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The Safest (and Most Dangerous) Cell Phones

A couple weeks ago I wrote an article titled "Could Your Cell Phone End Up Killing You?," which resulted in a flooded inbox, consisting mostly of folks telling me stories of what they believe is anecdotal proof that cell phone use had caused tumors, both malignant and benign. And there were, of course, a couple who believe the research I cited was much ado about nothing. (A former boss told me cell phone radiation had reversed Alzheimer's in mice.) My piece mentioned that electromagnetic pollution surround us all the time. Cell phones are a major purveyor of particularly dangerous levels of radiation, due to their being so close to our heads and bodies most of the time, but electromagnetic radiation comes from all sources -- wi-fi, satellites, GPS, microwaves, and more. As a result, I felt it was necessary to point out a few recommendations that might lower your  exposure:
The IEFC recommends people use corded landlines whenever possible (a difficulty for those among us who've abandoned their landlines for the convenience of cell phones). They also recommend using cell phones as answering machines -- turning them on to check for messages and returning calls only. Carry your phone in a purse or bag, not on your body. Don't use your cell when you're inside a building or car because your phone will have to emit increased levels of radiation to send out the signal. Relying on text messages and non-wireless hands-free devices may also reduce health risks.
But people wanted to know which cell phones are safer, given that they're a must-have accessory in this increasingly always-connected world. Today, the Environmental Working Group, a group focused on providing information on public health and the environment, released a list of the cell phones it considers most safe -- and most dangerous. According to EWG, the top 10 low radiation phones are:
  1. Sanyo Katana II [Kajeet]
  2. Samsung Rugby (SGH-a837) [AT&T]
  3. Blackberry Storm 9530 [Verizon Wireless]
  4. Samsung I800 Omnia II [Verizon Wireless]
  5. Samsung Propel Pro (SGH-i627) [AT&T]
  6. Samsung SGH-t229 [T-Mobile]
  7. Helio Pantech Ocean [Virgin Mobile]
  8. Sony Ericsson W518a Walkman [AT&T]
  9. Samsung SGH-a137 [AT&T, AT&T GoPhone]
  10. LG Shine II [AT&T]
All of these have a radiation emission (in Watts absorbed per kilogram of weight, or W/kg) of 0.55 (the first) to 0.76 (the tenth). But what about the growing number of us who have smart phones? EWG also compiled a list of the top 10 smart phones recommended by techies, ordered in this version of the chart by increasing radiation level (the rank on the left orders it by desirability/high ratings from tech writers and bloggers):
Tech Expert Rank * Phone Model Service carrier(s) Radiation
# 7 phone image Motorola Brute i680 Sprint 0.86 W/kg
# 8 phone image Pantech Impact AT&T 0.92 W/kg
# 10 phone image Samsung Mythic (SGH-A897) AT&T 1.08 W/kg
# 6 phone image Motorola CLIQ with MOTOBLUR T-Mobile 1.10 W/kg
# 5 phone image Samsung Instinct HD (SPH-M850) Sprint 1.16 W/kg
# 2 phone image Apple iPhone 3G S AT&T 1.19 W/kg
# 3 phone image HTC Nexus One by Google T-Mobile 1.39 W/kg
# 9 phone image LG Chocolate Touch (VX8575) Verizon Wireless 1.46 W/kg
# 1 phone image Motorola Droid Verizon Wireless 1.50 W/kg
# 4 phone image Blackberry Bold 9700 AT&T, T-Mobile 1.55 W/kg
Among this group, the HTC Magic emits the most radiation (1.55 W/kg); the Droid is a close second (1.50 W/kg). The iPhone -- my own phone -- emits 1.19 W/kg. Among the smart phone group, the Motorola Brute has the lowest radiation levels (0.86 W/kg), which is of course higher than any in the group of ten phones EWG recommends we use. The Federal Communications Commission requires that all mobile phones be rated at 1.6 W/kg or lower -- so smart phones are really pushing the limit. As I wrote in my longer article earlier this month, no one knows exactly what the results of cell phone use will be in the long-term. Already cell phone radiation has been linked to tumor growth, particularly of the salivary gland. But some research also shows that prolonged cell phone use creates cognitive problems, damages DNA and causes infertility. Children and young adults are at particular risk due to their thinner skulls and faster cell growth. Personally, I've cut down on my voice plan and increased my text messaging plan. And I've set a goal of reinstalling my land-line. I'm hoping that helps.
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