Saturday, June 16, 2012

FCC to probe cell phone radiation safety, for the first time since 1996

For the first time since 1996, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is going to examine the safety of cell phone radiation.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has asked his fellow commissioners to approve a notice to commence a formal inquiry, Tammy Sun, a spokeswoman for the agency, said. The notice itself will not propose any new rules, just begin an inquiry process.

Sun said,

“Our action today is a routine review of our standards. We are confident that, as set, the emissions guidelines for devices pose no risks to consumers.”

John Walls, vice president of public affairs for CTIA, the wireless industry's association said,

"We fully expect that the FCC's review will confirm, as it has in the past, that the scientific evidence establishes no reason for concern about the safety of cellphones."

The fact that the FCC has not examined cell phone radiation since would probably be a surprise to most. In 2011, slightly more than a year ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) categorized cell phone radiation as "possibly carcinogenic to humans."

The word "possibly" should be emphasized, but in the years since the FCC last examined cell phone radiation, significant changes have been made to the devices. Now, smartphones such as the Droid RAZR Maxx and the iPhone 4S represent over half of U.S. cell phones.

These devices are much more powerful than ordinary cell phones, and although power that may not necessarily translate into more cell phone radiation, things are significantly different than before, and cell phones are used much more widely than before.

No studies have conclusively produced a causal link between cell phone radiation and cancer or any other disease. Some people, however, have gone further than just accusing cell phone radiation of causing cancer.

Some claim a condition known as EMF hypersensitivity, and have accused not cell phone radiation - along with other electromagnetic radiation - of causing headaches, fatigue, stress, sleep disturbances, and skin symptoms.

While the FCC's five commissioners are expected to approve the inquiry, it's unclear how long the study will take. It's also not clear than any such study will be able to prove - beyond a reasonable doubt - that cell phone radiation does or does not cause any sort of illness.

Clearly, the industry forces involved would do everything in their power to prevent that. Imagine "The Insider," but in terms of cell phone radiation instead of tobacco.

It is likely to be the case that we may never know the truth, yes or no in terms of the danger of cell phone radiation, for decades.

That said there is no study conclusively pointing to cell phone radiation as a culprit in cancer or other illness.

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