back to article Mobile phone health rules need update, warns US watchdog

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) is urging legislators to update the health protection requirements required of mobile phone manufacturers, but indicated some emissions limits might be increased rather than reduced. In a report, the agency recommended a rethink after finding that the current rules for phone radio …


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  1. LarsG

    To be completely safe it is advisable to carry you mobile phone in a lead lined case and to use it only one in six months. Failure to follow these instructions may lead to injury.

    We hear this all the time over

    Butter, alcohol, suger, fast food, eggs, milk, smoking etc etc etc.

    Health warning everywhere, if we followed all the advice we'd lead extremely boring lives.

  2. JMB

    I worked around high power RF for the whole of my working life and safety precautions were taken to ensure that no one was exposed to dangerous levels. I have never been happy with excessive use of handheld mobile phone - a colleague did some tests with RF measuring equipment so I asked if he had a look at the RF level from his phone, he had and it was "off the end stop". I only use my handheld mobile phone when there is no alternative and leave it switched off most of the time.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      No way could a handheld phone ever be considered "high power" RF, even at maximum output. In most cases the power output is minimal since it self-adjusts to the lowest level required in order to reduce interference and maximize battery life. If your colleague's attempt in measuring "RF" (what exactly was he measuring anyway, peak, average, across what bandwidth, etc.?) went "off the scale" then he probably needs to (re)read the manual for his meter. If 2W sends it off the scale it won't be much good for "high power RF" measurements.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        it self-adjusts to the lowest level required in order to reduce interference and maximize battery life

        The lowest level required to maintain a connection - battery life is usually a poor second. A phone that doesn't keep a connection is not even of use to those that use a smartphone for everything BUT making calls.

        I would not diss those comments too quickly. Personally I would welcome a story that states the radiation is actually beneficial to us (just to avoid boredom) but the dry reality is that we have no reliable long term data yet..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Since maintaining a connection is, as you note, an essential characteristic of a phone, I've have thought it was implicit in the "required" part of "lowest level required ", no?

      2. JMB

        I never wrote that a handheld mobile phone was "high power" RF, I said that I worked with high power RF where lots of monitoring was done to check exposure.

        My colleague was investigating a complaint and had been sent some high quality labopratory standard fully calibrated equipment. He could not detect any radiation from the location where they had been complaints but with the antenna a similar distance from a mobile phone as someone's head whilst using it was measuring very high levels.

        2 watts in close proximity will produce much a higher field strength than 100 watts or more when some distance away. The analogy I usually use is a 100 watt light bulb in an outside light across the road and a 0.3 watt torch bulb right by the eye, which hurts the eye most?

  3. wowfood

    Obviously these scientists all read the daily mail.

    Age, air, alcohol, aspirin and calcium

    Ham, honey, eggs, dogs, dieting and soup

    Being a woman, being a man, bubble bath and food from cans

    Being black, wearing bras, left-handiness and speedy cars

    Ostergoen, climate change, baby food, the menopause

    Beef, beer, pizza, pork, cereal and worchester sauce

    Childlessness, children, vitamins and bacon

    Chocolate, retirement, deodarant and facebook

    The mail says that these cause cancer, but it's only rumours that they give you tumours

    They've got some big b--ls to print it, cos it's 60 pages of scary bulls--t.

    1. Greg J Preece

      Re: Obviously these scientists all read the daily mail.

      Not quite as directly appropriate, but this is my favourite Daily Fail song:

  4. peter 45

    "While the GAO report indicates there is not evidence to suggest using a cell phone causes cancer"

    " the GAO report indicates there is much evidence to suggest using a cell phone does not cause cancer"

    Fixed in for you Anna. You're welcome.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The US Government Accountability Office obviously no nothing about radio frequencies. 1.6 watts at 850mhz does not have the same effect as 1.6 watts at 1900mhz. Show some tables with results comparing a continuous wave signal with digital cell phone signals.

    1. no_RS

      Agreed that different frequencies produce different levels of exposure but that is the luck of the draw, suggest you find a phone service at a suitable frequency for minimum exposure. Just for the record the electrical characteristics of the fluid used to simulate human tissue is adjusted to compensate for different frequencies, this is to ensure the fluid represents the correct electical properties at the frequency being investigated.

      Besides I think the GAO is right in asking the question, current FCC SAR limits are much tougher than else where because of the tissue volume of 1g. It's not as if all European users have brain cancer but American ones don't but Americans are more lilely to sue so I suspect the limits will go down and people will then complain about bad coverage, call dropping, etc and sue the networks.....

  6. John H Woods

    All health risks ...

    ... should be measured in cigarettes/day or car miles or something people can understand. Not bollocks such as %age of a minute risk. Three car journeys triple a minute risk - buying three lotto tickets triples your chance of winning. In both cases there is no practical difference.

    Until we have worked out how to stop ageing, there is almost no point worrying about any risk that is less than around 2-5cigs /day or 5-10,000 miles of driving a year.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: All health risks ...

      I agree in principle, but, for most Western counties the risk of driving 5-10k miles a year is very, very small. I would also say that 2-5 cigarettes a day is also vanishingly small in terms of risk (and is probably linked to genetic factors, which is why some people do get cancer and others don't, for a given exposure to smoke), and so they wouldn't really help. However, a sensible "this is the risk of something fairly common, and this is how this other thing stacks up" would be extremely useful.

  7. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Why change it at all?

    How close are current or prospective phone radiation power levels to the limits? If industry doesn't need to be authorised to use more powerful radios, while on the other hand there's no evidence of hazard at the levels used, then let's keep things as they are where pretty much everybody is happy.

    Then again, you report that Russian radio astronomers irradiated Sir Bernard Lovell and now he's dead.

    This could be an accident, though. Supposedly, Russian airport security staff used to suffer grievously from the effects of operating their x-ray machines. And wasn't the microwave oven invented when a radar operator's chocolate bar melted, or something? That's a bar of actual chocolate, not a chocuolate bar mobile phone.

  8. A J Stiles
    Thumb Down

    Not again

    They keep searching for evidence of a link between mobile phones and ill health.

    They consistently fail to find one.

    Then they ask for more money, so they can search harder for evidence of a link between mobile phones and ill health.

    Just how long is this whole cycle going to go on, before anybody realises that there probably isn't any such link to be found?

    1. wowfood

      Re: Not again

      until they find a link, duh.

      Or until a new standard comes along and nobody cares about phones anymore. Probably a microchip that gives us telepathic powers.

      Telepathy causes cancer. We found a guy who has the telepathy implant and at one point in his life, he had cancer. TELEPATHY CAUSES CANCER!!!

  9. anaru

    Empirical evidence?

    Seeing as cell phones have been around since the late '80s, one would expect, if they did cause cancer, to be able to identify a higher than average cancer rate amongst retired Gordon Gecko types.

    I'm no physicist, but apparently the radiation emitted by cellphones has a waveform too large to affect a human cell. That means if they did find that cellphone radiation cause cancer, they would need to update the laws of physics.

    Given the above, I have to say I feel reasonably safe...

  10. DougS Silver badge

    Belt clips? BELT CLIPS???

    Was this written in 2002? Nobody uses belt clips anymore. Test the effects of keeping it in your pants pocket you morons!

    I suppose in 10 years hence, right about the time the Google Glasses Android phone is competing against the Apple iEye, these idiots will drone on about the importance of testing the effect of a phone kept in one's pants pocket.

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