The FCC and congressional Democrats are in agreement that
the commission needs to take a fresh look at RF radiation standards for mobile
A trio of house members has asked the FCC to revise its
15-year-old mobile phone/device radiation exposure and testing requirements in
the wake of a new GAO report
they commissioned. The commission says it already plans to do so.
The legislators say the report indicates there is no evidence
to suggest using a cellphone causes cancer, but that the regime needs updating
because the FCC's current testing is based on outdated research.
"The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) RF
energy exposure limit may not reflect the latest research, and testing
requirements may not identify maximum exposure in all possible usage conditions,"
GAO said, concluding that "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 noted that the FCC has a draft document in the works
that "has the potential to address GAO's recommendations."
"As the number of users of wireless technology grows
exponentially, the FCC should reevaluate acceptable radiation emission levels
to determine if they need to be adjusted," said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) in a
Also calling on the FCC to update the tests were Reps. Ed
Markey (D-Mass.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). "The report shows we need more
research on cell phones and their effects on human health," said Waxman. "The
FCC should coordinate this research with federal health agencies to ensure that
the health effects of cell phones are properly understood and appropriate
emission standards are set."
For its part, the FCC says it thinks the standards are OK,
but concedes it has been "many years" since they were reviewed
formally and says it has a draft order and notice of proposed rulemaking teed
up to review them.
"The commission staff has continuously paid close
attention to developments related to RF exposure and has worked closely with
other federal agencies with health expertise," said FCC Chief of the
Office of Engineering and Technology Julius Knapp. "At this juncture, we
believe our current standards are appropriate and protect the public against
the possible harmful effects of RF exposure."
But he added that the FCC recognizes it has been years since
a formal review, and points out that it is preparing to put out an order on a
2004 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and issue a second notice, the combination
of which is responsive to the GAO report's concerns. "In short," he
told GAO, "the FCC staff had independently arrived at the same conclusions
as are reflected in the GAO report.
CTIA: The Wireless Association VP John Walls thanked GAO for
its input on the "comprehensive federal regulatory oversight of wireless
phone safety," and said CTIA would "continue to defer to the views of
scientific experts, federal agencies with expertise and impartial health
Those experts, he said, including "the FCC, the FDA,
the National Cancer Institute and the World Health Organization," have all
found that "the weight of the scientific research has not established that
wireless phone use causes adverse health effects...The FCC has been vigilant
in its oversight in this area and has set safety standards to make sure that
radio frequency fields from wireless phones remain at what it has determined
are safe levels. The FCC's safety standards include a 50-fold safety factor
and, as the FCC has noted, are the most conservative in the world."
He also pointed to the FCC's already announced potential
review and its statement that it is "confident that its emissions
guidelines for wireless devices pose no risk to consumers."