by Devra Lee Davis, citizentruth.org, May 6, 2020
District Court Judge Alsup amazed agency would be “that dumb.”
(Photo): A man speaking on a mobile telephone Date: 16 May 2009 Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/timparkinson/3542903169/in/photostream/ Author: Tim Parkinson
Instead of testing phones the way they are carried in the pocket or kept close to the body, the FCC relied on outdated test designs set in 1996, when gas cost little more than a dollar and phones were stored in plastic belt clips. Back then, cell phones cost about a thousand times more and were used by fewer than 16 percent of the population.
In 2019, a major independent investigation by the Chicago Tribune revealed that when tested as they are used next to the body, some of the most popular phones released two times more microwave radiation than the twenty-three-year-old limits allow, with one releasing five times that obsolete standard. In response, the FCC assured the public it would carry out its own tests. But, those just-released agency tests did not evaluate phone radiation next to the body as the Tribune did, but instead tested the phones with specific distances (5 to 15 mm) between the body of the test dummy as set by the phone producers.
There are several major problems with the FCC report. First of all, the agency employed manufacturers’ recommended test distances of up to an inch away. Why does this matter? Every single millimeter off the body results in 15 percent less radiation exposure. In fact, when the government of France tested hundreds of phones directly on the body, radiation levels were found to be 4 to 11 times those allowed by the FCC.
In other words, contrary to the agency assurances it would investigate the Tribune findings, it did not. Instead, the latest agency report unsurprisingly confirmed that phones “comply” with over two-decade-old standards that employ an archaic separation distance between the phone and the body, reminiscent of when phones were carried in a holster.
Despite repeated expert calls to update their current test protocol—highlighted in 2012 by the Government Accountability Office, the FCC has relied on unrealistic test methods for years. The results of the Chicago Tribune, the law firm of Fegan Scott, CBC Broadcasting, and the government of France leave no doubt that phones exceed radiation limits when tested the way we use phones—in body contact positions. Had the FCC tested phones in body contact positions, most phones would have exceeded current guidelines.
Adding grease to the fire, in December, amidst the dust-up of the Democratic primary and ongoing Congressional dysfunction, the FCC quietly released a ruling ignoring thousands of pages of evidence from around the world. In an astonishing dismissal of current science, the FCC stated that, “even though some parties claim that the RF exposure evaluation procedures for phones should require testing with a “zero” spacing—against the body—this is unnecessary.”
In sharp contrast to the FCC’s stale position, the government of France is calling for phones to be tested with zero spacing between the phone and the body. Moreover, the government recommends the public reduce cell phone radiation exposure, especially for children and pregnant women. In fact, the European Union strengthened compliance tests in 2016, limiting the phone/body test distance to no more than 5mm (whereas the U.S. allows up to an inch, or 25 mm). In France, over a dozen smartphone models have now been withdrawn from the market due to excessive radiation levels. These actions were spurred by the dedication of Dr. Marc Arazi and the organization Phonegate that pressured the government to release cell phone test data showing excessive radiation when phones tested at body contact.
Since 2010, the French have insisted that all phones sold include labeled radiation levels and wired headsets. Along with their Belgian counterparts, French manufacturers are banned from marketing or advertising phones for young children. Along with Cyprus, France has removed Wi-Fi from kindergartens, restricted Wi-Fi in classrooms, and banned phones in schools.
The cold reality is that the fastest-growing markets for cell phones in America today are infants, toddlers, and young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics has repeatedly called on the FCC to update cell phone testing to reflect how we use phones and children’s unique vulnerability. Children not only absorb proportionately more cell phone radiation when compared to adults, but far more importantly, their bodies and brains are rapidly growing and even small insults can result in serious long-lasting damage. A replicated study found just one year of cell phone use impaired memory in teens. In their $30-million, extensively reviewed study of phone radiation, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, National Toxicology Program (NTP) found clear evidence of cancer and DNA damage. Despite this, the FCC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reject that evidence. The FDA states they “disagree” with the NTP conclusions. While the FDA website provides “scientific evidence for cell phone safety,” the NTP study scientists report on their website that they are taking steps to reduce exposures by using speakerphone and reducing their time on the phone.
Despite these developments, the FCC insists that 20th-century test methods can safely be applied to smartphones and other wireless devices invented in the first decades of the 21st century. Further, the agency also proposes to greenlight the technology behind 5G with no safety testing for billions of 5G-enabled cameras, notebooks, phones, baby monitors other wireless devices and antennas.
We have long called for a full and frank accounting of the FCC’s failure to mandate real-world tests of cell phone use, and their dismissal of state-of-the-art scientific findings from the U.S. government and independent scientists around the world. Dozens of physicians and scientists have asked President Trump to halt the 5G rollout and have submitted detailed scientific evidence on the public health risks of wireless technology.
Reviewing claims in one recent lawsuit on the subject, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup referred to the FCC cell phone test allowing a separation distance as “a terrible rule” and expressed disbelief that the agency “would be that dumb.”
When a new phone is set to come to market in the U.S., only a single handpicked model must pass a radiation test at a separation distance set by the manufacturer. As the Tribune and French government tests reveal, these outmoded FCC “compliance” tests have nothing to do with the real world. Despite this reality, on December 4, 2019, the FCC declared that testing cell phones against the body is “unnecessary.” Even more importantly, by taking this action, the agency is ignoring the latest science from the government’s flagship test program, the NTP, asserting that the FCC’s 24-year-old wireless radiation limits do not need to be updated. Because of this failure to recognize substantial scientific evidence of harm from cellphones, and its violation of required federal regulatory rules, we have just filed historic legal action against the FCC. The American public deserves better.
Devra Lee Davis
Dr. Devra Lee Davis is president of Environmental Health Trust. She served in the Clinton administration from 1994 to 1999, was a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change team that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, is the author of more than 220 scientific publications, and is a fellow of the American College of Epidemiology.
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