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FCC To Update 1996 Cell Phone Radiation Standard 90

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-rush-yourselves dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It's been more than a decade and a half since the FCC adopted a set of standards for radiation exposure from cell phones. The guidelines set in 1996 (and based on studies from the '80s) have applied to all cell phones released in the U.S. since then. Now, the FCC has decided that modern devices are just a tiny bit different than models from the '90s (where did those suitcase phones go?), so they're going to review and update the standard. 'Even though the FCC hasn't changed its standards for evaluating the safety of cell phones, it has provided consumers with information about how to minimize the risk of exposure to cell phone radiation. For example, the FCC recommends people use the speakerphone feature or an earpiece when talking on the phone, since increasing the distance the device is held from the body greatly reduces exposure. But the agency has not advocated for stricter warnings nor has it even endorsed these safety measures as necessary. The current review of the standards could change that as the agency will look at its testing procedures as well as the educational information it provides to the public about cell phone safety.'"
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FCC To Update 1996 Cell Phone Radiation Standard

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  • interesting question if the fractal antennaes modern units use make "hot spots" in the head

  • texting vs talking (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    People no longer talk on cell phones to any significant degree. They text (*), which involves holding the phone at a distance from the head. That's got to reduce the exposure.

    (*) Except for Machete. Machete don't text.

    • People no longer talk on cell phones to any significant degree. They text (*), which involves holding the phone at a distance from the head. That's got to reduce the exposure.

      (*) Except for Machete. Machete don't text.

      'cept me. I talk to family on the phone for up to 2 hours per day, one stretch. Fortunately, I my provider's tower is less than 1/4 mile from me so my transmit power is lowered, but still..... Very close, long time.

  • Basic summary: (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    RF is non-ionizing. The danger caused by RF is due to tissue heating. While you aren't going to get RF burns from a cell phone, it might not be a great idea to warm your brain for extended periods of time. So take a break from time to time or use hands free since increasing the distance dramatically decreases the exposure.

    • Re:Basic summary: (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Saturday March 30, 2013 @01:20PM (#43319069) Journal

      If there was a significant effect it would have shown up in the various massive epidemiological studies.

      The FCC 'advice' is based on supposition, not science.

      It goes like this.
      A -> B (RF causes local heating)
      B -> C (Local heating causes disease)

      So A -> C (RF causes disease)

      But A -> C was shown not to be true, and B -> C has never been established, but given the A->C thing, is almost certainly not true.

      If they want to save lives, they would have more success banning base jumping from radio towers.

      • by ilguido (1704434)

        The FCC 'advice' is based on supposition, not science.

        Yeah, but science is all based on suppositions.

        It goes like this. A -> B (RF causes local heating) B -> C (Local heating causes disease)

        So A -> C (RF causes disease)

        But A -> C was shown not to be true, and B -> C has never been established, but given the A->C thing, is almost certainly not true.

        You made it too easy. First, it may not be as simple as A->B->C; second there's more than heating: "The International Agency for Research on Cancer Exit Disclaimer (IARC), a component of the World Health Organization, has recently classified radiofrequency fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” based on limited evidence from human studies, limited evidence from studies of radiofrequency energy and cancer in rodents, and weak mechanistic

        • Asbestos and papilloma virus were eventually tied to actual diseases. There is no corresponding disease outbreak around cellphones. There is nothing there that needs explaining.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Mesothelioma also often doesn't show up for 20-50 years after exposure to asbestos. Maybe it hasn't been long enough?

            • Re:Basic summary: (Score:4, Insightful)

              by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Saturday March 30, 2013 @04:52PM (#43320239) Journal

              Penis cancer was strongly related to a career in chimney cleaning and like mesothelioma, it takes a few decades to show up. The book 'The Emperor of Maladies' gives a good account of how major causes for both these diseases were identified. By the time the link was shown, chimney cleaning as an major industry was going away and the problem was fixing itself.

              The rising rates of Alzheimers disease may be related to glutamates in the diet, but it's going to take some huge studies to show this to be true, even though the basic chemistry of how it occurs at the cell level is textbook stuff.

              Since we generally don't start looking until the disease rates start going up, there's not a lot you can do beyond massive data collection and tracking today in the hopes that something pops up. That data collection is happening, but more for the purpose of selling you things that identifying disease causing behaviors.

        • Right, but with both asbestos and smoking, the signal in the epidemiological data was huge and easily seen. Since the signal in the 'low level RF causing cancer' data is next to non-existent, any effect will at most be minor compared to other things (like diet for example).

          The emerging data on various hormetic effects shows small effects, but consistently and repeatably shows them.

          The strongest univariate association between eating any single food and cancer is for wheat. But apparently those of us who avoi

      • by icebike (68054)

        Worse than that, no one has measured RF tissue heating from a cell phone in temperature controlled (that is to say living) tissue.
        So even if B->C were true, no one has demonstrated that A->B is even happening in vivo from cell phone transmitters.

        Your head temperature probably rises more when standing outside in the sun.

        The idea of leaving the cell phone in your pocket while talking on bluetooth simply ADDs RF to another location (the pocket) while doing nothing to reduce over all exposure. The body p

    • Warming your brain is a common activity that's well studied. It happens every time you exercise and your body temperature goes up. The effects of hyperthermia are also well known and they occur at temperatures significantly higher than what your cell phone signal would ever produce in your brain.

  • Change the name (Score:5, Insightful)

    by simonbp (412489) on Saturday March 30, 2013 @01:03PM (#43318969) Homepage

    The general public doesn't know the difference between RF EM radiation and ionizing/nuclear radiation. That's why it's some common to call microwaving a foodstuff "nuking it" (hydrogen bonding it would be more appropriate).

    So, just don't call it radiation. Call RF emission or RF power. Just as accurate, just as technical sounding, but less scary to the illiterate.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's fun to say I'm going to nuke it. Way better than I'll stick it in the microwave. I know the radiation difference, but that doesn't change anything. When was the last time you rolled up your window?

    • (hydrogen bonding it would be more appropriate)

      Wiki doesn't exactly agree:
      A microwave oven [wikipedia.org], often colloquially shortened to microwave, is a kitchen appliance that heats food by bombarding it with electromagnetic radiation in the microwave spectrum causing polarized molecules in the food to rotate and build up thermal energy in a process known as dielectric heating.

      To sum that up in a single word, I'd go for "exciting", as in "I excited my Hot Pocket with the microwave".

    • by bcrowell (177657)

      So, just don't call it radiation. Call RF emission or RF power. Just as accurate, just as technical sounding, but less scary to the illiterate.

      This is what happened with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). It would have been logical to call the medical imaging technique nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, NMRI. Instead we leave off the N and call it MRI.

  • idiocy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Saturday March 30, 2013 @01:17PM (#43319051) Homepage

    Cell phone radiation is non-ionizing. There is no known, plausible mechanism by which non-ionizing radiation can cause cancer. That puts the burden of proof on the people who claim there's harm. No such effect has been documented in animals. No such effect [sciencebasedmedicine.org] seems to exist in epidemiological studies in humans.

    It's depressing that science education is so poor that ordinary citizens don't seem able to evaluate these facts appropriately.

    It's depressing that journalists do such a lousy job that they keep on reporting on a manufactured controversy as if all evidence were of equal value.

    It's depressing that funding agencies such as NIH continue to give money to this type of junk science, and that scientific journals continue to publish it.

    • Furthermore, there's a growing body of evidence that hormesis is vital for health and so a low level of exposure to radiation (ionizing and non ionizing), toxins and harmful biological entities in the environment is a good thing that promotes health.

      Some fun links because I'm too lazy to find proper citations on a Saturday morning..
      http://blog.sethroberts.net/2012/04/01/moderate-alcohol-consumption-associated-with-less-cirrhosis/ [sethroberts.net]
      http://www.lewrockwell.com/miller/miller12.html [lewrockwell.com]
      http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ [ucla.edu]

      • Re:idiocy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851) on Saturday March 30, 2013 @01:51PM (#43319269)

        The research for this kind of stuff is pretty weak and inconclusive. What's more, the results regularly go back and forth and are generally done in a post hoc fashion after the data is collected. Now, when they take that data and start making reproducible predictions about who will and won't get sick, then I'll take it seriously. Until then it's just pseudoscience at best.

        Alcohol is a poison, there is no quantity which isn't poisonous, however in sufficiently low concentrations it's not likely to do much harm to the body. Nobody should be recommending that people take up drinking for health benefits as the evidence is shaky at best.

        This isn't the same as when people suggest that it's a bad idea to kill all the bacteria around them, there's a reason to be nice to the bacteria, they often times do helpful things for us, and it's mostly just certain strains that cause problems and cases where the immune system is weak that harsher measures are needed.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          No, there's quite a bit of evidence that light drinking is good for most people. It's not a big enough effect to recommend that non drinkers take it up, but that doesn't make it any less real.

          You don't have to make specific predictions about who will or won't get sick. There are very few situations in science where you can make individual specific predictions, and most of those are trivial.

          There is weak evidence that low levels of radiation might be beneficial. There's no evidence that its harmful above the

          • by hedwards (940851)

            Sure you can make individual predictions, if you can't make the predictions, then you can't claim that it's the case. This attitude is why medical science is such garbage, you cannot use retrospective studies in this fashion.

            I could claim that eating beats makes one super fast because of a few top athletes eating beats, but without carrying out a forward looking study, there's no way that I would know that it was the beats that was doing it, or something else.

            Same goes here, people who drink, aren't just dr

            • by ceoyoyo (59147)

              Sure you can make individual predictions, if you can't make the predictions, then you can't claim that it's the case. This attitude is why medical science is such garbage, you cannot use retrospective studies in this fashion.

              An easy counter example. In quantum physics it's impossible to make detailed predictions about individual particles. Yet it's often held up as the epitome of hard science.

              I think you need to think through your argument more. The rest of your examples illustrate that you don't underst

            • by russotto (537200)

              As for evidence of harm, alcohol is poison. You can pussy foot around it all you like, but the fact of the matter is that once it's in your system your body does what it needs to do to get it out of your system as quickly as possible, because it is poison.

              Aside from not being true, this is a dumb criterion for poison. You know something else my body tries to get out of my system as quickly as possible? Hit... err, I mean water. On the other hand, my body is perfectly happy to keep lead for long periods o

    • Re:idiocy (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Solandri (704621) on Saturday March 30, 2013 @02:31PM (#43319463)

      Cell phone radiation is non-ionizing. There is no known, plausible mechanism by which non-ionizing radiation can cause cancer. That puts the burden of proof on the people who claim there's harm.

      There are two commonly-held contradictory beliefs at play here.

      • From a science standpoint, you can't prove a negative so the burden of proof should be on those claiming the product is harmful.
      • From a consumer safety standpoint, you're supposed to prove your product is safe before it can be brought to market. (e.g. UL testing)

      The FCC is trapped in the middle here (as is frequently the FTC, FAA, NTSB, FDA, NIH, etc). They're trying their best to satisfy both by using scientific principles to come up with safety standards that products can be tested against.

      There are certain issues where the common opinion on slashdot favors the second instead of the first. I won't mention what they are because lately that's a quick and easy way to get your post modded down into oblivion (that wasn't the case 10 years ago - nowadays too many people ignore the moderating guidelines and use their mod points as "dislike" votes). But if you think about it I'm sure you can figure them out.

      It's depressing that funding agencies such as NIH continue to give money to this type of junk science, and that scientific journals continue to publish it.

      If the burden of proof is on the people who claim there's harm, and you prohibit funding of any further attempts to find such harm, that subverts the scientific process. For a long time people suspected that electricity and magnetism were somehow related, but were unable to figure out how. How would things have turned out if those who believed they weren't related pointed to all the early failures and cited them as reason to cut off all funding for attempts to find a relationship between the two? I completely agree with you that there's no danger from these levels of non-ionizing radiation. But those who claim there is a danger must be allowed to continue trying to prove their viewpoint. Otherwise you've turned science into one big circle jerk of confirmation bias.

      Generally, the government agencies funding those types of studies do a pretty good job of it. They don't just keep funding the same study over and over. In order for the applicant to get funding, s/he has to propose something new and novel - either something which hasn't been studied before, or some way to conduct the study which hasn't been tried before and could give different insight.

      • by bcrowell (177657)

        If the burden of proof is on the people who claim there's harm, and you prohibit funding of any further attempts to find such harm, that subverts the scientific process.

        By this logic, the NIH should be funding endless studies of all kinds of quackery, such as putting magnets in your shoes to cure arthritis. There isn't unlimited tax money available to do unlimited numbers of studies on topics where no convincing positive evidence exists and there are strong, fundamental reasons to believe that the previous negative results were to be expected.

        For a long time people suspected that electricity and magnetism were somehow related, but were unable to figure out how. How would things have turned out if those who believed they weren't related pointed to all the early failures and cited them as reason to cut off all funding for attempts to find a relationship between the two?

        This is an apples-and-oranges comparison. In 1820, electricity and magnetism were not well understood at the fundamental level. In 2

    • by Misagon (1135)

      No, it is not idiocy. There are other things that could go on than just ionizing or heating. There have been numerous studies that have shown that various things can happen inside human tissue from exposure to microwave radiation ... but science does not yet understand exactly what these effects imply, or if the harm as a result of "normal" cell phone use would be significant enough to bother.

      For instance, one study showed that if you dope glucose with isotopes and take a PET scan of a person head while tal

    • You wanted to see an epidemiological study for humans that shows a link between cell phone radiation and cancer.

      Here you go:

      Hardell L, Carlberg M, Hansson Mild K.
      Pooled analysis of case-control studies on malignant brain tumours and the use of mobile and cordless phones including living and deceased subjects.
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21331446 [nih.gov]

  • by ISoldat53 (977164) on Saturday March 30, 2013 @01:21PM (#43319073)
    How dangerous is the other end of the transmission? Are cell towers a threat?
    • None of it is a threat.

    • by Dark$ide (732508)

      How dangerous is the other end of the transmission? Are cell towers a threat?

      Only during a hurricane when a falling tower (unlikely) could cause structural damage or injury.

    • by rueger (210566) *
      According to a lot of people in this town, yes. Along with WIFI in schools and, I suspect, fluoridation.

      How the hell do you counter the great wallops of misinformation that are flying around us?
      • by NIK282000 (737852)

        Take advantage of it. Get some anti-wifi signs printed up and sell them with "a portion of the proceeds going to WiFi exposure research," be sure to hug your router once a day to see if you feel better or worse ;)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    No comments yet, ignoring years of research about microwaves changing tenths of phenomenons in physiology, like ion diffusion or opening of the blood-brain barrier? No comments yet ridiculing about 100W from sun exposure, ignoring complex patterns of interaction between waves of different length and a biological tissue? How is it possible, given the big money between cellular phones? Mod me down at least, it is easy.

    http://www-ehs.ucsd.edu/rad/pdf/mobilephones.pdf

  • Oblig... (Score:4, Funny)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Saturday March 30, 2013 @01:50PM (#43319265)
  • The differences between phones, signal strengths, antenna designs, usage patterns, frequencies, etc. are so vast that even if a connection to some disease is found it will probably not apply to the phones in use when the discovery is proven. Then to make it worse any phone technology that might have been harmful would generally cause the worst disease among seriously heavy cellphone users who tend to have the latest and greatest so when investigating a connection you will ask them which technologies they ha
    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      given how rapidly cell phones went from fancy business/luxury good to ubiquitous and most affordable option for connectivity available, the proof they do not cause cancer is the fact that brain cancer deaths have not shot up massively since 1998
      • by Misagon (1135)

        Cancer can take many years before symptoms appear. An example is people in Ukraine and Belarus who were subjected to fallout from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Diagnoses of thyroid cancer (for all age groups) peaked in 1996, ten years after, but people are still being diagnosed with it. ... and this was is ionizing radiation that mutated genes directly during a few days in 1986.

        If there are health effects from cell phones, we will probably not see the diagnoses for twenty years. (However, by then the coll

  • I dunno, ask the 80's, while bag phones did still exist, they were typically old models still lurking around. My first phone was a self contained model, no bag, but still large ... but my dad had used it for 5 years at that point, and that was in 94. My second phone was a candybar nokia, not much bigger than the HTC I have now.

    When I think 90's phone I think of clamshells and candybars, monochrome glcd's and 7 segment OLED's, not some wall street yuppie with a sweater tied around his neck playing tennis wit

    • by ebvwfbw (864834)

      I used a bag phone all the way up to 1996. Sucker put out 5 watts and it was necessary. Lot fewer towers back then. I think they started eliminating the analog around 2000. I think I ended up throwing it away. Still have my pager around here some place. My bag phone was always as far away from me as I could get it.

      The good old days. When you left work (the premisis), you left work! Now you leave work and take it home with you. Hardly an escape out there any more.

  • by AndyKron (937105)
    Or... You could quit living with that damn thing against your ear 24/7.

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