SAR is a “way of measuring the quantity of radio frequency (RF) energy that is absorbed by the body,” according to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA).
SAR stands for specific absorption rate. The lower your cell phone SAR, the lower your electromagnetic radiation exposure and therefore potential health risks associated with using your cell phone.
In North America, a cell phone’s SAR rating is measured between 0.0 and 1.60 with 1.60 set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as the maximum level of radiation permissible.
The CTIA requires all cell phones in the U.S. to comply with this SAR limit from the FCC.
In Europe, the SAR rating runs from 0.0 to 2.0 as adopted by the European Union Council and recommended by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).
In North America, SAR is measured in watts per kilogram (or W/kg) averaged over one gram of biological tissue while in Europe SAR is averaged over 10 grams. The FCC limit, which averages over one gram of body tissue, is much stricter than the rest of the world.
The iPhone 3G, for example, has a relatively high SAR rating of 1.388. The Motorola Rapture VU30 reports a lower SAR rating of 0.88 at the head and 0.78 at the body while the LG enV 2 reports a higher SAR rating of 1.34 at the head and 1.27 at the body.
In addition to proactively selecting a cell phone with a low SAR rating, you can also reduce your radiation exposure by using a short-range Bluetooth wireless headset (like this one) to keep your cell phone away from your head or use your cell phone’s speakerphone.