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IEEE Retreats On Relaxed RF Guides 
RCR News 
Journalist: Jeffrey Silva 
January 21, 2002 

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has retreated from a grass-roots effort to relax mobile-phone radiation safety guidelines, but the group continues to dismiss non-thermal biological effects that some studies suggest could be harmful to human health.

An IEEE working group made the decision to scrap a preliminary draft of the radio-frequency radiation standard at a meeting with federal regulators in Motorola Inc.'s laboratories at Plantation, Fla. The draft sparked controversy after news reports revealed it would significantly lower radiation exposure limits and eliminate the distinction between workers and consumers. 

"This approach takes time," said C.K. Chou, chief radiation scientist at Motorola. 

Chou said the media blew the issue out of proportion. Chou said the preliminary draft was the work product of one man, the IEEE's Richard Tell. A working draft of a new RF standard should be ready by the Bioelectromagnetic Society's meeting June 23-27 in Quebec. 

IEEE has come under close scrutiny in proliferating mobile-phone health litigation because of ties of its members to the wireless industry and the military. The military and other federal agencies do not adhere to the stricter 1996 RF standard adopted by the Federal Communications Commission. 

IEEE has taken the firm position that mobile phones do not cause non-thermal biological effects. 

In a summary of the Plantation, Fla., meeting, the IEEE working group stated, "Non-thermal RF biological effects have not been established and none of the reported effects are proven adverse to health. Thermal effect is the only established adverse effect." 

Some scientists and health advocates disagree, pointing to studies with findings of DNA breaks, genetic damage, memory impairment, eye cancer, brain cancer in lab rats, cell damage and various neurological problems. 

The cell-phone industry and others reply that these experiments have not been replicated. 

The FCC recently refused a request to re-examine the scientific basis for the current RF standard, which the courts have upheld. The EMR Network, which says the RF standard is based on older studies and does not take into account newer studies that suggest a health risk from phone radiation, has petitioned the FCC to review the bureau-level ruling not to reconsider the RF standard. 

The advocacy group is working with Vermont lawmakers on legislation that would provide government funding for cell-phone research and repeal a telecom act provision to allow health concerns to be considered in local antenna siting. 

In the United States, most cell-phone research is conducted by industry. The Food and Drug Administration and cellular industry are working together on several studies being underwritten by carriers and manufacturers to the tune of $1.5 million. The General Accounting Office is monitoring the FDA-industry project because of concerns raised by lawmakers. 

The government recently announced a $10 million phone-cancer research program in North Carolina. 

Several lawsuits that allege cell phones cause brain cancer and seek to force wireless carriers to supply headsets with phones are heading into a critical stage. 

Late next month, a federal court in Baltimore will hold a key hearing on scientific experts and evidence in an $800 million lawsuit filed against industry by trial attorney Peter Angelos on behalf of 42-year-old neurologist Christopher Newman, who claims mobile-phone use caused his cancer. If the plaintiffs can get through what will be an unprecedented and legally tough hearing, the case likely will move to trial. There is still a possibility the case could be remanded back to state court. 

Besides overseeing the Newman case, U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake is handling several class-action lawsuits that hold the mobile-phone industry responsible for not equipping consumers with radiation-reducing headsets from the start. Early this year, AT&T Wireless Services began to market phones with headsets as a convenience accessory for subscribers. A hearing on whether the lawsuits should be sent back to various state courts is slated for next month. 

Other mobile-phone health lawsuits and workers compensation claims are playing out elsewhere throughout the country. 

Last week, lawyers for former Motorola technician Michael Murray asked a federal court here to remand a brain cancer lawsuit back to the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. Murray is seeking $1.5 billion in damages. The Murray lawyers say they plan to file a dozen phone-cancer lawsuits early next month in D.C. Superior Court. 

A California phone-cancer lawsuit that has bounced between state and federal courts has been converted into a class-action. A phone-cancer lawsuit in Las Vegas is steeped in motions over how broad discovery should be. 

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