Overview[edit | edit source]
Mobile phone use in the United States has risen dramatically over the last 20 years, and Americans increasingly rely on mobile phones as their sole or primary means of telephone communication. The rapid adoption of mobile phones has occurred amidst controversy over whether the technology poses a risk to human health. Like other devices that transmit radio signals, mobile phones emit radio-frequency (RF) energy. At high power levels, RF energy can heat biological tissue and cause damage. Though mobile phones operate at power levels well below the level at which this thermal effect occurs, the question of whether long-term exposure to RF energy emitted from mobile phones can cause other types of adverse health effects, such as cancer, has been the subject of research and debate.
Regulation[edit | edit source]
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) share regulatory responsibilities for mobile phones. The FCC, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, regulates RF energy emitted from FCC-regulated transmitters, including mobile phones. Toward that end, the FCC has implemented a certification program to ensure that all mobile phones sold in the United States comply with the agency's limit on RF energy exposure. This limit was designed to protect users from the thermal effects of acute exposure to RF energy.
The FDA is responsible for carrying out a program designed to protect public health and safety from electronic product radiation. The FDA does not review the safety of all radiation-emitting electronic products, such as mobile phones, before they are marketed. However, the FDA has the authority to take action, such as requiring manufacturers to replace or recall mobile phones that are shown to emit RF energy at a level that is hazardous. To date, the FDA has not taken such action, but the agency regularly evaluates scientific studies on mobile phones and health to determine whether they raise public health questions.
GAO reports[edit | edit source]
In 2001, the GAO reported on the status of scientific knowledge about potential health risks of RF energy exposure from mobile phones and the federal government's regulatory actions to ensure mobile phone safety. We found that the FDA and others had concluded that the research did not show RF energy exposure from mobile phones had adverse health effects, but more studies were needed. The GAO also found that the FCC had not issued standardized procedures for testing mobile phones and that the FCC's and FDA's consumer materials could be improved. Since 2001, the FCC has issued revised guidance for mobile phone testing, and both the FCC and FDA have provided updated information to consumers about the health effects of mobile phone use.
On July 24, 2012, the GAO issued an updated report called on the FCC to reassess and, if appropriate, change its current RF energy exposure limit and mobile phone testing requirements related to likely usage configurations, particularly when phones are held against the body.
References[edit | edit source]
- 47 C.F.R. §1.1307(b)(2).
- 21 U.S.C. §§360hh-360ss.
- 21 U.S.C. §360ll.
- Telecommunications: Research and Regulatory Efforts on Mobile Phone Health Issues.
- Telecommunications: Exposure and Testing Requirements for Mobile Phones Should Be Reassessed.