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FCC Hasn't Set Cell Phone Radiation Standards Since 1996

After years of urging by the Environmental Working Group and others, the FCC very recently announced their plan to review cell phone radiation standards, which have not been revised since 1996. The revision will involve the FCC reaching out to health professionals and other agencies for current data on how radiation from cell phones affects the human body.

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Every cell phone has a specific absorption rate (SAR) that refers to the amount of radio frequency energy that the body absorbs when a person is using the handset. The current limit in the United States is set at a maximum SAR level of 1.6 watts per kilogram. Different phones have different SAR values, and those rates can be affected by factors like transmission band and phone model.

Different bodies may absorb radio frequency energy at different rates as well, with children being especially susceptible due to their thinner skulls and still-developing bodies. Most available SAR research has been done on voice calls rather than data usage.

While studies concerning cell phones and human health have largely been inconclusive, some studies have suggested that cell phone radiation could be related to decreased sperm count, brain cancer, sleep disturbances and other health concerns. It is suggested that people keep their phones about an inch away from their bodies at all times, and that cell phones are not positioned under pillows or close to the bed during sleeping. Texting or using an earpiece are considered safer than making voice calls where the phone is pressed against the user's head.

It is inarguable that cell phones are a larger part of our lives now than they were in 1996 and that these concerns are more relevant now than ever before. Cell phones are generally thought of as innocuous devices, and their use is so widespread that it may be easy to forget that the technology is relatively new and may have unforeseen and potentially devastating health consequences.


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