With a cell phone glued to his ear, a University student paces back and forth on Northrop Mall. Sometimes he talks in 20-minute stretches all day long, but he is not concerned about the possible health risks of using the device, he said.
Last week the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, which represents several hundred wireless carriers and manufacturers, established a new policy requiring cellular phone makers to disclose information on radiation levels produced by their phones.
The required radiation information is the amount of radiation absorbed by the body while using a mobile phone.
In 1996 the Federal Communications Commission determined radiation levels should not exceed 1.6 watts per kilogram — or 2.2 pounds — of human tissue.
Every cellular phone maker must already report the radiation figure to the Federal Communications Commission when applying for product approval. But new information will be now more widely available to the public.
The actual radiation measurement won’t be printed on the boxes of new cell phones, however. Packages will only include tips on how consumers can access the information from the FCC, along with a list of government and corporate Web sites that provide more information and details on what the numbers really mean.
This new policy comes after an increasing concern over the possible health risks associated with the repeated exposure of users to the radiation emitted by their mobile phones.
There has been no medical evidence supporting the allegations that radiation from cell phones may cause cancer or other health problems. At the same time, there is no definite proof that cell phone radiation is harmless.
Earlier this week, Dr. Chris Newman, 41, of Jarrettsville, Md., filed an $800 million lawsuit against a cell phone maker and a telecommunications company, claiming years of using his cell phone caused him to develop a brain tumor behind his right ear.
Similar lawsuits have been filed over the past few years; however, all have been withdrawn by the plaintiffs or dismissed by the courts.
Some scientific research does support Newman’s claim, however.
In a controversial article published this week in Medscape’s online journal, MedGenMed, Dr. George Carlo concluded more research must be done to determine the long-term effects of cell phone radiation.
The Food and Drug Administration is conducting additional research on two of the studies published in Carlo’s article, said Megan Matthews, head of media relations at Finland-based manufacturer Nokia.
All scientific research findings must be reviewed by government agencies and international health organizations to determine if they are valid, Matthews said. So far, these reviews conclude that “the radio signals emitted by cell phones at recommended levels present no adverse effects to human health,” she said.
Nonetheless, all sides of the debate have called for additional research on the issue.
The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association recently said it would spend $25 million to study possible cancer risks from cell phones, while Nokia is contributing to global research programs in support of better scientific and public understanding of the issue.
As for comparing the radiation levels of each phone, the amount of radiation emitted can vary widely depending on where the device is used. But all cellular phones currently available must meet FCC regulations.
Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola — the three largest cell phone manufacturers — will begin to disclose the radiation levels of their products on the packages of any new hand-held devices in the next three to six months.
Juliette Crane covers technology and welcomes comments at [email protected]