The World Health Organization's conclusion this week that low-level radiation from cellphones possibly causes cancer should have come as no surprise to anyone who reads the user manual. Placing cellphones in the same category as lead and engine exhaust, the director of the WHO's cancer research arm said in a statement: "Given the potential consequences for public health … it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure."
But virtually every major cellphone maker already recommends that users take precautions. Somewhere in their user manuals are instructions for customers to keep their phones away from their bodies to avoid exceeding Federal Communications Commission exposure limits.
Researchers at Washington, D.C.-based, nonprofit Environmental Working Group examined more than a dozen of the most popular models. Below are the results, which were based on tests that assumed callers were using a belt holster. The government has yet to test for phones carried in jacket or pants pockets, the way most users carry them. It's one of many questions the science has yet to answer definitively.
Palm Pixi: "To ensure compliance with RF exposure guidelines the phone must be used with a minimum of 1.5 cm (0.6 in.) separation from the body. Failure to observe these instructions could result in your RF exposure exceeding the relevant guideline limits."
HTC Droid Incredible: "To comply with RF exposure requirements, a minimum separation distance of 1.5 cm [0.6 inch] must be maintained between the user's body and the handset, including the antenna."
Apple iPhone (16 GB): "When using iPhone near your body for voice calls or for wireless data transmission over a cellular network, keep iPhone at least 15 mm (5/8 inch) away from the body."
HTC Evo 4G: "To comply with RF exposure requirements, a minimum separation distance of 1.5 cm [0.6 inch] must be maintained between the user's body and the handset, including the antenna."
LG Quantum: "This device was tested for typical body-worn operations with the back of the phone kept 0.79 inches (2 cm) between the user's body and the back of the phone. To comply with FCC RF exposure requirements, a minimum separation distance of 0.79 inches (2 cm) must be maintained between the user's body and the back of the phone."
Samsung Epic 4G: "If you do not use a body-worn accessory, ensure the antenna is at least 7/16 inch (1.5 centimeters) from your body when transmitting."
Motorola Droid 2 Global: "If you do not use a body-worn accessory supplied or approved by Motorola, keep the mobile device and its antenna at least 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) from your body when transmitting."
Samsung Captivate I897: "For body-worn operation, this phone has been tested and meets FCC RF exposure guidelines when used with an accessory that contains no metal and that positions the mobile device a minimum of 1.5 cm [0.6 inch] from the body."
Nokia 3720 Classic: "This device meets RF exposure guidelines when used either in the normal use position against the ear or when positioned at least 1.5 centimeters (5/8 inch) away from the body."
Blackberry Torch 9800: "If you do not use a holster equipped with an integrated belt clip supplied or approved by RIM when you carry the BlackBerry device, keep the BlackBerry device at least 0.98 in. (25 mm) from your body when the BlackBerry device is transmitting."