According to a May 2013 news release in The Economic Times, India may ban import of mobile phones that don't display their radiation emission levels in September 2013. The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) will shortly issue a notification calling for mandatory disclosure of specific absorption rate (SAR) as a pre-condition for future handset imports. In September 2012, Indian government issued a new mobile radiation law that lowered the exposure limit of mobile handsets from a SAR of 2.0 W/kg to 1.6 W/kg and made it mandatory for wireless device manufacturers to display the SAR values on their handsets. To understand the rationale behind Indian government’s new regulation, let’s start by understanding what SAR is and what wireless radiation can do to us.

WHAT IS SAR?

SAR stands for Specific Absorption Rate. It is defined as the power absorbed per mass of body tissue when exposed to a radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic field and has units of watts per kilogram (W/kg). All mobile devices emit RF radiation when transmitting wireless signals. A mobile device’s SAR rating is used to estimate the amount of RF radiation absorbed by a user's head and body when using the device. Maximum SAR levels for modern mobile devices are set by governmental regulating agencies in many countries. The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) published exposure guidelines in 1998 and recommended a localized SAR limit of 2.0 W/kg averaged over 10-gram of tissue for general public exposure, which is adopted by most European countries. In the United States, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) sets the localized SAR limit for public exposure to cell phone radiation to be 1.6 W/kg averaged over 1-gram of tissue. This means that for a wireless handset to receive FCC certification and be sold in the United States, its maximum SAR level must not exceed 1.6 watts per kilogram.

Health Effects of Wireless Radiation

Since the inception of cell phones in the 1990s, thousands of studies have been published reporting biological and health effects of wireless radiation, even at exposure levels hundreds or thousands of times lower than current safety standards. The reported effects include cancer (especially brain tumors), impaired brain and nervous functions, sperm damages, behavioral problems in children, to list a few.

Worldwide Call for Precautionary

While it is still in open debate whether there is a definitive risk of brain tumor or other adverse health effects from long-term exposure to wireless radiation, many governments adopted a precautionary approach on this issue and have recommended measures to minimize wireless radiation exposure of their citizens.

In the UK

The Minister for Public Health established the Independent Expert Group to assess the health risks of mobile phone radiation in Great Britain. Among the conclusions, the report stated, “It is not possible at present to say that exposure to RF radiation, even at levels below national guidelines, is totally without potential adverse health effects, and that the gaps in knowledge are sufficient to justify a precautionary approach.”

The French Government

Following a similar intense review of research recommended in January 2001 that users should adopt: “An approach based on the Precautionary Principle with the general overall objective of reducing average exposure of the public to the lowest possible level.” In

Switzerland

The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) states: “The effects of radiation from mobile telephony on brain function and the occurrence of brain tumors are currently under investigation. Until such time as reliable research findings are available, it is advisable to minimize exposure of the head to radiation” (Swiss Federal Office of Public Health 2009c). The FOPH specifically advices that “When buying a mobile phone, make sure it has a low SAR."

The German Federal Office 

For Radiation Protection (Bundesamt fur Strahlenschutz (BfS) 2008d) has been advocating a cell phone SAR safety level of 0.6 W/kg (BfS 2008b) and recommended citizens to “Use cell phones with a low SAR value." In April 2012, the

Israeli parliament

Israeli parliament passed a law that requires all cell phones sold in Israel to bear a health hazard warning label that reads: “Warning—the Health Ministry cautions that heavy use and carrying the device next to the body may increase the risk of cancer, especially among children.

Indian government’s

New SAR regulation came in a context of heightened international concerns on the health consequences of wireless radiation.

In the U.S.

In March 2013, the FCC started a comprehensive review of its existing guidelines related to health and safety of radiofrequency (RF) emissions from radio transmitters and issued a Notice of Inquiry to request comment to determine whether its 15-year-old guidelines needed to be reassessed and revised. At alara, we support the worldwide call for precautions. Specifically, we support disclosure of SAR on each wireless device and/or at the point of sales in the U.S. to allow U.S. consumers to make informed decision about their purchases. We are also dedicated to developing science-based solutions to help concerned consumers reduce wireless radiation exposure. alara’s internationally patented technology is the only technology proven in FCC certified laboratories to reduce exposure up to 90% below the international safety limits while optimizing the devices’ performance.