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FCC Revisiting Mobile Device Radiation Standards 80

Posted by Soulskill
from the enjoy-that-can-of-worms dept.
MojoKid writes "Did you know that the FCC hasn't updated its guidelines regarding maximum radiation levels in mobile devices since 1996? FCC chairman Julius Genachowski is apparently aware of this, because he's looking to launch a formal inquiry into the matter. In a statement that was recently circulated, the FCC isn't exactly concerned that current standards are too lax, but it makes sense to periodically review standards for an industry that changes and evolves so rapidly and dramatically. There has been much debate in recent years about the potential danger of radiation from cell phones, and although there has been some study on the subject, there is not yet a general consensus on whether there is a real danger from mobile device radiation, and if there is, what the acceptable levels might be."
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FCC Revisiting Mobile Device Radiation Standards

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  • Just the other day I was looking at my Galaxy Nexus and thinking "I wonder if this thing is safe, or if maybe I'm slowly frying my brain. After all the FCC hasn't updated their guidelines for maximum radiation levels for mobile devices since 1996".
    You know I'm feeling relieved now.
    • by siddesu (698447)

      You're absolutely right to be concerned, bro. We have on of these mobile phone radiation emitters attached to the pole with the traffic light on the exit of town,and every time I stop to wait for the traffic light, the coffee in the cup holder in my car warms up. I can't stop wondering what this all is about while it is red. But when it goes green, I feel so happy and content that I forget to look it up.

      Until the next morning.

    • Considering that modern Cell phones operate near the frequency of uWave ovens, and the owners are placing the antennas next to their heads it would be prudent to limit your exposure.

      Use a bluetooth headset or use the speaker phone setting. Get some distance between the antenna and your head. or just send a text message.

      B.T.W.. A number of insurance co's now consider cell phone manufacturers to be Uninsurable Risks. [eon3emfblog.net]

  • Uh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CajunArson (465943) on Friday June 15, 2012 @04:45PM (#40339161) Journal

    1. I'm assuming there hasn't been too much radical human evolution since 1996.
    2. Considering that modern devices likely emit lower levels of radiation simply to save battery life compared to the bricks of '96, I doubt that you are getting cooked by your iPhone in any worse way than by your grandpa's Startac.

    • Re:Uh... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by icebike (68054) * on Friday June 15, 2012 @06:13PM (#40340039)

      1. I'm assuming there hasn't been too much radical human evolution since 1996.
      2. Considering that modern devices likely emit lower levels of radiation simply to save battery life compared to the bricks of '96, I doubt that you are getting cooked by your iPhone in any worse way than by your grandpa's Startac.

      Grandpa!?? Listen, sonny, I represent that statement!!

      My first cell was the MicroTac [wikipedia.org], which predated both the StarTac and the FCC radiation standards by almost 10 years. This thing would fry your ear with heat on a call of any duration. Their anemic batteries pretty much limited duration to a medium broil.

      Further, any effects of radiation from those old school phones should have been seen by now. The NRC states [nrc.gov] that

      The effects of low doses of radiation, if any, would occur at the cell level, and thus changes may not be observed for many years (usually 5-20 years) after exposure.

      And they are talking about ionizing radiation, not simple radio waves.

      Contrary to the Summary's assertion that "there is not yet a general consensus on whether there is a real danger from mobile device radiation", there is simply no longer any debate, as every study finding even a remote statistical link has been deeply flawed, and pretty well debunked. Even the formerly hand wringing article over at Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] has been forced to admit there is just no evidence. The historical/hysterical versions of that article were pretty comical at times.

  • your head is probably not too smart. I don't worry about it because my phone only comes with 30 minutes a month... my expsoure is minimal. But alot of people talk, talk, talk with the phone broadcasting into their brain.

    I imagine there's also some effect on your hip, as the phone is hanging there ~15 hours a day, and broadcasting.

    • by Shagg (99693)

      I imagine there's also some effect on your hip, as the phone is hanging there ~15 hours a day, and broadcasting.

      Just make sure to wear tinfoil underwear, and you'll be fine.

      • by siddesu (698447)
        You mean you don't? You people amaze me. What's next? Giving vaccines and antibiotics to your children and having them brush their teeth with FLUORINE?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Holding a broadcast antenna against your head is probably not too smart.

      I'd say being afraid of doing that isn't smart All radio waves are "broadcasting into my brain". Even the sun! So what. It's non-ionizing. No one has even suggested a plausible process by which it's a danger. I know stupid fears when I see them. Therea re dozens of things that have been proven far more dangerous that people do without a care in the world.

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        Yeah but there's a huge difference between microwatts of radio or TV waves passing through you, and 1/4 to 2 watts of cellphone waves passing through. (Plus the fact cellphone waves are small enough to interact on the cellular level, while radio/TV waves are many meters long and barely has any effect on your body.)

        And as for the sun..... well we all know how dangerous it is. Best to avoid it, unless you want to end-up looking like that trucker where half his face looks "melted" and damaged.

        • by SciBrad (1119589)
          If I recall cell phones operate somewhere between 0.8 - 3 GHz. This is a wavelength range of 10cm - 37cm. Not entirely small. Additionally the only likely effect would be some localized heating which is more than easily compensated for by our body's natural ability to dissipate and regulate heat.
        • by Rosyna (80334)

          Yeah but there's a huge difference between microwatts of radio or TV waves passing through you, and 1/4 to 2 watts of cellphone waves passing through.

          No, there isn't a difference. They're all non-ionizing radiation and thus just heat the surrounding material.

    • by Bengie (1121981)
      Don't worry, cell phones use a lower frequency and less power than a fluorescent light-bulb. More likely to get cancer from EM radiation by being too close to your light-bulb than your cell-phone attached to the side of your head.
  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday June 15, 2012 @04:48PM (#40339197) Journal

    Ionizing or non-ionizing?

    If ionizing, why are cell phones emitting ionizing radiation at all?

    If non-ionizing, it's completely harmless. No sane person worrys about non-ionizing radiation.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday June 15, 2012 @05:00PM (#40339331)

      >>>Non-ionizing radiation refers to any type of electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough energy per quantum to remove an electron from an atom or molecule. - wikipedia.

      Okay.
      That still doesn't mean they are safe. Who knows how the EM waves might disrupt internal cellular processes, like the duplication of DNA during cellular cloning. It is when that process goes wrong that cancer happens.

      • In fact, low grade EM radiation with a constant rate of delivery is used to treat cancers in lieu of chemotherapy now. Definitely has some effect on cell division.

      • Most retarded logic ever. Who knows if we are safe from monsters that live ion the other side of the moon and could swoop out and freeze us with their ice breath at any second. You can make up anything you want, but without evidence, or even a known mechanism for it, you are just talking out of your ass.
        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          No what's "retarded logic" is saying "non-ionizing radiation never causes any harm". You can't make such blanket statements, especially since we know non-ionizing radiation can cause measureable effects (like stimulating currents in a piece of metal called an antenna).

          • by tomhuxley (951364) on Friday June 15, 2012 @08:33PM (#40341113)

            And the moon has massive effects on the tides, yet somehow seems to avoid getting blamed for causing cancer. Likewise, music makes your ear drums vibrate, yet where is the commission looking into rock 'n' roll 'n' cancer?

            The reason it would be "retarded" to think those cause cancer is because there is no mechanism by which they could cause cancer. Likewise, there is no mechanism by which non-ionizing radiation can cause cancer. It is orders of magnitude to weak to have any effect.

            It's not a blanket statement, it is a reasonable position to hold in the absence of any evidence to the contrary.

          • by Bengie (1121981)
            I do agree with your anti-blanket statement argument as the intensity makes a large difference(don't stand in front of a radar or bypass a microwave's safety feature), but DNA damage is directly related to how high the EM frequency is, and EM from cellphones is lower than visible light.
      • by Immerman (2627577) on Friday June 15, 2012 @05:45PM (#40339767)

        Agreed. In fact there's very promising research underway in the use of electric fields to kill cancer - since cancer cells divide far more often than most other cells an aggressive "kill field" can be applied to an area making cell division a fatal process, thus damaging the cancer far more severely than the surrounding tissue, without the unpleasant side effects of radiation or chemotherapy. Potential side effects of the electric fields are still unknown.
        http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_doyle_treating_cancer_with_electric_fields.html [ted.com]

        The point of course is that we know for a fact that at least some electric fields can cause severe cellular trauma, it stands to reason that there are much larger number of field characteristics that would result in less obvious damage. In the face of that just assuming that all electric fields are safe is foolish. It's also worth noting that the nature of the transmissions has changed - in '96 analogue transmission was the norm, these days almost everything has gone digital, and that makes a considerable difference in the physical properties of the signal - assuming it will continue to interfere with cellular processes in the exact same (probably mostly harmless) manner is unfounded.

        More to the point - while *nothing* is completely safe, it just makes good sense to reexamine the regulations governing fast-changing fields on a regular basis, if only to make sure there are no new developments that cast doubt on the wisdom of existing policy. 90's era cell phones were probably reasonably safe - today we have far more mobile devices in operation, so the level of background radiation generated is considerably higher with different spectral properties. Is that a problem? Probably not, but I'd just as soon have the question asked officially from time to time.

    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      Non-ionizing radiation is not necessarily "completely" harmless. After all, microwaves are non-ionizing, but I wouldn't want to stick my head in one. That also doesn't mean cell phones are dangerous, just that it isn't so simple as ionizing=harmful, non-ionizing=non-harmful.

      • by Achra (846023)
        Microwave ovens are non-ionizing radiation.. but it is a LOT of non-ionizing radiation and it is delivered inside of a resonant chamber. Microwave ovens also operate at roughly 2.4ghz. The higher the frequency, the more dangerous it is to people.. or so my FCC antenna exposure guidelines would have me believe. The bottom line is that cell phones have very low power output. Between 500mw and 1w, I believe. At that power and at cellular phone frequencies, there are no current studies to indicate that there is
        • by Baloroth (2370816)

          There have been no conclusive studies, certainly, and studies haven't shown any connection to cancer (not surprising, since cancer is linked with ionizing, not non-ionizing, radiation), but there have been studies that indicate it is possible, if unlikely, even at the few watts a cell phone operates at, for it to cause damage (see Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]). I would certainly say the danger from them is negligible, given the health risks most people are exposed to, but that doesn't mean they are totally absent. Also, since

    • by Misagon (1135)

      Does that mean that you don't believe that microwave ovens are able to heat food?

      • by Shagg (99693)

        Does that mean that you believe you can cook your dinner with a cell phone?

      • Even if we were to assume that cell phones put out sufficient radiation to heat up the water molecules in the brain enough to be noticeable, it still pales into insignificance compared to the heating your brain receives when you have a hot shower and wash your hair. Or walk around without a hat on a summers day. If low-level heat from everyday sources caused cancer then the human race would have gone extinct in 50,000BCE when we invented fire.
    • by pclminion (145572)

      If non-ionizing, it's completely harmless.

      So, you'd happily climb into an industrial microwave and turn it on. Right?

    • by Prune (557140)

      Microwaves are non-ionizing radiation. Please, by all means, operate your microwave with the door open and interlock disabled, so you can see better when the food is cooked.

    • by Prune (557140)
      Near-ultraviolet rays are non-ionizing radiation. Must be safe. Hmm, I guess we were wrong to worry about the hole in the ozone layer!
    • by sjames (1099)

      If non-ionizing, it's completely harmless. No sane person worrys about non-ionizing radiation.

      RF burns are a very serious matter. People very much worry about non-ionizing radiation strong enough to cause those.

      Fortunately, cellphones don't emit that much :-)

    • by mikestew (1483105)

      No sane person worrys about non-ionizing radiation.

      That's not entirely true, but for the discussion of cell phones it is. However, you probably don't want to spend a whole lot of time close to the antenna hooked to a 1000W transmitter (or even 100W, depending on frequency). It's non-ionizing, won't give you cancer, but it could heat you up a fair bit.

      On the other hand, my handheld amateur radio with the antenna right on top puts out 5W, which is a good bit more than a cell phone. I've not ever read any warnings against putting it close to any part of my bod

    • by Rosyna (80334)

      If non-ionizing, it's completely harmless. No sane person worrys about non-ionizing radiation.

      non-ionizing isn't harmless. It just, based on the laws of physics, cannot cause cancer.

      If the non-ionizing radiation (from a microwave or a huge radio [station] antenna) is high enough, it would never cause cancer. What it would do is heat up human tissue to uncomfortable levels, possibly killing cells (but never causing them to mutate).

      It's why non-ionizing radiation can be used to "treat" cancer. It doesn't interfere will cell duplication, not exactly, it kills the cancer cells dead and all surrounding c

  • Cell phones use non-ionizing radiation. I'm all for some studies to double-check our assumptions, but hypothetically isn't that the end of the story?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Microwave ovens also use non-ionizing radiation, yet you wouldn't stick your head in one, so it's not the end of the story. It's all about power, proximity and most importantly possible long term effects.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        I will stand in front of it though. The power levels between a microwave and cell phone are quite different.

        • I will stand in front of it though. The power levels between a microwave and cell phone are quite different.

          But if you come up with a way to microwave a bag of popcorn using a rechargeable 2oz lithium-ion battery - it could be a goldmine.

    • by Prune (557140)
      Near-ultraviolet is non-ionizing. Guess it must be safe, according to you. Seems stupid then that we were worried about that hole in the ozone layer, what were we thinking?
  • Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jrmcferren (935335) <robbie,mcferren&gmail,com> on Friday June 15, 2012 @04:49PM (#40339207) Journal

    Hopefully they will get rid of these BULLSHIT regulations. Handheld two way radios can put out up to SEVEN yes SEVEN watts and the FCC doesn't have any problems with those. I don't need a seven watt transmitter, but damnit allow them use use efficient antennas in cell phones. If a cop can use a five watt transmitter, why can't everybody else?

    • What do you mean 'efficient'? It's not like they use low gain or lossy antennas on phones to prevent them from radiating too much power.

      Patch antennas are used for low cost and to save space compared to the dipoles you would see on old phones. Mobile phone antennas are going to be fairly omni-directional out of necessity (because you can't expect users to correctly orient a directional antenna relative to a base station), which means they're not going to have high gain.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Hopefully they will get rid of these BULLSHIT regulations. Handheld two way radios can put out up to SEVEN yes SEVEN watts and the FCC doesn't have any problems with those. I don't need a seven watt transmitter, but damnit allow them use use efficient antennas in cell phones. If a cop can use a five watt transmitter, why can't everybody else?

      Because said transmitter operates on VHF and low UHF frequencies well under 1GHz? The lowest a cellphone goes is 800MHz right now - nominal is 1700, 1800, 1900 and 2100

    • by yabos (719499)
      My aviation handheld radio has a 5W max output. There's actually a warning in the manual saying don't use it for prolonged periods in close proximity to your head.
  • Chairman Genachowski believes that radiation, like data, should be looked at every couple years "to provide a better customer experience".

    Genachowski said that

    "usage-based pricing could be healthy and beneficial" for radiation providers. "There was a point of view a couple years ago that there was only one permissible pricing model for radiation," he said. "I didn't agree."

    It makes sense that people who are exposed to more radiation should pay more to support the development and studies on radiation. Once we determine the correct amount of radiation that everyone can receive, then providers can work out plans that allow the consumer to share the radiation cap amongst all their devices.

  • by Shagg (99693) on Friday June 15, 2012 @05:00PM (#40339337)

    You're right, there isn't a consensus:

    Sane people: There is no danger.
    Insane people: OMG, my cell phone is frying my brain! Hold on... I need to answer this call.

    • "there is not yet a general consensus on whether there is a real danger from mobile device radiation"

      This is utter bullshit. As you say, there is a consensus among all non-nutjobs. A debate about whether low levels of non-ionizing EM are dangerous belongs in the same category in debates about the easter bunny or ghosts or something. It is pathetic the way media pretends there is a controversy. Some idiot at some point said "I don't understand this and it has radiation in its name, which i think is bad be
    • by Immerman (2627577)

      Actually there is some evidence that heavy cell phone use may increase the odds of developing some forms of in-skull tumors. Not conclusive, but it's not a completely clear-cut "it's all good" either. Just because something would be inconvenient if true doesn't make it false.

      Also, while the "dangers" research typically focus on cell damage there's another potential problem that could be much harder to detect: every single person on the planet is operating an extremely sensitive and poorly-understood anal

      • by Shagg (99693)

        Actually there is some evidence that heavy cell phone use may increase the odds of developing some forms of in-skull tumors

        Nonsense. Where is this "evidence"?

  • Absolutely nothing worthwhile. They should actually look into the rampant corruption and outrageous pricing model of the cellphone carriers instead of worrying about a few alpha particles.
  • You can't just say that all cell phone radiation is harmless or not. The situation is not that simple.
    Different generations of cell phones emit radiation in different frequency bands, and human cells could react differently to radiation in each band.

    What the scientific community does know is that 800 MHz radiation cause stress on brain cells. With long-term exposure, this radiation break down the blood-brain barrier, killing brain cells.
    However, most cell phones these days use other frequency bands, in the

  • Let's revisit that. In fact let's investigate this whole witchcraft thing. I don't think that's been settled yet.

  • I find it ironic the amount of fear that there is against any sort of radiation. Remembering from my science class, radiation is basically any form of energy that doesn't need a medium to travel through. In other words, any form of energy that can travel through outer space can be considered radiation. There's only a very small spectrum of energy that can be considered "radiation" in how it's usually portrayed.
  • What passes for "journalism": [northshoreoutlook.com]

    (an) estimated three per cent of Canadians who appear to suffer from acute electromagnetic hypersensitivity, or EHS, a crippling condition characterized by the onset of painful and debilitating symptoms in the presence or perceived presence of cellular, Wi-Fi and radio frequency radiation.

    Versus what science tells us: [plos.org]

    Earlier today, the British Medical Journal published an update on a study of more than 350,000 people that investigated whether there’s a link between cell

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