Updated Cell Phone Radiation Tests Following GAO Report
Top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are calling on the Federal Communications Commission to update how it tests cell phones for potentially harmful radiation in light of a new government report.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), recently introduced a cell phone right-to-know bill (H.R.6358) that would require phone manufacturers to include warning labels about radiation levels with their products. His measure would require action by the EPA rather than the FCC.
The report says that limits set in 1996 by the Federal Communications Commission may not reflect recent research on radio-frequency energy from phones, and testing requirements may not identify maximum exposure in all usage conditions, the agency said in a July 24 study released today. The FCC doesn’t test for devices carried against the body, a practice that may lead to exposure that exceeds the FCC’s limit, the GAO said.
“With mobile phones in the pockets and purses of millions of Americans, we need a full understanding of the long-term impact of mobile phone use on the human body,” Representative Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said today in an e- mailed statement.
Ranking members, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Edward Markey (D-MA) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) pushed for action Tuesday after releasing a study by the Government Accountability Office.
The GAO concluded that the current radiation exposure and testing requirements for cell phones, which the FCC set 15 years ago, are outdated and “may not reflect the latest evidence on effects.” The study did not find any evidence to suggest that cell phones cause cancer, but the lawmakers and consumer advocates are concerned that radio-frequency energy emitted by the devices can heat and damage human tissue.
“The report shows we need more research on cell phones and their effects on human health,” Waxman said. “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.”
The FCC announced in July that it would conduct a routine review of its phone radiation standards. Officials there have expressed confidence that the current limits do not pose a risk to consumers.
The yearlong GAO study points out that some of the FCC’s tests do not match how consumers currently use cell phones. For example, the FCC tests radiation levels for earpieces assuming that the user will place the phone on a desk, even though many tuck it into a pocket in close contact to skin.
“With mobile phones in the pockets and purses of millions of Americans, we need a full understanding of the long-term impact of mobile phone use on the human body,” Markey said. “I look forward to working with my congressional colleagues and the FCC to ensure appropriate standards are established that reflect the latest science and the way consumers use their mobile phones today.”
Markey for years has pressed Congress and federal agencies to review the issue. He first called for a GAO study on how radiation released by phones affects the body back in 2001.