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FCC Rejects Changes to Existing Radiofrequency Exposure Limits

Emily McPhie

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FCC photo of Julie Knapp.

WASHINGTON, August 8, 2019 — Following more than six years of public input and review, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Thursday introduced a proposal to maintain the agency’s existing radiofrequency exposure limits.

These limits are set in close consultation with the Food and Drug Administration and other health agencies, said Julius Knapp, chief of the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology.

The United States’ RF exposure limits are among the most stringent in the world for cell phones, Knapp added.

In a press release, the agency referenced a letter from Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in which Shuren said that no changes to the existing standards were currently warranted.

“Based on our ongoing evaluation of this issue, the totality of the available scientific evidence continues to not support adverse health effects in humans caused by exposures at or under the current radiofrequency energy exposure limits,” Shuren wrote. “We believe the existing safety limits for cell phones remain acceptable for protecting the public health.”

The draft item establishes a uniform set of guidelines using metrics around frequency, distance, and power to determine how entities assess their compliance with RF standards. These guidelines will replace the previous rules, which were inconsistent and service-specific.

It also seeks comment on establishing a rule to formalize the agency’s existing methods of determining compliance with the RF exposure standard for devices operating at high frequencies.

An inquiry into the RF exposure limits and policies was opened by the FCC in 2013. At the time, the agency stated in a press release that it was confident in the existing guidelines and was simply reexamining them as a matter of good government.

Some scientists have cautioned that RF waves from cell phones might potentially lead to tumors, according to the American Cancer Society. However, current research has not conclusively established a link between cell phone usage and health problems.

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