FCC Flip-Flops on Cell Phone Guidance

by | Oct 4, 2010

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has changed its guidance on a long-standing recommendation that consumers buy wireless phones with lower levels of radiation emissions, reports The Washington Post.

The revisions were posted without any formal announcement to a consumer fact sheet on the FCC’s Web site, according to the article.

FCC’s revised guidance states that data on a phone’s radiation emissions is not a useful gauge of the risk posed by any device, and omits a previous recommendation that users buy phones with lower specific absorption rates (SAR), a measure of the rate of radio-frequency energy absorbed by the human body, reports The Washington Post.

The FCC tests every cell phone sold in the United States to ensure that its SAR falls under the federal maximum of 1.6 watts per kilogram, reports CNET.

The decision comes at a time when efforts in some cities including San Francisco call for wireless providers to clearly state the radiation emissions of the phones they sell, according to the article.

San Francisco’s ordinance calls for retailers to post SAR rates, starting on Feb. 1, 2011, although penalties for not posting them won’t be issued until May 1, 2011.

CTIA has filed a lawsuit against San Francisco to block the ordinance, saying it will hurt companies including Apple, AT&T, Verizon and Motorola.

Some scientists say that heavy cell-phone users and children could have a greater risk for brain cancer, but leading health groups, including the World Health Organization, say there is not enough evidence to reach any conclusions, according to the article.

The FCC’s new guidance is said to correspond with the wireless trade group CTIA’s arguments that a SAR of 1.0 is not necessarily safer than devices with a rate of 1.6 and that how a phone is used is a more meaningful gauge.

A FCC source told The Washington Post that CTIA lobbying didn’t change the agency’s views about cell phone safety.

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