Monday, October 5, 2015

Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge Specific Absorption Rates (SAR)

What are the SAR values for Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge? 

What is the manufacturer's recommended minimum body separation distance?  
How should consumers use this information?

Be sure to read the latest Consumer Reports safety warnings about cell phone use.

 Oct 5, 2015 (updated)

The Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) for the Samsung Galaxy S6 on the Verizon cell phone network is 0.33 watts per kilogram (w/kg) at the head for cellular transmission. The body SAR is 0.57 w/kg for cellular transmission; the wireless router SAR is 0.91 w/kg, and  the SAR for simultaneous transmission (cellular plus Wi-Fi) is 1.13 w/kg

According to Samsung, the SAR for the current version of this phone is 1.09 w/kg at the head and 1.16 w/kg at the body. Samsung reports that, "Earlier versions may have different measured SAR values, which are detailed in the User Manuals that accompany those handsets."

For the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge on the Verizon cell phone network, the head SAR  is 0.40 w/kg for cellular transmission. The body SAR is 0.55 w/kg for cellular transmission; the wireless router SAR is 0.96 w/kg, and the simultaneous transmission SAR is 1.17 w/kg. According to Samsung, the SAR for the current version is 0.88 w/kg at the head and 1.17 w/kg at the body.

The SARs for these models may also vary depending upon your specific cell phone carrier. All SARs reported above are averaged over one gram of body tissue (US standard).

According to Samsung, "Body-worn SAR testing has been carried out at a separation distance of 1.5 cm" (i.e., 15 mm or about 0.6 of an inch).  "To meet RF exposure guidelines during body-worn operation, the device should be positioned at least this distance away from the body." 

Although the SARs for the Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are somewhat higher, the body-worn SAR test was conducted at a separation distance of 5 mm (about 0.1 of an inch) so the body SAR values are not comparable to those reported for the Galaxy S6. The SAR values can be found in my article on Apple smart phones.

The Samsung Mobile Phone Health and Safety and Warranty Guide for the Samsung Galaxy S6 provides the following information on page 4: (
"For body-worn operation, this device has been tested and meets FCC RF exposure guidelines when used with an accessory that contains no metal and that positions the mobile device a minimum of 1.5 cm from the body. Use of other accessories may not ensure compliance with FCC RF exposure guidelines."
"This device has a FCC ID number: A3LSMG920T [Model Number: SM-G920T] and the specific SAR levels for this device can be found at the following FCC website:
The SAR information for this device can also be found on Samsung’s website:"  
The Samsung SAR test reports have the following caveat from the testing laboratory:

“Please note that the absorption and distribution of electromagnetic energy in the body are very complex phenomena that depend on the mass, shape, and size of the body, the orientation of the body with respect to the field vectors, and the electrical properties of both the body and the environment.  Other variables that may play a substantial role in possible biological effects are those that characterize the environment (e.g. ambient temperature, air velocity, relative humidity, and body insulation) and those that characterize the individual (e.g. age, gender, activity level, debilitation, or disease).  Because various factors may interact with one another to vary the specific biological outcome of an exposure to electromagnetic fields, any protection guide should consider maximal amplification of biological effects as a result of field-body interactions, environmental conditions, and physiological variables.” (p. 66)  (1,2)

What do SAR values mean to the consumer?

The legal limit for the SAR in the U.S. is 1.60 w/kg (averaged over one gram).

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires that all cell phone models be tested for their Specific Absorption Rate or SAR. The SAR is a measure of the maximum amount of microwave radiation absorbed by the head or the body. It is measured in a laboratory using an artificial model of a large adult male with different fluids to simulate human tissue. The SAR, which is measured in watts per kilogram, represents the maximum amount of energy absorbed in any one gram of tissue in the test model. Phones sold in the U.S. typically range in SAR values from about 0.20 up to the 1.60 legal limit. (3, 4)

The SAR test, adopted in 1996 by the FCC, was criticized by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in 2012. (5) The test does not reflect those who currently use cell phones, nor does it correspond to the way people use them. Today many children are cell phone users -- the child’s brain absorbs twice the radiation as the adult’s brain. Moreover, the artificial head does not contain any metal (e.g., dental fillings, earrings, or eyeglass frames) which could increase the radiation absorption beyond the measured SAR in the laboratory. (5)

The FCC assumes that consumers will carry their cell phones in a manufacturer-approved holder that keeps the phone a minimum distance away from the body. However, most people do not keep their phone in a cell phone holder. For the SAR test, the FCC allows the manufacturer to choose the separation distance between the cell phone and the test model as long as consumers are informed about the minimum distance tested. Few consumers are aware of the manufacturer’s recommended minimum body separation distance from their cell phone because this information is often difficult to find. Thus, most consumers are in the dark about precautions they can take to keep their exposure to microwave radiation below the legal limit.

To ensure that the cell phone does not exceed the legal limit, consumers should never keep their cell phone in their pockets or next to their skin. The cell phone is not tested directly against the body because most cell phones would fail the SAR test as the radiation absorption increases dramatically when the cell phone is close to the body.

Is the legal limit sufficient to protect the cell phone user’s health?

Federal policies in the U.S. would lead the public to believe that all legally-marketed cell phones are safe, and that a cell phone's SAR doesn't matter as long as it meets the legal limit: 1.6 watts per kilogram. (3, 4)

However, the Environmental Working Group and experts point out that the SAR only measures the maximum microwave absorption from cell phone use that perfectly matches laboratory conditions. The SAR is not a good indicator of one’s cumulative microwave exposure under naturalistic conditions.  The research evidence suggests that how one uses the phone (e.g., hands-free) and one’s cell phone carrier actually matters more than the phone’s SAR level.  (4, 6, 7)

The SAR standard was developed to protect users only from the acute effects of the heat generated by microwave radiation (i.e., the thermal effect). (5) The SAR limit does not protect users from the non-thermal effects caused by the cumulative exposure over time to cell phone radiation.

Yet, thousands of laboratory studies with animals and cell samples have found deleterious biologic effects from short-term exposure to low intensity cell phone radiation, including development of stress proteins, micronuclei, free radicals, DNA breakage, and sperm damage. (8) Human studies have also found that brief exposure to cell phone radiation alters brain activity and can open the blood-brain barrier which could enable chemical toxins in the circulatory system to penetrate the brain. (9)

Major studies with humans have found increased cancer risk, including a three-fold increase in brain cancer among those who used wireless phones (cell phones and cordless phones) for 25 or more years. (10)  Based upon this research, the World Health Organization in 2011 declared radiofrequency radiation "possibly carcinogenic" in humans (Group 2B). (11)

Other risks from cell phone use include reproductive health damage and male infertility, and neurological disorders (e.g., impaired cognitive functioning, headaches and migraines, and ADHD [attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder]) in children. (12, 13)

Based upon the weight of the evidence from several decades of research including thousands of peer-reviewed published studies, many experts worldwide have signed declarations calling upon government to adopt stronger radiation standards to protect consumers from low intensity, non-thermal exposures from radiation associated with wireless communications, and to alert consumers about how to reduce their risk of harm. (14 -16)

For tips on how to reduce exposure to wireless radiation, see "Some Tips to Reduce Your Exposure to Wireless Radiation". (17) In short, limit your use of the phone, keep the phone away from your body whenever it is powered on, use the phone hands-free, and turn off transmitters not in use (e.g., shut off Wi-Fi or use airplane mode).

Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D.
School of Public Health
University of California, Berkeley


(1) PCTEST Engineering Laboratory, Inc. SAR Evaluation Report. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (Galaxy S6). FCC ID: A3LSMG920V. Submitted to FCC. March 1, 2015.  

(2) PCTEST Engineering Laboratory, Inc. SAR Evaluation Report. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (Galaxy S6 Edge). FCC ID: A3LSMG925F. Submitted to FCC. March 1, 2015.

(3) FCC. Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) for Cellular Telephones. Undated.

(4) FCC. “Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) For Cell Phones: What It Means For You.” Undated.

(5) Joel Moskowitz. “"Comments on the 2012 GAO Report: 'Exposure and Testing Requirements for Mobile Phones Should Be Reassessed'.:”

(6) Wolchover N. Radiation Risk: Are Some Cellphones More Dangerous Than Others? Life's Little Mysteries. June 23, 2011.

(7) Environmental Working Group. EWG’s Guide to Safer Cell Phone Use: Where is EWG's cell phone database? August 27 2013.

(8) Giuliani L. Soffritti M. Non-thermal effects and mechanisms of interaction between electromagnetic fields and living matter. ICEMS Monograph. Bologna, Italy: National Institute for the Study and Control of Cancer. 2010.

(9) Joel Moskowitz. “LTE Cell Phone Radiation Affects Brain Activity in Cell Phone Users.” Sep 20, 2013.

(10) Joel Moskowitz. “Brain Cancer Risk Increases with the Amount of Wireless Phone Use: Study.

(11) Joel Moskowitz. “Most Significant Government Health Report on Mobile Phone Radiation Ever Published.”

(12) Joel Moskowitz. “Cell Phone Radiation, Pregnancy, and Sperm.” Nov 19, 2012.

(13) Joel Moskowitz. “Cell Phone Use and Prenatal Exposure to Cell Phone Radiation May Cause Headaches in Children.“

(14) Joel Moskowitz. “Part I: Why We Need Stronger Cell Phone Radiation Regulations--Key Testimony Submitted to the FCC.” Aug 4, 2014.

(15) Joel Moskowitz. “Part II: Why We Need Stronger Cell Phone Radiation Regulations--Key Research Papers Submitted to the FCC.” Aug 4, 2014.

(16) Joel Moskowitz. “Part III: Why We Need Stronger Cell Phone Radiation Regulations--98 Scientific Experts Who Signed Resolutions.” Aug 4, 2014.

(17) Joel Moskowitz. Some Tips to Reduce Your Exposure to Wireless Radiation  (one page handout). Undated.