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Aegis Note: The 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 Drafted
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 York-based newsletter.

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 American consumers.

"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 standard.

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 exposure guidelines.

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 regulations.

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 months.

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."

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