Report Shows That Headsets Reduce Exposure to Cell Phone Radiation
by Charlie Schick
A recent study by a UK consumers' association reported that
headsets tripled the amount of specifically absorbed radiation (SAR)
to the head during cell phone use. The conclusion was that the wire
of the headset acted as an antenna and channeled unshielded radiation
to the head.
Naturally, the UK Department of Trade and Industry was concerned,
and hired a company (SARtest) that regularly tests for SAR. SARtest
repeated the consumer association study and expanded it to a wider
range of headsets and phones.
SARtest found that headsets not only do not increase SAR levels
to the head, they can actually reduce emitted radiation by 65 to 70%.
The study further revealed that what caused some of the "worst-case"
indications of high SAR levels was merely the improper arrangement of
cell phone antennas and headset cords—looping the headset cord
around the antenna, for example.
The study also revealed that most of the radiation is emitted
toward the back of the phone. Therefore, the head is already well
protected, especially with the newer phones with internal antennas.
Using a headset, with the phone dialpad facing the body, protects the
head even more. Of course, the directionality of the radiation does
bring into question the amount of exposure to the hand. I've been
taught that the hand can usually take more radiation than many other
parts of the body, mostly due to tissue types. SARtest suggests
further study of SAR involving other parts of the body in addition to
A summary of the findings:
- With normal use, headsets offer substantial reductions
in SAR compared with conventional cell phone use, where the phone,
rather than a headset, is held against the head.
- Certain configurations have been found to cause SAR levels in
the head when using headsets with cell phones. But such
configurations involved only low SAR levels, and appeared in the
area of the cheek rather than in the ear or near the brain. These
conditions are considered to be highly unlikely and not typical
with normal use.
- If a cell phone is used with a headset, with the phone held
against the body—in a pocket for example—placing the
dialpad toward the body further reduces the possibility of
I read the SARtest study, which suggests that headsets reduce exposure to cellular phone radiation, very closely. It contained interesting photographs
depicting test setups and graphs of radiation intensities. Having had years of experience reading
research papers, this study seems to be well designed and the results and conclusions seem valid.
I am still not convinced as to whether the levels of SAR from
cellular phones are actually harmful. We are surrounded by
electromagnetic radiation from many sources, such as basic electrical
wiring, computer monitors, blow dryers, ordinary telephones, and from
virtually any place where electrical current is flowing. As far as I
can tell, this study does not state whether any of these SAR levels
are harmful. Nonetheless, it does reinforce my recommendation for
using headsets with cell phones. Not only do headsets free your hands
for other tasks—including driving your car—they reduce the
amount of radiation to your head. Hello Direct offers
cellular phone headsets. It's your call.