updated 09:00 pm EDT, Fri June 15, 2012
Normal review process, no word if a change in limits is planned
The Federal Communications Commision is taking a closer look at cell phone safety standards and radiation exposure. The FCC wants to see if the 15-year-old rules on exposure or how safety communications information is relayed to the public need to be updated. A request for comments on the issue is expected before the end of June, but no deadline for remarks has been set.
"The United States has the most conservative emissions standards in the world," said Tammy Sun, FCC spokeswoman. "Our action today is a routine review of our standards. We hope and expect that other federal agencies and organizations with whom we work with on this issue will participate in the process."
To be called safe for public use, every cell phone sold in the United States must adhere to limits on the amount of energy absorbed from the phone-generated magnetic field. The absorption is measured in Watts per Kilogram. The current limit is less than 1.6 W/Kg, at the closest range, and highest broadcasting power.
Last year, the World Health Organization's agency for cancer research reviewed studies and declared mobile phones a potential cancer hazard. Some international studies in the last decade show biological changes to cells at absorption levels less than the 1.6 W/Kg allowed by the FCC. Studies have been inconclusive about whether normal or even excessive cell phone use increases the risk of some types of cancer, particularly in the ear, jaw and brain. The unit of measurement the FCC uses has also come under some fire from researchers.
Should the FCC choose to reduce limits, several smartphones whose radiation absorption statistics are close to the current level may be affected by new regulations. The HTC Desire comes in at 1.48 W/Kg, and the BlackBerry Curve 9350 at 1.5 W/Kg. Apple iPhones are somewhat farther from the maximum specification with the iPhone 4S at 1.11 W/kg, and the iPhone 3G at 1.38 W/Kg.
The FCC has suggested safety measures to reduce exposure, regardless of the current regulations on max exposure rate. The FCC recommends that customers use the speaker phone function or earpieces, since increasing the distance the device is held from the body reduces exposure significantly.