IEEE risk assessment committee mentioned in this article is from the same
committee that proposed the ear should be considered an extremity so
phone radiation exposure limits could be raised. It should be
noted that exposure limits for extremities are much higher than
exposure limits for organs.
Relaxed RF Guidelines
RCR Wireless News
Journalist: Jeffrey Silva
November 26, 2001
Government scientists say they are alarmed by relaxed mobile-phone radiation
guidelines being drafted by an industry standards group, a controversy that
arises at a time when trial lawyers in health lawsuits are looking closer at
the corporate role in the setting of wireless safety limits.
Two government scientists, who requested anonymity and agreed to talk on
background only, said the new radiation standard contemplated by an
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers panel represents a radical
departure from existing safety rules and procedures for establishing them.
In addition, the government scientists said the draft radiation standard
ignores more than a dozen health issues flagged in July 1999 by officials of
the Federal Communications Commission, Food and Drug Administration,
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Environmental
Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and
National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
RCR Wireless News has obtained a copy of the IEEE document, which details
the revised mobile-phone radiation safety standard. The contents of the
draft radiation standard were first reported by Microwave News, a New
Russell Owen, an FDA radiation specialist, and other federal regulators said
they are baffled why the IEEE draft standard was put together before the
scientific review is completed. Asked whether he agreed with other
government scientists who do not believe the draft standard adequately
addresses health concerns, Owen
replied, "I don't think you can say."
Owen is working with the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association
on wireless health research funded by wireless carriers and manufacturers.
"All of these changes result in a huge increase in radiation exposure for
persons who use handhelds," said one government scientist.
The IEEE preliminary draft would increase the current radiation exposure of
1.6 watts/Kg averaged over one gram of human tissue to10 watts/Kg averaged
over 10 grams of human tissue. Another major change would be the elimination
of separate radiation exposure limits for workers and the general public.
All told, the IEEE preliminary draft -if left unchanged- would push up the
allowable level of RF radiation in mobile phones used by 123 million
"This is totally, totally preliminary ... This is not laid in concrete,"
said Richard Tell, an industry consultant who chairs the IEEE risk
assessment committee and works on the panel that is revising the radiation
Tell stressed the preliminary draft is designed to spark discussion and
could be discarded if the ongoing review of scientific studies-including
those claiming non-thermal biological damage from cell-phone
radiation-warrants changes. However, he said he does not believe the
preliminary draft standard will be scrapped.
"There are many people that believe the present limit that has been used
particularly for the public is really not scientifically supported," said
Tell. The revised radiation standard worked on by Tell and others would
essentially drop the five-fold safety factor that is integrated into current
The new IEEE radiation standard is expected to be largely completed next
summer. It is unclear whether third-generation mobile phones will require
more transmission power and might be unable to meet today's radiation safety
The IEEE panel working on the liberalized radiation standard is spearheaded
by Dr. C.K. Chou, a well-regarded scientist who left the City of Hope
Medical Center in Southern California to work for Motorola several years
ago. Motorola also employs Mays Swicord, a former FDA scientist, and Joseph
Elder, a former EPA scientist.
Chou did not return a call for comment.
The IEEE and the American National Standards Institute, which are
responsible for the phone radiation standard adopted by the FCC, were named
defendants in a $1.5 billion brain-cancer lawsuit recently filed by former
Motorola Inc. technician Michael Murray. Both groups are expected to be
named defendants in a slew of additional phone-cancer suits that plaintiff
lawyers say they will file against the wireless industry during the next six
Last Tuesday, in a privacy suit with health overtones, a judge in Illinois
state court approved a partial settlement that sets up a cell-phone health
registry with $250,000 in seed money. Epidemiologist Dr. George Carlo is
directing the registry, which will collect information on cell-phone users
who suspect radiation injury and look for patterns among consumers. Carlo
had been a defendant in the class action suit. The litigation, which alleges
privacy invasion in connection with a phone-cancer epidemiology study, will
continue against wireless industry defendants.
Carlo, who managed a $28 million, industry-funded research program, sparked
controversy after publicizing findings of genetic damage from cell-phone
radiation. Carlo has been sharply critical of industry for not taking
measures to protect the nation's 123 million mobile-phone
subscribers-particularly youth-from alleged health risks. The industry
claims wireless phones do not pose a health threat to consumers. Others
claim studies have found DNA breaks, memory impairment, increased tumors,
eye cancer and other harm to biological systems from mobile-phone radiation.
"This is a very substantial step for public health," said Carlo.
Questions have been raised about the appropriateness of letting the industry
set mobile-phone radiation safety standards.
"I don't think there's a conflict here," said Tell, explaining that many of
the top RF experts reside in the private sector. "My view is that you need
to look at the technical expertise of individuals in the process."