FCC Test to Measure Cellphone
Radiation Flawed, Group Says
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Oct. 17, 2011
By DAN CHILDS
A government test used to measure the radiation people
absorb from their cellphones might underestimate the levels
to which most adults and children are exposed, according to
a group of doctors and researchers whose stated mission is
to promote awareness of environmental health risks they
believe may be linked to cancer.
Researchers from the Environmental Health Trust released a
report this morning noting that the Federal Communications
Commission test to determine radiation exposure is flawed.
The reason for the discrepancy, the group says, is that the
process to determine radiation exposure from cellphones
involves the use of a mannequin model that they say
approximates a 6-foot-2, 220-pound person. Because the model
represents only about 3 percent of the population, the
authors report, the test will not accurately predict the
radiation exposure of the other 97 percent of the
population, including children. The group is pushing for a
new testing system to measure radiation exposure in a wider
range of consumers.
"The standard for cellphones has been developed based on old
science and old models and old assumptions about how we use
cellphones, and that's why they need to change," said Dr.
Devra Davis, former senior adviser in the Department of
Health and Human Services under the Clinton administration
and one of the report's authors.
A different study cited in the report says a child's bone
marrow absorbs 10 times the radiation as an adult. The
authors also raise questions about long-term side effects,
such as infertility in males who carry phones in their
pockets, an exposure unaccounted for in the traditional
The authors suggest an alternative certification process,
one that uses MRI scans to test real humans, including
children and pregnant women. Such an approach would provide
exposure data on a "Virtual Family," representing all ages,
the authors say.
"What the 'Virtual Family' does is it uses anatomically
based models that reflect the fact that children's brains
are more vulnerable than adults," Davis said.
The Environmental Health Trust is a non-profit organization
whose scientists have also leveled their gaze at
environmental hazards such as asbestos, tobacco smoke and
radiation from medical diagnostic equipment. In addition to
Davis, the group also counts among its members Dr. Ronald
Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer
Institute, and Om Gandhi, a former scientist for Motorola
who first performed the research establishing acceptable
radiation risk. Both were also authors on the report.
The U.S. government has had no specific comment on the
report. The cellphone industry group CTIA-The Wireless
Association said that because members "are not scientists or
researchers on this topic," the news media should contact
But whether the low level of radiation from cellphones
actually causes cancer is a question that has yet to be
answered. "No scientific evidence currently establishes a
definite link between [cellphones] and cancer or other
illnesses," the FCC says on its website.
Independent scientists also said there are no conclusive
studies that cellphone radiation causes cancer.
In May, the World Health Organization's International Agency
for Research on Cancer placed cellphones in the same
category as lead and engine exhaust, citing the possibility
that exposure to cellphone radiation could have long-term
health effects. But roughly 30 studies conducted thus far
have failed to draw a conclusive link.
One study last year found a slight, statistically
insignificant increase in risk in a rare form of brain
cancer called glioma among cellphone users. Another study
out of the National Institutes of Health Research found
cellphone use was associated with increased brain activity.
But whether that is linked in turn to an increased risk of
cancer has yet to be shown.
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