Amid the running debate over whether radiation from cellphones can be harmful, the Federal Communications Commission has downplayed health concerns. The agency, which sets safety guidelines for cellphones, says on its website that “currently no scientific evidence establishes a causal link between wireless device use and cancer or other illnesses.”
But a report published Monday in the journal Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine contends that the FCC’s test to determine radiation exposure from cellphones is flawed. While the report does not break new ground on whether radiation from wireless devices causes disease, it argues that the FCC’s risk assessments of cellphones are wrong because they are based on assumptions that dramatically underestimate the emissions that many people absorb.
The authors say the radiation absorption calculations are particularly off target and worrisome for children, whose brains are rapidly developing and whose relatively thin skulls provide less protection from emissions.
“The standard for cellphones has been developed based on old science and old models and old assumptions about how we use cellphones,” Devra Lee Davis, one of the report’s authors and a senior adviser in the Department of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration, told ABC News.
The report by Davis, two of her colleagues at the nonprofit Environmental Health Trust and three other scientists contends that the FCC’s assessments are wrong in part because they are based on the radiation a large adult male would absorb — and thus underestimate the impact on 97 percent of the population.
The report’s authors are pushing for a revamped testing process to measure the impact on people of various sizes and ages
They also cited previous research that a child’s bone marrow absorbs 10 times the radiation as an adult. In addition, the report’s authors raise questions about potential long-term health effects such as infertility in males who carry phones in their pockets.
The report comes amid worldwide uncertainty about cellphone safety. In May, a European advisory panel called for a ban on cellphones and wireless Internet connections in schools, expressing the fear that the electromagnetic radiation the technologies emit could pose long-term health hazards for children. This month Health Canada took a more cautious step, advising parents to “encourage”
children under 18 to limit cellphone use.
ROBERT T. NELSON