FCC & FDA Cell Phone Regulatory Roles Questioned by Activists

Frustrated by lack of clarity on FCC and FDA regulatory responsibilities regarding cell phone radiation exposures, the American Association for Cell Phone Safety (“AACPS”) in Santa Monica, CA has sent formal letters of inquiry to both Chairman Julius Genachowski of the Federal Communications Commission and Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

Clarification is being sought regarding FCC and FDA responsibilities for:

1) pre-market safety testing of cell phones and PDAs prior to release onto the market;

2) the setting of public health and safety standards for electromagnetic field exposures; and

3) educating the public of the health effects associated with radiation-emitting devices,

Download AASCPS’s Letter of Inquiry to FCC

Download AASCPS’s Letter of Inquiry to FDA

The fundamental question being asked by these letters of inquiry is where in our government does responsibility and accountability lie?

It is essential the American people know that responsibility is in fact being taken at the federal level to assure citizen’s safety, and the safety of the ecosystem, with regard to cellular technologies. To date, messages from these regulatory bodies regarding their role, positions and legal authority in the matter of cell phone safety has been unclear, even contradictory. Concern has been raised by many groups over many years that there has been a failure of government on this matter, which has had profound public health consequences.

The attached letters of inquiry requesting clarification of roles and responsibilities, and each agency’s position on specific cell phone related issues, were sent by Elizabeth Barris, Director of the American Association for Cell Phone Safety.

ElectromagneticHealth.org recommends citizens follow this emerging public safety issue closely, and encourage representatives in Congress to become involved in assuring that past failures to protect public health at the regulatory level are acknowledged and rapidly reversed.

Questions raised by AACPS in these letters probe at the following complex and unresolved issues that have troubled scientists and health advocates for years. Some of these issues include:

  • If the FCC says it relies on the safety expertise of the FDA, and states it considered opinions from the FDA in setting its safety guidelines, but the FDA officially does not review the safety of radiation-emitting consumer products such as cell phones and PDAs before they can be sold, as it does with new drugs or medical devices, then where is the responsibility for assuring safety actually domiciled?
  • Has responsibility for ascertaining consumer safety potentially fallen through the cracks between these two agencies, resulting in a situation were proper protection of consumer health interests is not taking place?
  • On what basis does the FCC, a communications commission charged with regulating interstate and international communications, not a health agency, have authority to ascertain safety and establish safety guidelines, such as the SAR limit for cell phones, in the first place? On what basis has the FCC assumed this responsibility?
  • If the SAR value is a measure of the power or heating effects from a phone, and is a physics measure unrelated to biology, what regulatory agency is looking at the biological effects? This would include biological effects from all forms of radiation being emitted by a cell phone, including 1) the heating effects (that the SAR attempts to reflect), 2) the non-heating effects from the frequencies and modulation, and 3) the low frequency (ELF) fields emitted by the devices.
  • There is ample scientific evidence of biological effects from cell phone radiation (RF) at non-heating levels of exposure, with links to a multitude of acute and chronic illnesses. Some consider these effects more important than the thermal effects. Why then do the present guidelines not address the non-thermal biological effects?
  • There is ample scientific evidence of biological effects from ELF levels found in cell phones and PDAs, and these devices emit ELF levels far higher than levels of ELF fields known to cause miscarriage, for example. Why do present guidelines not address ELF?
  • The current SAR limit for cell phones is 1.6 W/kg, but according to the AACPS letters, research in the 1990s (Tice and Hook) showed micronuclei in blood doubled when the cells were exposed to radiation at only 1 W/kg of SAR. In light of this, why was 1.6 W/kg chosen as the limit and not a number less than 1 W/kg?
  • What public health expertise, if any, exists at the FCC and who specifically set the current standards and what was their background in biology?
  • Research has shown source of scientific funding in this field influences outcomes. In determining SAR safety guidelines for cell phones, how much does the FCC rely on telecom industry funded science, as opposed to independent science where there would not be a commercial conflict of interest?
  • Given evidence exists showing that in certain amplitude windows a lower SAR value can result in greater brain effects than a higher SAR value (increased neuron death and blood brain barrier permeability, for example), suggesting some biological effects do not occur in a linear, dose-response manner. Thus, the SAR may be a wholly inadequate measure of safety on these grounds. Given this, and the fact that the SAR does not reflect either the non-thermal biological effects, or the ELF effects, why is the SAR used as a measure of safety?
  • Experts say a true biological standard for cell phone radiation exposure should be set, especially for children, elderly and vulnerable populations, instead of relying on estimates of safety based on a physics measure that only measures the heating effect. Is either the FCC or the FDA working on biologically based guidelines or even studying biological effects? What scientific experts with backgrounds in EMF effects on biology are Advisors to the FCC and FDA?
  • How is it that the FCC can state, “There is no scientific evidence to date that proves that wireless phone usage can lead to cancer or a variety of other health effects, including headaches, dizziness or memory loss”, when there is voluminous amounts of evidence showing that people are experiencing these problems as well as evidence of biological change at the molecular, cellular, organ, neurological and immunological levels? Is the FCC relying on telecom industry advisors in formulating the above statement who may perhaps have a commercial conflict of interest and not want the biological effects to be known?
  • Why in the Kids Zone of the FCC website are precautions recommended like using an earpiece or headset, keeping the devices away from the body and using the speaker to reduce exposure to the head, if on the main part of the FCC website it states “There is no scientific evidence to date that proves that wireless phone usage can lead to cancer or a variety of other health effects, including headaches, dizziness or memory loss”? Is there disagreement within the FCC itself about the risks, as this would suggest?
  • Why do cell phone manuals state a cell phone should be kept at least 5/8”-1” away from the body for safety, but yet official federal positions downplay any risks from the radiation? Why have regulatory agencies not required larger warnings, as on cigarette packaging, if cell phone manufacturers themselves acknowledge risks of radiation exposure if the phone is placed close to the body?
  • Why was there no federal government pre-market safety testing of cell phones and wireless technologies, and no post-market surveillance? Who made the decision to not require this?
  • How could an industry grow to this size (285 million U.S. wireless connection subscribers), with radiation-emitting technologies deeply ingrained in the lives of citizens of all ages, without greater government attention to the health effects on cell phone users, and the health effects on users and non-users exposed to 2nd hand radiation?
  • Who inserted Section 704 into the Telecom Act of 1996, which took away sate and local governments rights to protect their citizens’ (and environment’s) health from wireless radiation exposure? Was anyone, at the time, considering the science showing biological effects from this form of radiation?

    What has caused this failure of government to protect the public health?

    • One wonders, are there payoffs being made to government officials at the FCC and FDA to assure smooth sailing for the telcom industry at the expense of public health?
    • Are there military interests seeking to limit regulation of radiation-emitting technologies so biological effects of their own RF-based military technologies do not come under greater public scrutiny?
    • Have the economic benefits to the U.S. government, in the forms of telecom industry corporate income tax, user taxes and fees, employment and social security taxes, jobs and job growth, employee income taxes, income taxes from landlords agreeing to place antennas on their property, spectrum license fees and more, unduly influenced government officials such that they have sacrificed public health to give the appearance of a stronger economy, when in fact the health consequences from cell phones and wireless technologies may ultimately burden the economy more than the short-term economic benefits?

    One has to question why a more responsible and diligent approach to the assessment and monitoring of radiation-emitting technologies has not been taken.

    The only explanation scientists and health advocates have been able to think of is that until now it may be the case that powerful special interests and economic considerations have been influencing our government officials to turn a blind eye to the health consequences of cellular technologies, and that complete integrity, and interest in public health, has been lost.

    The American people have put trust in their government. ElectromagneticHealth.org is calling on Congress to delve into the issue of FCC/FDA responsibility and accountability on matters of cell phone safety and to act swiftly to protect the public’s health, to educate the public about known risks and to review the science showing biological effects from electromagnetic fields.

    Please sign ElectromagneticHealth.org’s EMF Petition to Congress.

    The petition calls for:

    We the undersigned, the American people, petition Congress to take immediate and effective measures to protect the public from electromagnetic pollution.

    The following 4 steps should be taken:

    1. Mandate the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revisit its exposure guidelines for radiofrequency radiation (RF) immediately.

    2. Repeal Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which took away the rights of state and local governments to stop the erection of cell towers and wireless antennas in their communities based on “environmental” grounds (defined by FCC as “human health”).

    3. Declare a national moratorium on further wireless infrastructure build-out, including the Wi-Max roll-out currently underway, a joint venture of Sprint, Time Warner Cable, Google, Clearwire and others.

    4. Establish cell phone and wireless-free neighborhoods, transportation options, government buildings, and public spaces; require employers to establish wireless free zones; and, mandate the removal of cellular and wireless technologies from public schools and their properties.

    We ask members of Congress to act swiftly, decisively and with full integrity to stem the emerging electromagnetic radiation pollution increasingly permeating the lives of the American people. There has never before been a public health issue as important.

    Please sign ElectromagneticHealth.org’s EMF Petition to Congress at

    www.ElectromagneticHealth.org. Please also call your representatives in Congress to express your concern about unchecked proliferation of electromagnetic fields in our lives. We need to put the pressure on, collectively as a country, to reverse the extraordinary errors in judgment that have been made.

    -Camilla Rees