Firefly Cell Phone and Safety

I just received a flyer from Unicel offering the new Firefly phone targeted specifically to pre-teens. It looks like it has the right mix of features for basic use, with preprogrammed numbers only, and access controlled by a PIN set by parents. However, a GPS would seem to be a likely kind of thing that parents would want to have, and the phone does not have that. Also, what is the SAR rating? This is the Specific Absorption Rate, or the amount of radiation emitted by the phone.

There is still a lot of debate about the significance of this radiation. Cell phone manufacturers and lobbyists pooh-pooh any such concerns. Consumer and scientific tests are inconclusive. Are we in the early stages of tobacco/cancer – perhaps in the equivalent to 1950’s attitude about smoking? I am not really interested in taking the chance. Given phones with similar features, I prefer ones with lower SAR ratings. That is why I generally prefer Nokia to Motorola, for example.

So what is the SAR rating for the Firefly phone? Well, you won’t find it on their web site, or in their literature. Their manual only says that it meets FCC requirements, i.e., less than 1.6 W/kg. My emails to them on this question went unanswered. However, this article from a ZDNet “Between the Lines” blog matches my point of view exactly.

According to the article, the Firefly has a SAR rating of 0.945 W/kg head and 0.975 W/kg body. These are not too bad, but I would prefer lower values. Why? Because most of the SAR testing is based on adult skull thickness, and with children, the skull will be thinner, allowing comparatively more radiation to penetrate the brain. Is this an issue? I don’t know. But do I want to gamble 10 of my children’s IQ points so they can have a cell phone?

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