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Cell and the city (Part 1): To SAR, with love

Zafar Anjum | June 30, 2010
Should Singapore do a San Francisco and mandate for all mobile phone retailers to display the amount of radiation cell phones emit?

In one of my recent blogs (Killing us softly), I wrote about electromagnetic radiation (mainly from cell phone towers) in Indias New Delhi and Mumbai and how they were posing health hazards in those cities.

In that piece, I asked the question: are other cities safe from this postmodern pollution?

I know this kind of safety is a matter of degree. Compared to New Delhi, Singapore definitely would have less radiation levels (because of population levels, placement of cell phone towers and the kind of telecom technology used here). But then, there is the rate of cell phone penetration. Singapore, for example, has one of the highest rates of cell phone penetration in Asia (137.4 per cent as of Dec 2009). It means that some people own more than one mobile phone in this country.

Does it translate into any kind of health hazard at a public level?

Im not sure about that. But at an individual level, it might have some repercussions. It all depends on the cell phones absorption rate. Technically, it is known as specific absorption rate (SAR) which is a measure of the rate at which energy is absorbed by the body when exposed to a radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic field.

Unfortunately, research is still insufficient in this area, therefore, much remains to be known. However, consensus is growing in some quarters that high level of exposure to radiation is not good for health, especially for children. Recent studies have found significantly higher risks for brain and salivary gland tumours among people using cell phones for 10 years or longer.

The problem is that makers and vendors of cell phones arent required to disclose their products radiation output at point of sale. If you dont believe me, try to find out the SAR for your cell phone. Give up? Ok, go here and find your phones radiation level.

For the greater good, though, what should the consumers and governments do to ensure more awareness among cell phone buyers?

In this regard, the city of San Francisco has shown us a path. The city voted to require all retailers to display the amount of radiation cell phones emit. Of course, the phone manufacturers will not like this to happen here or in other cities. But it seems to be a good start.

To know what mobile phone manufacturers feel on this subject, I sent them a question:

Should Singapore do a San Francisco and go for a similar requirement for cell phone makers and vendors?

As expected, I did not get any response. Only analyst firm Ovum reverted with a comment by Jeremy Green (he had done a piece on an interphone study, Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern, last year). And this is what I took from his commentary for you:


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