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B.C.'s Cellphone Radiation Levels Safe
Vancouver Sun
Journalist: Jeff Lee
July 24, 2000

Cellular phones sold here all have radiation levels considered safe by the federal government, but the levels vary greatly from phone to phone, according to figures obtained by The Vancouver Sun.

Cellphone makers are required to file radiation data with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, but you won't find those levels printed in your cellphone's manual. It took The Sun two days of searching on the Internet to find radiation data for the cellphones most commonly sold in Canada.

Radiation levels have become an issue since the ABC television show 20/20 reported its own tests showed some phones exceeded the U.S. government's safety standards.

Industry and independent researchers differ on the potential for harm from high radio frequency emissions. Some scientists say high rates can lead to increased potential for brain tumours, but the industry says there is no conclusive proof high usage leads to cancer or other health problems.

However, researchers agree that prolonged exposure to temperature-raising emissions should be avoided.

Each model sold in the U.S. contains an FCC identification number, which can be plugged into an FCC Web site that holds company-supplied electronic documents, including test results that show maximum "specific absorption rates" (SAR).

But the site is difficult to use, requires special viewing software, and the information is often incomplete. Phones sold in Canada have both FCC and Industry Canada identification numbers, but there is no Canadian Web site providing SAR data.

In a test, The Vancouver Sun obtained the FCC identification numbers for 35 cellular phones now being sold in the Lower Mainland through the Telus, Rogers Cantel, FIDO and Clearnet services.

The newspaper was able to locate the SAR of less than half those models on the FCC site. The rest either did not have test results posted, did not have any documents posted, or were not listed.

The measurements were achieved by independent laboratories which used a dummy head and sophisticated measuring equipment to determine the emission outputs based on a variety of frequencies, channels, antenna positions and locations on the body.

The newspaper made no attempt to verify the accuracy of the emission rates the companies provided to the FCC.

The unscientific examination showed that of the 17 models examined, Motorola's Mike series, and its StarTAC digital phones had the lowest absorption maximums and minimums.

According to Motorola documents, the Mike i500 and i700 models, which are dual cellular and two-way radio phones, have minimum SAR of 0.16 watts per kg and maximum SAR of 0.27.

The Motorola StarTAC flip phone, which is one of the most popular models in the Lower Mainland, (and which is used by The Vancouver Sun's staff) has a minimum SAR of 0.19 and a maximum of 0.42.

The Audiovox 3300, manufactured by Hyundai Electronics, had the highest SAR maximum of those surveyed. Hyundai documents filed with the FCC showed its maximum SAR is 1.4514, with a minimum of 0.6165.

While it's currently difficult to get data about cellular phone radiation rates, the U.S.-based Cellular Telecommunication Industry Association plans to start listing this information on cell phone packaging in August.

Consumers won't likely see the new packaging before winter.

An Industry Canada spokesman said the new packaging may help sell more phones, but it isn't needed from a regulatory point of view.

"It's nice to know the CTIA is going to publish that the phone meets the standard. But it's already approved. Do you think the federal government would approve putting in the market a phone that doesn't meet its standard? I don't think so," said Rob Cepella, an Industry Canada technical policy analyst.

The new packaging will include a pamphlet identifying what SAR is and how it was developed by the FCC, the "absolute maximum" level the company found in testing and a notation that the phone meets FCC regulations, Larson said.

As well, each company will post the SAR levels on their own web sites.

Mark Choma, communications manager for the Ottawa-based Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, said CTIA's plan is the equivalent of putting a list of ingredients on the side of the box. The information isn't a warning. It's just more information for the consumer to digest, he said.

But do cell phone users really worry about radiation overexposure?

"We get the odd inquiry," concedes Koch. "But we tell people if they are concerned -- and we make no pronouncements about whether there is a danger or not -- they should use headsets."

Koch said he expects such sales will increase over the long term, but settle back down as consumers' worries lessen.

"Most people are driven by the need for ear candy, not by what's on the box," he said.

Anyone wanting to look up the SAR levels for their phone can access the FCC's Web site at However, the site is unreliable and Internet viewers may have to load the page in segments.


Specific Absorption Rates

Model Maker Network (FCC Max of 1.6 watts per kg.)

Audiovox 3300 Hyundai Electronics Telus 0.62 - 1.46

Sanyo SCP4000 Sanyo Clearnet 0.58 - 1.44

Ericsson T18d Ericsson Cantel 0.32 - 1.40

Nokia 8860 Nokia Cantel 0.16 - 1.39

Timeport Motorola Clearnet 0.22 - 1.38

LG 330 LG Information Telus 0.57 - 1.37

Audiovox 605 Shintom Co. Telus 0.49 - 1.36

Ericsson A1228D Ericsson Cantel 0.41 - 1.35

Qualcomm 860 Qualcomm Telus 0.35 - 1.25

Ericsson T18z Ericsson FIDO 0.47- 1.19

Nokia 8890 Nokia FIDO 0.25 - 0.94

Audiovox 4000 Toshiba Telus 0.84 - 0.85

Audiovox 4500 Toshiba Telus 0.84 - 0.85

Startac Digital Motorola Telus 0.19 - 0.42

Mike i1000 Motorola FIDO 0.27 - 0.35

Mike i700 Motorola FIDO 0.16 - 0.27

Mike i500 Motorola FIDO 0.16 - 0.27

This chart shows company-provided "specific absorption rates" (SAR) for some cell phones now being sold in the Lower Mainland area.

The test is based on the U.S. Federal Communications Commission limit for public exposure to radio frequencies from cell phones of1.6 watts per kg of tissue, based on tests on any one gram of tissue. Most tests were of the left side of the head.

The SAR is based on the power it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of human tissue one degree C.

The ranges cited are minimums and maximums of company tests involving a variety of frequencies, channels, antenna positions and locations on the body. The electronic documents are available on the web at

Not all cell phones sold in the Lower Mainland are illustrated.

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