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GAO Wants FCC Update on Cell Phone RF Exposure Rules

The Government Accounting Office (GAO) released a Report saying exposure and testing requirements for mobile phones should be reassessed. 

According to the Report, “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.” 

The report notes that the FCC set its current exposure limit for mobile phones in 1996, based on recommendations from federal health and safety agencies and international organizations. 

The Report contains details on studies of adverse health effects from RF energy exposure. However, the studies did not show clear evidence of adverse affects. The Report found studies and experts identified several areas for additional laboratory studies, including studies on laboratory animals as well as human and animal cells. 

It adds: “However, some experts we spoke to noted that absent clear evidence for adverse health effects, it is difficult to justify investing significant resources in research examining non-thermal effects of RF energy from mobile phone use.” 

The document did not make specific recommendations for changes to the current rules. In one example it implies that higher exposure levels may be safe, as it says “maintaining the current U.S. limit may result in additional costs for manufacturers and impact phone design in a way that could limit performance and functionality. Reassessing its current RF energy exposure limit would ensure that FCC's limit protects the public from exposure to RF energy while allowing industry to provide telecommunications services in the most efficient and practical manner possible.” 

In the following paragraph, the report summary notes: “By testing mobile phones only when at a distance from the body, FCC may not be identifying the maximum exposure, since some users may hold a mobile phone directly against the body while in use. Using a mobile phone in this manner could result in RF energy exposure above the maximum body-worn SAR determined during testings, although that may not necessarily be in excess of FCC's limit.” 

The debate over the adverse health effects of non-ionizing RF exposure is sure to continue, but a thorough reassessment of FCC rules on RF exposure and either reaffirmation or revision of them based on the findings may assuage at least some peoples' fear of RF exposure from their mobile devices.