KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Admit it. When you buy a cell phone, you're looking for sex appeal. Does it have Bluetooth? A slide-down or flip-out key pad? How many gigs for your music collection? How about apps?
Now comes an advocacy group suggesting you check something else — the level of radiation your cell phone sends sizzling toward your skull.
"You should pay attention to the amount of radiation that's being absorbed by your head," said Olga Naidenko, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group. "There is a danger."
While the cellular industry dismisses such fears and the federal government essentially declares the phones safe, Naidenko's organization says their radiation can cause brain cancer and other illnesses.
This week it released a ranking of phones by the level of radiation emitted — ranging from the lowest-radiation Samsung Impression to three models that put out more than four times as much radiofrequency energy.
The group suggests not only that you shop for a lower-radiation phone, but also that you use a speaker phone to keep the device away from your ear.
In issuing its rankings, the Environmental Working Group — a non-profit advocacy group concerned mostly with health problems it associates with pollution — injects itself into a scientific controversy that has simmered for years.
Waves from cell phones are in the radio-frequency range. They don't have the penetrating power of X-rays or radioactivity, but there is speculation about ongoing exposure.
To date, studies have either been inconclusive or at odds. Often, researchers conclude that the truth will only be known when large numbers of cell phone users have had decades of exposure.
"The weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems," says a U.S. Food and Drug Administration statement.
In its review of literature, the Environmental Working Group said the evidence now shows that more than 10 years of cell phone use begins to increase chances of brain tumors, salivary gland tumors, migraines and vertigo and behavior problems in children.
The group says the Federal Communications Commission's standards for cell phone radiation are outdated and don't account for increased cell phone use by younger children.