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Not-So-Smart Phones: Some New Favorites Rank High in Radiation

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, February 18, 2010

SACRAMENTO, Feb. 18 – Among the flood of new smart phones, the Motorola Droid, Blackberry Bold, and Google Nexus One rate high marks from tech reviewers for performance and features. But the reviews and ads don’t mention that these phones also emit relatively high levels of radiation, compared to federal safety standards.

How can you tell? A new consumer guide – and newly introduced state legislation – aim to protect consumers’ right to know.

• Today Environmental Working Group released its latest guide to cell phone radiation levels (www.ewg.org), focusing on the newest, most highly touted smart phones to hit the market in recent months. (The radiation level of Apple’s newest iPhone ranks in the middle of the pack.)

• The consumer guide’s update coincides with introduction by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) of legislation, sponsored by EWG, requiring cell phones and wireless headsets sold in California to disclose the amount of radiation they emit to the head and to the body on the box and at the point of sale.

Unlike legislation pending in Maine, which would require a safety warning to be placed on all cell phones, Leno’s bill only calls for disclosure of the phone’s radiation level. In San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom has introduced legislation similar to Leno’s, requiring retailers to list each phone's radiation level anywhere the price and other features are listed. This information is currently not required to be disclosed to the public in any fashion, is not displayed at the point of sale, and is only available (other than in EWG’s guide) through a tedious and complicated search of a Federal Communications Commission database.

“As the use of cell phones has increased exponentially across the globe, so have concerns about the safety of cell phone radiation,” said Leno. “While more research still needs to be done on the risks of long-term cell phone use for both adults and children, consumers have a right to know how much radiation their cell phones emit.”

“A number of health agencies around the world advise people to reduce exposures to cell phone radiation, driven by recent studies raising questions about the safety of this radiation, particularly for children,” said Jane Houlihan, senior vice president for research at EWG. “That’s why it’s essential for consumers to have radiation output information before they purchase phones for themselves and their families.”

Recent scientific studies have found links between heavy cell phone use and brain and salivary gland tumors. Health agencies in six nations, including the United Kingdom and Germany, have issued warnings to limit cell phone use – particularly by children, whose softer, thinner skulls are less able to shield the brain from radiation. Scientists have found that children's brains absorb twice as much cell phone radiation as those of adults.

“The first cell phones were marketed to adults,” said Renee Sharp, director of EWG’s California office. “But today, children are just as likely to own a cell phone as a video game, baseball or bicycle.”

EWG’s guide offers consumers practical safety tips for reducing their exposure to cell phone radiation, including using a safe handset, texting instead of talking, and using the phone only in an area with good reception.

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