updated 07:00 pm EDT, Mon August 6, 2012
Bill will force renovation of dated absorption metrics
On Friday, Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) introduced bill HR 6358 to Congress, which could spawn a new national research program to study cell phones and force the FCC and EPA to update the Specific Absorption Rate methodology for determining the potential damage that radio frequency emissions can cause. The bill, should it be passed, will "examine, label, and communicate adverse human biological effects associated with exposure to electromagnetic fields from cell phones and other wireless devices, and for other purposes."
New labels on phones mandated by the bill would require disclosure of RF radiation emission levels, legal limits, and goals for safe exposure. Unrelated to the bill introduction, sources say Congress is expected to ask the Government Accountability Office and the FCC to update the aging cell phone safety regulations later this week.
"It took decades for scientists to be able to say for sure that smoking caused cancer," said Kucinich in a statement. "During those decades, the false impression created by industry supporters was that there was no connection between smoking and cancer, a deception which cost many lives. While we wait for scientists to sort out the health effects of cell phone radiation, we must allow consumers to have enough information to choose a phone with less radiation."
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 FCC-mandated 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.
Several smartphones whose radiation absorption statistics are close to the current guidance may be affected by new laws. 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.