A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

GAO to FCC: “Reassess” RF Limits for Cell Phones

August 7, 2012

In its much-anticipated report, released today, the GAO told the FCC to take a fresh look at its cell phone exposure standard and the way the phones are tested for compliance with that limit. The 46-page report is available here.

Julius Knapp, the chief of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology, responded that he and his staff had "independently arrived at the same conclusion." He added that rules that the Commission has already drafted would "address and even expand on the GAO's recommendations" (see our "What's Up at the FCC?").

Some consumer and environmental organizations appear to be happy with the report. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), for instance, thanked the three members of Congress who had requested the GAO investigation after IARC designated RF radiation as a possible human carcinogen last year (see our June 3, 2011, post).

The EWG should keep in mind the old proverb, be careful what you wish for. A close reading of the new report indicates that the most likely outcome of a FCC review would be a substantial weakening of the current cell phone standard in the name of harmonization with the IEEE and ICNIRP.

That might explain why the CTIA, the wireless trade association, also embraced the GAO report. "CTIA welcomes the Commission's continued careful oversight of this issue," stated John Walls, its VP for public affairs.

The U.S. currently has the most stringent cell phone exposure limit in the world. But perhaps not for much longer.

For more, see:
• The Washington Post's blog post;
• Bloomberg's news story;
• The EWG's press release;
• CTIA's press release;
• And this item from Ars Technica, which closes with, "Maybe, finally, we'll get to the bottom of [the mystery of cell phone radiation]." We wouldn't take that bet.