Federal Communications Commission should overhaul its cellphone-radiation emissions standards to create stricter limits on devices, a federal investigation has concluded.
The Aug. 7, 2012, report by Government Accountability Office (GAO) says FCC’s testing methods and exposure limits for cellphone-radiation emissions should be updated, so they provide more-accurate data for consumers.
Independent studies have indicated that exposure to cellphone-radiation emissions could increase the risk for brain tumors, but GAO’s report didn’t examine the threat of such health concerns.
Nonetheless, GAO’s report echoes concerns about FCC standards that Consumers Digest raised in “A Bad Connection: Cellphone Radiation & Health Risks,” in its November/December 2011 issue.
GAO says tests that measure how much radio-frequency (RF) energy that a cellphone emits don’t reveal the maximum exposure threats for consumers. The report says FCC should include measuring exposure to emissions when a cellphone is held to the ear. FCC tests measure emissions from a cellphone that’s placed only in a holster or on a table and allows for the use of a Bluetooth headset.
GAO also notes that FCC hasn’t updated the maximum RF-energy-exposure limit for devices since 1996. GAO’s report says FCC should adopt new limits that reflect a lower RF-energy-exposure threshold and cites limits that are in place throughout most of Europe.
FCC rules say a cellphone must have a Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) that’s no more than 1.6 watts per kilogram (w/kg) per 1 gram of tissue. However, the limits are stricter in Europe, where cellphones must have a SAR that’s less than 2.0 w/kg average per 10 grams of tissue.
FCC dodged our question about whether it would change its standards, and experts whom we interviewed say it’s unclear whether FCC will adopt GAO’s recommendations. But experts say GAO’s report will make consumers more aware of the potential risks of cellphone radiation.
If changing exposure limits forces the industry to manufacture cellphones that put consumers at a lower risk of RF-energy exposure, “that’s great,” says University of Colorado professor Jerry Phillips, who conducts research on cellphone radiation.
– K. Fanuko