The metric employed to characterize the exposure of a mobile phone user to radiofrequency energy is the specific absorption rate (SAR) of the phone, i.e., maximum rate of energy absorption by the user's head and body when the device is in use. In an article published in the health section of the February 13, 2019 issue of the Swiss magazine "Beobachter", a longstanding debate regarding the protocols used by manufacturers for testing compliance of devices with international exposure limits is addressed. Until recently, SAR measurements were performed with the device positioned at a distance of 15 – 25 mm from the probe, which, given the current habits of device users, is unrealistically large. In the early days of mobile phones, users tended to wear their phones, e.g., in holsters on belts, while today the majority of mobile phones are carried in shirt or trouser pockets in close contact with the human body. In mid 2017, the European Union began enforcing rules that measurements must be performed at a maximum distance of 5 mm from the mobile phone, and the French agency L'Agence nationale des fréquences (ANFR) began performing regular market surveillance testing at this distance on sample devices available for purchase in France. The results of a report published by the ANFR confirm that a relatively large number of devices are non-compliant with EU regulations, i.e., exceed the SAR exposure limit of 2 W/kg. The “Beobachter” article informs readers regarding the importance of performing accurate SAR measurements under realistic exposure scenarios.
The article (in German) can be accessed here.