Specific Absorption Rate (SAR): How Your Phone is Safety Tested

Do you know how the phone industry tests the safety of your phone?

We are all holding a phone that we assume has been rigorously tested for health and safety right? 

It’s true that there are various agencies around the world that define what is safe for cell phone users, so every phone does have to go through testing to ensure its safety. The test used for that is called the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) Test.

Dave Weaver of UL Labs defines “SAR is a measurement of how much energy a user of, say, a cell phone is receiving.”

What is the SAR Standard?

The FCC SAR standards say that 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. 

These standards have not been changed for at least 20 years and have not been reviewed in the light of the epidemic of phone and wireless radiation that has surged exponentially over these last 20 years. Although in 2013, they did vote that they should do an inquiry into whether the current standards are actually safe, and they renewed that decision in 2019, they have not updated the standards.

Are the SAR Tests Actually Safe?

Truthfully, we don’t know - and we wish we did.

Why are we questioning this?Because the tests have to be below the threshold of a 20 year old standard that the safety counsels haven’t investigated yet, and the Terms and Conditions on almost all phones have been changed recently to statements such as this.

“Body-worn SAR testing has been carried out at a separation distance of 1.5cm. The meet RF exposure guidelines during body-worn operation, the device should be positioned at least this distance away from the body.”

SAR testing shows requirement to hold your phone 1.5cm away from your body

To position the phone 1.5cm away from the body means to never touch it. Uh. We literally use phones called “touch phones!”

A Couple More SAR Questions

Here’s an interview about how our devices are actually tested: 

 

After learning how the tests are conducted we have a few other concerns regarding the adequacy of the SAR test:

  1. SAR is not a biological test.
    Labs use plastic dummies (Hi SAM) with basic chemical compounds like sugar, salts, oils, and water to do their tests. We’re not pro-animal testing, but we question whether a non-living chemical compound is a good substitute for a safety test.  
  2. The tests aren’t always done before a device is on the market
    Dale blatantly states that it would be nice if device makers sent devices for testing before they go to market, but they often don’t. They have tight turnaround times on their tests and that limits what they can achieve before they make it into the hands of consumers.
  3. Testing with a phone at least 5mm away from the plastic skin
    There is always a separation specification, and that’s where the testing is done - not next to your head, not in the pocket - where most people are carrying their phone. His suggestion is basically, “people are carrying it wrong” rather than, we test where people actually use it (against their heads).

In our opinion, this safety test is lacking.

Until we find a way to measure the response between the electrical current in living cells and the electrified wave fields of microwave radiation, and THAT comes back with results that show a device is safe, we suggest taking other measures to ensure your own safety.



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References

Met Labs Testing Information

FCC SAR Standards

FCC Radio Frequency Safety Pag