Specific Absorption Rate


I was bored and had a stronger-than-usual espresso, saw the above Tweet, so obviously I decided to read the Health & Safety Guide that came with my cell phone.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set specific limits to Radio Frequency (RF) that any given electronic device can emit.  Theoretically, at or below this level is “safe.”  The actual number comes from the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement (NCRP) and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).  The overall tone of this document is grave, ie, they take this RF limit very seriously.


The limit: 1.6 W/kg (Specific Absorption Rate [SAR]) or 0.0016 W/g.


I checked online at www.fcc.gov/oet/ea, and my phone is rated 0.3 Watts (W) at around 1.5 cm – distance is important: in this case, it’s the difference between squashing the phone between your face and your hand vs. holding it a finger tip’s distance away.


So, is my brain safe?  Hard to say; how many grams of brain are within 1.5 cm from my brain? If we’re talking whole head exposure, ~4 kg, that’d be ~6 W.  But I’m more concerned about the 4 grams of brain closest to my ear, within that 1.5 cm range, because brain cancer is pretty scary at any level of brain cancer (ie, whether it affects whole brain or just the 4 grams closest to my ear).

I can’t figure out these maths so I’m sticking with earbuds until I can.



Radio Frequency Safety: https://www.fcc.gov/general/radio-frequency-safety-0





The FCC makes a big deal about eyes and testes, noting RF exposure has been shown to cause cataracts and sterility in animal models.  This is not environmental RF exposure, but rather more like that which may occur by pressing a cell phone directly against your skull.  Maybe.  My phone has a lot of potential RF going on: Bluetooth, 4g, cellular, wi-fi, GPS… I have no idea if these matter or if multiple different frequencies are synergistic brain carcinogens or what.  Still sticking with earbuds, though, and gonna keep cell phone in back pocket (further away from the testes).



RF -> calcium efflux in brain tissue -> brain fog?


I have no idea about the full implications of this, but: 1) Samsung felt it important enough to warn that the phone should be 1.5 cm away from your body; and 2) the FCC published a huge document describing RF and the potential health effects.



This might be important for people who talk on their phone for prolonged periods of time (FCC suggests this might be >6 minutes) and/or younger children.


World Health Organization’s stance: http://www.who.int/peh-emf/en/


I’ll just leave this here (ok, it’s the notorious Volkow study).  And this.


::: caffeine is wearing off :::


calories proper













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  • Cicero

    Glad you’re blogging about this! Interesting topic. I don’t think future research is going to be kind to people who for years have taken long calls without earbuds.

  • Matthew Klein

    Interestingly there’s no epidemiological evidence to support this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wU5XkhUGzBs

    • Matthew Klein


      “Many analyses have examined the incidence rates of glioma to assess whether rates are increasing. The results of these have generally shown the incidence of glioma overall and glioma subtypes to be fairly stable over the time periods assessed.3,7,14,15 An examination of the annual age-adjusted incidence in Nordic countries between 1979 and 2008 found no clear trend in glioma incidence rates during this period, though there was a slight increase in brain tumor incidence rates overall.7 In an analysis of data from 12 Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results cancer registries between 1997 and 2008, no significant trend in incidence rates of all gliomas was found overall, although a slight decrease in incidence of low-grade glioma was observed.7,15 An analysis of Israeli brain tumor incidence found a significantly decreasing trend in incidence rates of low-grade gliomas (ICD-O-3 morphology codes 9380–9480, WHO grade II) between 1980 and 2009.3”

  • TechnoTriticale

    So cell RF isn’t ionizing and is not overtly thermal. Suppose what we need to be concerned about is mitochondrial effects, possibly including subtle bias at the quantum level?

    If the main concern is brain cancer, the prevailing somatic theory of cancer is largely untroubled by cell phones. On the metabolic theory of cancer, pathways may be more numerous.

    What the Standard of Care offers for brain cancers is not very encouraging, which makes prevention look quite attractive. This might include taking some precautionary steps that eventually turn out to have been either wise or excessive.

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