZDNet, September 27, 2016). This story has been reported in Australia, China, France, India, Japan, and South Korea.

According to Yonhap News Agency, Representative Choi Myung-gil who serves on the South Korean Assembly’s Telecommunications Committee stated that six Apple products received a Tier 2 rating from the country's National Radio Research Agency (NRRA). In contrast, all Samsung products received a Tier 1 rating. The Tier 1 rating is awarded to mobile devices with a Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) below 0.8 watts/kilogram (W/kg) whereas devices with a higher SAR are given a Tier 2 rating.

Representative Choi also expressed concern that the SAR has been increasing over time for all cell phones and tablets and asked his government to do more to protect the public from wireless radiation exposure.

In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considers all cell phones with a SAR of 1.60 W/kg or less to be safe. Unlike Korea and Belgium (below), the FCC discourages consumers from comparing SARs when selecting a phone. According to the FCC:

“ALL cell phones must meet the FCC’s RF exposure standard, which is set at a level well below that at which laboratory testing indicates, and medical and biological experts generally agree, adverse health effects could occur. For users who are concerned with the adequacy of this standard or who otherwise wish to further reduce their exposure, the most effective means to reduce exposure are to hold the cell phone away from the head or body and to use a speakerphone or hands-free accessory. These measures will generally have much more impact on RF energy absorption than the small difference in SAR between individual cell phones, which, in any event, is an unreliable comparison of RF exposure to consumers, given the variables of individual use.”

What is the full story?

The SAR is a measure of the maximum amount of microwave radiation absorbed by a test dummy, not the amount of microwave radiation emitted by a wireless device. Moreover, according to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the SAR does not provide an accurate representation of the amount of radiation that the typical cell phone user’s head and body absorb over time. For more information about how to interpret the SAR see the links at the end of this article.

The tier rating classifications in Korea are misleading because they only account for the SAR tested at the head. Furthermore, they only address the situation when Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned off while testing cellular transmission.

When tested near the head with W-Fi and Bluetooth turned off, the iPhone 7 does indeed have higher SARs than Galaxy 7 smartphones. However, in simultaneous mode with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned on along with the cellular transmitter(s), the iPhones and Galaxy phones have similar SARs near the head. According to test reports filed with the FCC, without Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, iPhone SARs ranged from 1.09 to 1.19 W/kg as compared to 0.62 to 0.64 W/kg for Galaxy phones (see results below). However in simultaneous mode with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned on, iPhone SARs ranged from 1.42 to 1.49 W/kg as compared to 1.40 to 1.56 W/kg for Galaxy phones.

Unlike the SAR head test which is conducted at a fixed distance from the test dummy (about 6 millimeters), the SAR body test can be conducted at different distances from the dummy (up to 25 millimeters). The distance is selected by the phone’s manufacturer. SAR values from phones tested at different distances from the dummy should not be directly compared because they are not comparable.

Although with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned off, the iPhone 7 and Galaxy 7 smartphones appear to have similar body SARs, these phones were tested at different distances from the body. The iPhones were tested at 5 millimeters, and the Galaxy phones were tested at 15 millimeters. If the Galaxy phones had been tested at 5 millimeters, the SAR values would likely have been between 1.73 and 2.78 W/kg. (These estimates are based on research by Om Gandhi which found that SAR increases 5% to 10% for each millimeter closer to the body.) Moreover, since the body SARs for the iPhone ranged from 1.09 to 1.14 W/kg, the body is exposed to less radiation from an iPhone than a Galaxy phone when Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned off.

Based upon SAR test results, when Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned on in addition to cellular, the body absorbs considerably less radiation from an iPhone, whereas the head absorbs similar amounts of radiation as compared to Galaxy phones. 

FCC needs to standardize the body SAR test

The FCC should standardize the distance from the test dummy for the SAR body test. Since hardly anyone uses a manufacturer-approved cell phone holder to keep the phone away from their body, there is no justification for allowing phones to be tested at different distances from the dummy. Also, consumers who wanted to compare the body SARs from different phones would then be able to do so.

All phones should be tested next to the body where people actually keep their cell phones. However, it is likely that no phone would pass the test and be certified for sale in the U.S. 

Some phones may even fail the SAR test with a 5 millimeter body separation distance. For example, the Samsung Galaxy 7 phones would not likely have been certified for sale because the maximum SAR allowed in the U.S. or Korea is 1.60 W/kg, and the body SARs would have exceeded this limit if the phones were tested at 5 millimeters.

Belgium’s 5-tier safety system for cell phones

Belgium has a 5-tier safety classification system. All cell phones in Belgium are labeled with the letter A, B, C, D, or E, corresponding to the phone's head SAR (averaged over 10 grams of simulated tissue):
  • "A" indicates a SAR less than 0.4 watts/kilogram (W/kg),
  • "B" from 0.4 to less than 0.8 W/kg, 
  • "C" from 0.8 to less than 1.2 W/kg, 
  • "D" from 1.2 to less than 1.6 W/kg, and 
  • "E" more than 1.6 W/kg.
In Belgium it is compulsory to display a poster at the point of sale that explains the SAR-value categories and advises the consumer to make phone calls wearing an earpiece and to choose a mobile phone with a lower radiation value.

“Think about your health – use your mobile phone moderately, make your calls wearing an earpiece and choose a set with a lower SAR value.”

SARs reported to the 
Federal Communications Commission

The maximum SAR allowed in the U.S. and Korea is 1.60 W/kg averaged over one gram of simulated tissue. The SARs reported below were averaged over one gram. 


iPhone 7 (Model A1660: GSM and CDMA)
Head = 1.10 watts per kilogram (W/kg) 
Body = 1.14 W/kg
Hotspot = 1.16 W/kg
Simultaneous (cellular plus Wi-Fi) = 1.49 W/kg (head), 1.56 W/kg (body), 1.56 W/kg (hotspot)

iPhone 7 (Model A1778: GSM, no CDMA) 
Head = 1.19 W/kg 
Body = 1.09 W/kg
Hotspot = 1.14 W/kg
Simultaneous (cellular plus Wi-Fi) = 1.56 W/kg (head), 1.51 W/kg (body), 1.58 W/kg (hotspot)

iPhone 7 Plus (Model A1661: GSM and CDMA)
Head = 1.09 W/kg 
Body = 1.10 W/kg
Hotspot = 1.13 W/kg
Simultaneous (cellular plus Wi-Fi) = 1.45 W/kg (head), 1.51 W/kg (body), 1.58 W/kg (hotspot)

iPhone 7 Plus (Model A1784: GSM, no CDMA) 
Head = 1.09 W/kg 
Body = 1.14 W/kg
Hotspot = 1.14 W/kg
Simultaneous (cellular plus Wi-Fi) = 1.42 W/kg (head), 1.54 W/kg (body), 1.54 W/kg (hotspot)


Galaxy S7
Head = 0.62 W/kg 
Body = 1.06 W/kg
Hotspot = 0.55 W/kg (head)
Simultaneous (cellular plus Wi-Fi) = 1.40 W/kg (head), 1.50 W/kg (body), 1.59 W/kg (hotspot)

Galaxy S7 Edge
Head = 0.64 W/kg 
Body = 1.07 W/kg
Hotspot = 1.10 W/kg
Simultaneous (cellular plus Wi-Fi) = 1.56 W/kg hotspot

Also see:


Cell Phone Radiation
iPhone 7 Models: Specific Absorption Rates (SAR) or RF Exposure
Government Failure to Address Wireless Radiation Risks
An Exposé of the FCC: An Agency Captured by the Industries it Regulates
    Model Ordinance 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Berkeley Cell Phone "Right to Know" Ordinance: Media Coverage

Updates on the 
Berkeley cell phone "right to know" ordinance:  

Since July, 2014, more than 200 news stories have been published regarding the cell phone “right to know” ordinance that the Berkeley City Council unanimously adopted on May 12, 2015.

An Associated Press (AP) story published on June 11, 2015 appeared on more than 100 web sites throughout the U.S. including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and ABC News. An AP story published on September 22, 2015 appeared on more than 155 new sites in the U.S. and Canada.

News stories about the ordinance have appeared in thirteen other countries: Australia, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Lithuania, New Zealand, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

For regular updates about the status of the ordinance and the lawsuit filed by the CTIA--The Wireless Association in the industry's effort to kill this landmark consumer disclosure law see

Following are links to the news media coverage to date (Last updated 10/22/2016)

ABA Journal (Sep 22, 2015)
ABC 7 News (San Francisco) (Jul 15, 2014)
ABC 7 News (San Francisco) (Aug 20, 2015)
ABC 7 News (San Francisco) (Sep 13, 2016)
Apple Daily (Taiwan) (Mar 23, 2016
Apple Daily (Taiwan) (Mar 23, 2016)
Ars Technica (Jun 9, 2015)
Ars Technica (Aug 20, 2015)
Ars Technica (Sep 21, 2015)
Ars Technica (Jan 28, 2016)
Ars Technica (Sep 13, 2016)
Associated Press (Jun 11, 2015) - published on more than 100 news sites
Associated Press (Sep 22, 2015) - published on more than 155 news sites in US & Canada
Associated Press (Jan 28, 2016)
Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (Nov 13, 2014) (in Mandarin) (July 15, 2014)
Bay City News (Sep 22, 2015) (in Mandarin) (July 14, 2014)
Berkeley Daily Planet (Sep 21, 2015)
Berkeley Daily Planet (Sep 13, 2016)
Berkeley High Jacket (Dec 20, 2014)
Berkeley Patch (Bay City News) (Sep 13, 2016)
Berkeleyside  Op-Ed  (Oct 17, 2014)
Berkeleyside (Nov 18, 2014)
Berkeleyside (Nov 26, 2014)
Berkeleyside Op-Ed (May 5, 2015)
Berkeleyside (May 13, 2015)
Berkeleyside (Jun 8, 2015)
Berkeleyside (Aug 21, 2015)
Berkeleyside (Sep 22, 2015)
Berkeleyside (Jan 29, 2016)
Bloomberg News Radio (mp3: 0:06:55 - 0:08:35) (Jul 15, 2014)
Bloomberg Politics (Nov 26, 2014)
Bloomberg BNA (Sep 22, 2015)
Bloomberg BNA (Oct 20, 2016)
Breitbart News (Jul 15, 2014)
Breitbart News (Jun 10, 2015)
Business Insider (Jul 15, 2014)
Business Insider India (Jul 15, 2014)
California City News (Dec 1, 2014)
California Healthline (Jul 16, 2014)
California Healthline (Sep 23, 2015)
California Magazine (Aug 19, 2014)
CBS News (May 12, 2015)
CBS News (May 13, 2015)
CBS News (Jun 8, 2015)
CBS Sacramento (Jan 28, 2016)
CBS SF Bay Area (Aug 22, 2014)
CBS SF Bay Area (Jul 16, 2014)
CBS SF Bay Area (May 13, 2015)
CBS SF Bay Area (May 20, 2015)
CBS SF Bay Area (Jun 8, 2015)
CBS SF Bay Area (Jul 27, 2015)
CBS This Morning (Jul 27, 2015)
CBS SF Bay Area (Sep 13, 2016)
Chico Enterprise-Record (Nov 21, 2014)
CNN (Jul 28, 2015)
CIO India (Jun 9, 2015)
Computerworld (Jun 8, 2015)
Computerworld Australia (Jun 8, 2015)
Computerworld New Zealand (Jun 8, 2015)
Consumer Reports (Sep 24, 2015)
Contra Costa Times (Nov 21, 2014) (Oakland Tribune, Nov 24, 2014)
Contra Costa Times (Oct 7, 2015)
Contra Costa Times (Jan 28, 2016)
Contra Costa Times (Mar 8, 2016)
Courthouse News Service (Jun 9, 2015)
Courthouse News Service (Aug 20, 2015)
Courthouse News Service (Sep 22, 2015)
Courthouse News Service (Jan 22, 2016)
Courthouse News Service (Jan 28, 2016)
Courthouse News Service (Sep 13, 2016)
CTV News video (Canada) (May 17, 2015)
CTV News story (Canada) May 17, 2015)
Daily Beast (May 13, 2015)
Daily Californian  (Jul 16, 2014)
Daily Californian (Nov 19, 2014)
Daily Californian (Jun 9, 2015)
Daily Californian (Sep 22, 2015)
Daily Californian (Feb 1, 2016)
Daily Californian (Sep 14, 2016)
Davis Enterprise  (Jul 22, 2014)
Delfi Sveikata (Lithuania) (May 21, 2015)
Digital Trends (Aug 1, 2015)
Discovery News (May 20, 2015)
East Bay Express (Jul 15, 2014)
ECN Magazine (Jun 10, 2015)
Ecosalon (Jul 18, 2014)
Epoch Times (May 12, 2015)
Fierce Wireless (Jun 9, 2015)
Fierce Wireless (Sep 22, 2015)
First World News Channel (Sep 13, 2016)
Forbes (Oct 13, 2015)
Fox Business (Sep 22, 2015)
Fusion (May 3, 2016)
GSMA (wireless industry assn.) (Nov 24, 2014)
GSMA (May 25, 2015)
GSMA (Jul 13, 2015)
GSMA (Oct 29, 2015)
The Guardian (London, UK) May 15, 2015)
Headlines and Global News (Jul 17, 2014)
Healthcare Global (Dec 1, 2014)
The Hill (Jun 5, 2015)
The Hill (Sep 22, 2015)
Huffington Post (Paul Brodeur), (Jul 27, 2015)
Inside Towers (Sep 30, 2016)
Kachwanya (Kenya) (Aug 6, 2015)
KALW  Crosscurrents   (audio - Sep 24, 2014)
KALW (audio) (Oct 8, 2015)
KFMB (CBS8, San Diego), Sep 27, 2016
KGO 810  Radio News (San Francisco) (Jul 15, 2014)
KIMT (Iowa, Minnesota) (May 18, 2015)
KKSF AM Talk 919 (San Francisco) (audio) (Jul 15, 2014)
KPAX (Missoula, MT, CBS News8) (May 12, 2015)
KPFA Radio (May 13, 2015)
KPFA Pacifica Evening News (42:13 - 44:30)(Sep 30, 2016)
KQED Forum (Lawrence Lessig interview: 48:00 - 50:00) (Jan 8, 2015)
KQED Forum (Joel Moskowitz & Allan Balmain, 9:30 - 10 AM) (May 18, 2015)
KRON4 (Sep 22, 2015)
KRON4 (Sep 13, 2016)
KTVU (Fox News) (May 13, 2015)
KTVU (Fox News) Sep 13, 2016)
Law 360 (Jun 9, 2015)
Law 360 (Sep 22, 2016)
Law 360 (Jan 28, 2016)
Law 360 (Mar 2, 2016)
Law 360 (Apr 5, 2016)
Law 360 (May 13, 2016)
Law 360 (Aug 12, 2016)
Law 360 (Aug 29, 2016)
Law 360 (Sep 13, 2016)
Legal Reader (Sep 24, 2015)
Los Angeles Times (Jun 9, 2015)
Mobile Commerce News (Aug 7, 2015)
Mobile Today (Iran) (Sep 13, 2016)
Mother Jones (May 11, 2015)
Mother Jones (May 13, 2015)
NBC Bay Area (Mar 28, 2015)
NBC Bay Area (May 12, 2015)
NBC Bay Area (Jun 8, 2015)
NBC Bay Area (Aug 20, 2015)
NBC Bay Area (Mar 21, 2016)
NBC Bay Area (Sep 13, 2016)
Newser (Jun 10, 2015)
News Inferno (Jul 16, 2014)
New York Magazine (Jul 24, 2015)
New York Times (Jun 11, 2015) - AP article
New York Times (Jul 21, 2015) (my comments on NYT article)
Northern California Record (Oct 22, 2016)
PAN Swiss Newsroom
PC Advisor (UK) (Jun 8, 2015)
PC World (Jun 8, 2015)
PC World (Jul 10, 2015)
Public Health Watchdog (Jul 17, 2014)
Public Knowledge (May 25, 2016)
Public News Service (Aug 20, 2015)
Public News Service (Sep 29, 2016)
RCR Wireless News (Jun 9, 2015)
RCR Wireless News (Jun 11, 2015)
The Recorder (Jun 8, 2015)
The Recorder (Aug 20, 2015)
The Recorder (Aug 21, 2015)
The Recorder (Sep 21, 2015)
The Recorder (Sep 13, 2016)
RT (May 12, 2015)
RT (Jul 31, 2015)
RYOT News (May 14, 2015)
San Francisco Appeal (Sep 21, 2015)
San Francisco Chronicle  (Jul 15, 2014)
San Francisco Chronicle (Sep 25, 2015)
San Jose Mercury News (May 13, 2015)
San Jose Mercury News (Jun 9, 2015)
San Jose Mercury News (Sep 22, 2015)
San Jose Mercury News (Oct 7, 2015)
Science Times (May 13, 2015)
Seattle Times (Jul 14, 2014)
SF Gate / SF Chronicle (Jun 8, 2015)
SF Gate (Aug 20, 2015)
SF Gate (Sep 21, 2015)
SF Gate (Jan 28, 2016)
SF Gate (Mar 23, 2016)
SF Gate (Sep 13, 2016)
Sputnik International (Jul 31, 2015)
Sputnik News (May 17, 2015)
ThinkProgress (Jul 22, 2015)
TIME Magazine (May 12, 2015)
TreeAngle (Indonesia) (Sep 23, 2015)
Tuoi Tre (Vietnam) (Mar 23, 2016)
UK Progressive Magazine (May 19, 2015)
Voice of America (Jun 5, 2015)
Wall Street Journal (Sep 22, 2015)
WCTV News (CBS2, Tallahassee, FL) (May 12, 2015)
WCVB News (ABC5, Boston)  (Jul 15, 2014)
WDTV News (CBS5, West Virginia) (May 12, 2015)
WFMY News (CBS2, Greensboro, NC) (May 12, 2015)
WIVB News (CBS4, Buffalo, NY) (May 13, 2015)
WKBN News (Youngstown, OH) (May 12, 2015)
WREQ News (CBS3 Memphis,TN) (May 12, 2015)
WTSP News (CBS10, Tampa Bay, FL) (May 12, 2015)
Yahoo! Finance (Sep 27, 2016)
Yahoo! News (CBS) (Jul 16, 2014)
Yahoo! News (CBS) (May 12, 2015)  (Jul 17, 2014)