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Measured radiofrequency exposure during various mobile-phone use scenarios


Epidemiologic studies of mobile phone users have relied on self reporting or billing records to assess exposure. Herein, we report quantitative measurements of mobile-phone power output as a function of phone technology, environmental terrain, and handset design. Radiofrequency (RF) output data were collected using software-modified phones that recorded power control settings, coupled with a mobile system that recorded and analyzed RF fields measured in a phantom head placed in a vehicle. Data collected from three distinct routes (urban, suburban, and rural) were summarized as averages of peak levels and overall averages of RF power output, and were analyzed using analysis of variance methods. Technology was the strongest predictor of RF power output. The older analog technology produced the highest RF levels, whereas CDMA had the lowest, with GSM and TDMA showing similar intermediate levels. We observed generally higher RF power output in rural areas. There was good correlation between average power control settings in the software-modified phones and power measurements in the phantoms. Our findings suggest that phone technology, and to a lesser extent, degree of urbanization, are the two stronger influences on RF power output. Software-modified phones should be useful for improving epidemiologic exposure assessment.

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We thank Dr. Howard Cyr and Abiy Desta from the Radiation Biology Branch, Center for Device and Radiological Health, of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for their technical oversight and support, and our Scientific Advisory Panel (Joseph Bowman, Joe Wiart, Dimitrios Trichopoulos, Charles Poole, and Richard Tell) for review and input on study design and research approach. We also acknowledge Dr. Joseph Morrissey, Motorola Research Labs, who provided the software-modified phones and technical support for this equipment, Kathy Dyson for her research assistance on data collection and management, and Rick Nelson for editorial assistance.

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Correspondence to Michael A Kelsh.

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This research was conducted through a collaborative research agreement (CRADA) between FDA and CTIA, a non-profit organization of the wireless communications industry. Technical oversight was provided solely by the FDA staff and an independent Scientific Advisory Panel. CTIA funded the work but was not involved in study methodology, data acquisition, analysis, interpretation, or manuscript preparation. Several authors have provided research and consulting services for mobile phone manufacturers, service providers, and governmental bodies on unrelated projects.

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Kelsh, M., Shum, M., Sheppard, A. et al. Measured radiofrequency exposure during various mobile-phone use scenarios. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 21, 343–354 (2011).

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  • mobile phones
  • cell phones
  • radiofrequency
  • electromagnetic fields
  • SAR
  • exposure assessment

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