GAO urges FCC to revise cell phone radiation guidelines

The Government Accountability Office is urging the FCC to revise its 16-year-old cell phone radiation standards, adding another layer to the debate over the health effects of cell phone radiation.

In a 46-page report, the GAO, which is the investigative arm of Congress, noted that the FCC has laid out its cell phone radiation limits based on the recommendations of federal and international health organizations, but that many of these bodies have since updated their standards based new research. The report was commissioned by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.).

Cell phones emit radiation from radio-frequency energy, and the FCC tests every phone that is sold in the U.S. to make sure it is within the proper limits. The report from the GAO found that FCC has not updated its testing standards for radiation exposure on parts of the body other than the head. The current limit for cell phone radiation is 1.6 watts per kilogram, and under the GAO's recommendations the new standard would actually increase the acceptable amount of exposure to 2 watts per kilogram but be spread out over a larger area of the body.

"The new recommended limit…is based on significantly improved [radio-frequency] research and therefore a better understanding of the thermal effects of [radio frequency] energy exposure," according to the study.

Earlier this summer the FCC opened an inquiry into open an inquiry into whether its cell phone radiation emission standards need to be changed. "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," FCC spokesman Neil Grace told The Hill.

The CTIA has long maintained that cell phone radiation does not cause cancer or other adverse health effects. Studies on the issue have been inconclusive, and the National Cancer Institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, has said there is no consistent evidence that radiation from cell phones increases the likelihood of cancer.

For more:
- see this GAO report (PDF)
- see this The Verge article
- see this PC Magazine article
- see this The Hill article

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