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Watchdog Agency Urges FCC To Update 1996 Phone Safety Rules
Watchdog Agency Urges FCC To Update 1996 Phone Safety Rules

By Adam Dickter
August 8, 2012 1:45PM

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"The FCC should formally reassess and, if appropriate, change its current RF energy exposure limit and mobile phone testing requirements related to likely usage configurations, particularly when phones are held against the body" GAO auditors conclude. the FCC said it was preparing a document that could address those recommendations.

While there is no direct evidence that heavy use of cell phones constitutes a health risk, the Federal Communications Commission is doing a lousy job setting standards and keeping up to date.

That's the implication of a report by the government's General Accounting Office to Congress whose title sums it up: Telecommunications: Exposure and Testing Requirements for Mobile Phones Should Be Reassessed. It does not warn against more danger, though, only calling for better study.

Outdated Standards

The report, which we reviewed as posted on the GAO's Web site, questions whether the FCC-set radio-frequency (RF) exposure limit reflects the latest research and whether its testing requirements "identify maximum exposure in all possible usage conditions."

The current exposure limit was set in 1996 based on the recommendation of federal health and safety agencies as well as international organizations.

"These international organizations have updated their exposure limit recommendation in recent years, based on new research, and this new limit has been widely adopted by other countries, including countries in the European Union," the report says. "This new recommended limit could allow for more RF energy exposure, but actual exposure depends on a number of factors including how the phone is held during use."

While federal health and safety agencies have not instructed the FCC to change the RF limit, the report notes that the "FCC has not formally asked these agencies for a reassessment. By not formally reassessing its current limit, FCC cannot ensure it is using a limit that reflects the latest research on RF energy exposure."

The GAO report notes that some users may hold active phones against their body and that the FCC does not test the implications of such exposure to RF energy.

The GAO's recommendation:

"The FCC should formally reassess and, if appropriate, change its current RF energy exposure limit and mobile phone testing requirements related to likely usage configurations, particularly when phones are held against the body."

In consultations for the report, the FCC said it was preparing a draft document that could potentially address those recommendations.

Top committee members in Congress on Tuesday reportedly called on the FCC to heed the report.

'We're Looking Into It'

In a written statement sent to us, FCC spokesman Neil Grace said: "The U.S. has among the most conservative standards in the world. As part of our routine review of these standards, which we began earlier this summer, we will solicit input from multiple stakeholder experts, including federal health agencies and others, to guide our assessment. We look forward to reviewing today's GAO report as part of that consideration."

Sporadic questions about cell phone radiation do not seem to have taken any toll on the exploding mobile-device market.

"So long as consumers have sleek and stylish phones to glue to their ears, they apparently don't care what those gizmos may be doing inside their skulls," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

"It's clear that the regulations currently in place, which were crafted in 1996, didn't have a clue about the technologies and use cases that are common today," King told us. "Since phone industry players have displayed little if any inclination to properly consider and implement any regulations themselves, it's up to government agencies to step in and perform what will almost assuredly be an ugly and highly contentious job."

Tell Us What You Think


Sara P:

Posted: 2012-08-09 @ 1:18am PT
Competition is heating up in the phone industry, new features are coming out everyday to beat each other. In this war very less attention is given to the safety of the users. There should be more awareness amongst the users regarding this point.


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