Recent US Government Reports, Congressional Hearings on Wireless and Electromagnetic Radiation

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Recent US Government Reports, Congressional Hearings

Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Radiation and Health

 

From the 1970s to the 1990s, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was researching and developing radiofrequency radiation (RFR) limits. In 1996, just as the EPA was set to release their Phase 1 of safety limits, the EPA’s RFR efforts were defunded, halting all EPA research. That year the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted RFR exposure limits based largely on limits developed by industry/military connected groups (ANSI/IEEE C95.1-1992 and NCRP’s 1986 Report).

Current FCC limits, adopted in 1996, are only based on protecting against heating (thermal) effects from short-term exposures. They do not account for non-thermal biological effects or the effects of long-term, chronic exposures. Furthermore, adequate scientific data on children’s unique vulnerability to RFR was not available at that time. The US still has no federally developed safety limits, and there has been no systematic review of the scientific research to develop safety limits that adequately protect the public from long-term exposures.

 

Timeline of US Federal Action/Reports Since 2008

2018: National Toxicology Program (NTP) Final Report on Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation Studies

In 1999 the FDA nominated the NTP to do animal studies to understand the long term effects of chronic exposure to cell phone radiation. In 2018 the NTP released their peer-reviewed final reports on the $30M study with findings of “clear evidence” of cancerous heart tumors and increases in other tumor types. Immediately following the release of the NTP final reports, the FDA released a statement rejecting the NTP conclusions of “clear evidence” and the FDA opinion that FCC limits are acceptable. However, the FDA did not substantiate their rejection of the study conclusions with any scientific documentation, analysis nor any report.

2013: FCC Opens Official Inquiry Into Human Exposure Guidelines

In response to the 2012 GAO Report, the FCC opened a proceeding to explore whether it should modify its radiofrequency exposure standards. The FCC noted, “we specifically seek comment as to whether our current limits are appropriate as they relate to device use by children.”  

To date, the FCC has failed to act. Over 900 comments have been filed since FCC opened this docket, but no US health agency has submitted any opinion or scientific documentation to either docket.  

2012: Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report: Exposure and Testing Requirements for Mobile Phones Should Be Reassessed.”

This GAO Report calls on the FCC to “formally reassess and, if appropriate, change its current RF energy (microwave) exposure limit and mobile phone testing requirements related to likely usage configurations, particularly when phones are held against the body,” because without such a reassessment, the “FCC cannot ensure it is using a limit that reflects the latest research on RF energy exposure.”  

2009: Senate Appropriations Committee HearingHealth Effects of Cell Phone Use”  

2008: National Academy of Sciences National Research Council Report The Identification of Research Needs Relating to Potential Biological or Adverse Health Effects of Wireless Communications Devices”  

This report documented critical research gaps and called for the need to increase understanding of any adverse effects of long term chronic exposure to RF/microwave energy on children and pregnant women.  

2008: Congressional Hearing Health Effects of Cell Phone Use  US House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Domestic Policy

 

Statements on FCC Limits by Other Federal Agencies

U.S. Department of the Interior 2014 Letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration  “The electromagnetic radiation standards used by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continue to be based on thermal heating, a criterion now nearly 30 years out of date and inapplicable today”.

 

EPA 2002 Letter on FCC guidelines

“Federal health and safety agencies have not yet developed policies concerning possible risk from long term, non thermal exposures.” Current FCC human exposure limits “are thermally based, and do not apply to chronic, nonthermal exposure situations” and adequate scientific evaluations of the full impact on sensitive populations such as children, pregnant women and the elderly has yet to be completed.  

 

2018: GAO Lists Status of Their Recommendations to Reassess RF Limits as “Closed – Not Implemented

The 2012 GAO Report had two recommendations for regulatory action: 1. The Chairman of the FCC should formally reassess the current RF energy exposure limit, including its effects on human health, the costs and benefits associated with keeping the current limit, and the opinions of relevant health and safety agencies, and change the limit if determined appropriate. 2. The Chairman of the FCC should reassess whether mobile phone testing requirements result in the identification of maximum RF energy exposure in likely usage configurations, particularly when mobile phones are held against the body, and update testing requirements as appropriate.

As the FCC has not acted to reassess,  the GAO issued this statement in 2018: “Despite many years of consideration, FCC still has no specific plans to take any actions that would satisfy our recommendations. Accordingly, we are closing the recommendations as not implemented.”

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

The GAO requested the FCC update exposure limits with current science .The US government has never performed a systematic review of the science and is relying on outdated wireless radiation limits. Experts in US Agencies have written  that FCC limits are outdated over the years but no action has been taken.

 

For a more detailed look at government reports including the EPS reports on this issue since the 1970s, see: https://ehtrust.org/policy/us-government-reports-on-cell-phones-radiofrequency-electromagnetic-fields/

 

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