×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

FCC Asked To Reassess Cell Phone Radiation Guidelines

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the everybody-is-surprisingly-reasonable dept.

Wireless Networking 78

An anonymous reader writes "A U.S. government report released on Tuesday says the Federal Communications Commission needs to update its guidelines for limiting cell phone radio-frequency exposure. The limit was set in 1996 to an exposure rate of 1.6 watts per kilogram, and has not been updated since. The report does not advocate in favor of any particular research, and actually points out that the limit could possibly be raised, but says the FCC's rules have not kept pace with recent studies on the subject one way or the other. An executive for The Wireless Association said, 'The FCC has been vigilant in its oversight in this area and has set safety standards to make sure that radio frequency fields from wireless phones remain at what it has determined are safe levels. The FCC's safety standards include a 50-fold safety factor and, as the FCC has noted, are the most conservative in the world.'"

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

78 comments

Lower (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40923519)

In b4 niger fagets.

Why would you want to raise the limit? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40923675)

RF power eats battery anyway and longer range just means bigger areas which share the bandwidth. At the same time technology improves and can make use of lower and lower signal levels. What is the point of raising a safety limit if there isn't even a technical benefit? (Wifi power limits for example are not even meant to be safety limits but to allow everyone a fair share of a scarce resource.)

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (2, Informative)

MrEricSir (398214) | about a year and a half ago | (#40923737)

Of course there's a technical benefit -- more power means you can use the phone further from a tower. If you're in an area where coverage is scarce, wouldn't you trade a decrease in battery life for an increase in signal?

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (2)

jhoegl (638955) | about a year and a half ago | (#40923797)

If the My balls are just fine at 1.6 watts per kilo, raise that higher and I might just father a mutant that can run through walls.
But dont blame me, blame the FCC.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (2)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year and a half ago | (#40923941)

...and too much Gamma radiation might make you turn green and muscular.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (1)

xstonedogx (814876) | about a year and a half ago | (#40924297)

...and too much Gamma radiation might make you turn green and muscular.

Not unlike most protein supplements. Those things taste awful.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (3, Interesting)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#40923829)

I believe the implication of GP was to use lower signal thresholds, reduce number of people per tower, increase battery life, and build more infrastructure.

The issue you raise is exactly the inverse: be cheap bastards, waste energy needlessly, be pennywise and pound foolish, jam everybody from an extended service area onto a single shared network cell, and get shittier battery life.

Lt me think about that one for a moment..... nope, GP's idea is just all around better and more reasonable.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40923885)

Huh? So in the country you'd just build one tower per home? Maybe using more power would make more sense? I'll let you think about it.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#40924029)

One tower per home is called WIFI. Look it up some time.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (2)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year and a half ago | (#40924415)

One tower per home is called WIFI. Look it up some time.

I looked it up, but my dictionary said femto-cell [wikipedia.org].

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (1)

Sollord (888521) | about a year and a half ago | (#40927799)

It would be interesting if a cell carrier teamed up with cable providers to build femto-cells into there cable modems or included them as an option with the cell carrier paying the rental fee in-exchange for make it an open site where the environment makes it hard to provide good coverage.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#40924127)

Parent didn't say "in the country", he said "edge of urban area."

Very different.

But since you asked, I use my wifi router to make calls with my cellphone when at home in my rural house, because I use an android handset and T-mobile. Works great. I have no complaints.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (2)

Rakishi (759894) | about a year and a half ago | (#40924065)

Yes because we know every part of the world is exactly identical with the same terrain, cell tower site availability, population density and cell phone usage. *rolls eyes*

I guess you want there to be fifty cell phone towers per person in the Alaskan wilderness, I wonder which cell tower builder you work for.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (2)

LurkerXXX (667952) | about a year and a half ago | (#40924109)

That might be good logic to you in NYC, but when you are in the vast majority of the actual Country, the midwest and western states do exist, contention for a tower in a large area isn't a real worry. The worry is getting signal when you are a long way from the nearest tower. And putting those towers up to service a handful of people isn't cheap.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#40924337)

In low density areas, high broadcast strength antennas and towers are sensible.

The trouble is that cellular companies want a one size fits all tower deployment plan, and want to put high energy towers in or near urban areas, resulting in the congestions that plaugue them, and cause them to argue for bandwidth caps.

The solution is to implement mixed bag deployment, but that increases logistical costs.

For an urban areas, which is what the GGP was explicitly referring to, many small towers at lower broadcast power make all the sense in the word.

The GP, arguing that it makes perfect sense technologically to raise power to get more people on fewer towers, over greater distances is either explicitly referring to completely rural roverage zones, or is an idiot.

For the sake of civility, I will assume the former.

Still, as a rural subscriber, I am happy with T-mobile's wifi hotspot support for android handsets. It also comes in really handy for office building deadzones and other service nightmare situations in ruban settings as well.

Clearly a hybrid solution is ideal.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (2)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year and a half ago | (#40925087)

For an urban areas, which is what the GGP was explicitly referring to, many small towers at lower broadcast power make all the sense in the word.

Until you try to talk while riding in a car, on a bus, or on a train using a bunch of towers with coverage area comparable to that of Wi-Fi hotspots. Then, when those tiny cells have an overlap of only ten or fifteen feet and the tower handoff takes more than the hundred or so milliseconds available for such a quick handoff, suddenly your call drops every hundred feet instead of every ten miles. :-)

In practice, even if you do 90% of your service on lower-power frequencies with tiny cells, you'll almost certainly want at least a few frequencies at higher power that you can kick phones onto if you see too much doppler shift. Otherwise, reliability will suck. Hard.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#40926335)

What I would consider ideal for urban cellular would be closer to towers with a 1mile radius (2 mile diameter), with about a 200ft overlap zone. Unless you are belting down the freeway doing well over most metro speed limits, you won't have handoff issues that way. You also mitigate the "thousands of scubscribers shoehorned into one tower" nightmare, but you do exchange that for a "now I have to plan how I deploy my microcells for maximum effective coverage" nightmare. Most dense urban areas have lots of tall buildings, especially in the dense residential districts in the form of highrise apartments, so putting the microcells on top of buildings in a planned deployment would appear doable.

I don't mean that every house should have one. Just one every 1.9 miles. For maximal handoff, each phone should always see 3 microcells to pick from. (Arrange the microcells in a 2D spherepack configuration, and this happens automatically. Sadly, city streets are laid out in quads, not triangles. Still, planning an efficient grid should still be possible.)

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year and a half ago | (#40926801)

For maximal handoff, each phone should always see 3 microcells to pick from.

*shrugs* Most of the time, my phone can see anywhere from 5-8 full-size towers. I still have regular handoff failures (on average, 2-3 failures per hour) at highway speeds. I suspect if you crank the cell size down that much, you're going to need something closer to a 1 mile overlap zone, where you can always see the current tower, the last tower, and the next tower no matter what direction you're traveling....

Then again, it's possible that the reason for the handoff failures is because the towers are just too congested to allocate me an open slot before I lose the signal from the previous tower, in which case the increased number of towers could make the need for large overlaps less necessary. Hard to say.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40927353)

In low density areas, high broadcast strength antennas and towers are sensible.

if you think that, then why did you say...

GP's idea is just all around better and more reasonable.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (1)

Sollord (888521) | about a year and a half ago | (#40927831)

NIMBY is the major issue with that idea as its hard enough to get towers in some locations as it is and tripling or quadrupling the numbers will be almost impossible.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | about a year and a half ago | (#40929997)

In low density areas, high broadcast strength antennas and towers are sensible.

The trouble is that cellular companies want a one size fits all tower deployment plan, and want to put high energy towers in or near urban areas, resulting in the congestions that plaugue them, and cause them to argue for bandwidth caps.

The solution is to implement mixed bag deployment, but that increases logistical costs.

For an urban areas, which is what the GGP was explicitly referring to, many small towers at lower broadcast power make all the sense in the word.

The GP, arguing that it makes perfect sense technologically to raise power to get more people on fewer towers, over greater distances is either explicitly referring to completely rural roverage zones, or is an idiot.

For the sake of civility, I will assume the former.

Still, as a rural subscriber, I am happy with T-mobile's wifi hotspot support for android handsets. It also comes in really handy for office building deadzones and other service nightmare situations in ruban settings as well.

Clearly a hybrid solution is ideal.

They all ready do this, mostly because in urban areas cranking the signal up to 11 hurts your transmission because the signal bounces around so much you induce noise with multibounce. The only solution in urban areas is more towers with less power, out in suburban and rural areas the signal can be transmitted at the max level and not increase the noise floor drastically. In suburban and rural areas a perimeter can be set up fairly cheaply that could allow the tower to broadcast above the current legal Tx power and still have less power outside the perimeter then the lower power ones in cities do. The Tx power is currently what is regulated by the FCC as it is the easiest way to regulate, but a tower on top of a residential building will radiate the population at much higher levels then a tower on some farmland or on top a water tower, this is one of the things that needs to be taken into account when determining the allowable Tx power.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about a year and a half ago | (#40928649)

Except you idea comes with some other inconvenient baggage called "cost".

The mobile phone companies are doing well enough increasing rates without actually justifying them with the requirements to build new towers. This isn't a high powered single frequency system where you can blanket a city with a handful of towers. Mobile towers literally need to be scattered in grids every km or so around a city, more so in a dense population area.

Also tower and power have nothing to do with load on a network cell. You can have one cell at a tower for light loads, you can have many cells at a tower for heavy loads. Loading in digital wireless systems is nearly as simple as "Oh look we're reaching the load limit. Lets drive in with a truck and add this small rack mounted unit into the system to increase our capacity." It's like adding a harddisk to the computer with the exception of needing to do minor reconfiguring to the RF combiners.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (1)

fisted (2295862) | about a year and a half ago | (#40923781)

well sometimes it is just ... convenient (read: rendering the infeasible feasible) to TX with a little more power.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#40924103)

This is true if your signal attenuates quickly, (2.4ghz band...) or if you are trying to overcome ambient RF noise (powerlines, solar wind hitting the atmosphere, sparkgaps in momentary contact motors, etc...), but for cellphones the impetus is usually just to shout over the sea of other similar devices, the makers of which all all do exactly the same, negating any potential benefit.

Further, any percieved benefit for longer effective range for handset will be lost due to more people on fewer towers.

Re:Why would you want to raise the limit? (4, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#40923985)

RF power eats battery anyway and longer range just means bigger areas which share the bandwidth. At the same time technology improves and can make use of lower and lower signal levels. What is the point of raising a safety limit if there isn't even a technical benefit? (Wifi power limits for example are not even meant to be safety limits but to allow everyone a fair share of a scarce resource.)

The GAO doesn't want to raise the safety limit, they want to push them lower. (requiring lower emissions).

However, they couldn't find a shred of evidence to support that, and were forced to dedicate their entire first paragraph to saying exactly that. Still, the radio-phobic lobby group pressured them into releasing a report asking the FCC to do SOMETHING, anything, and "Won't somebody please think of the children??!!!?".

Yes, phones can get away with less power today, due to better signal processing, but that just pushes us back into the same problems we faced with range limited devices of the past. And, no, wifi power limits in phones are SPECIFICALLY to address (largely irrational) concerns about specific absorption of radio waves.

Every phone goes through Specific Absorption testing, on ALL bands that they emit, and they all pass the most stringent tests, because manufacturers dont' want to have yet another thing to worry about in country A as opposed to country B, so they design for the tightest standards.

Most people don't even hold their phone to their head anymore. This was the big boogy man of the past. So now they want to worry about the phone you carry in your pocket, no doubt because of a upswing in buttocks cancer.

There is just no evidence that anything at all should be done. Trace this to the source and you find people who insist they can sense wifi routers.

Yea but... (4, Funny)

Narcocide (102829) | about a year and a half ago | (#40923683)

AM radio causes cancer

Re:Yea but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40923727)

AM radio causes cancer

It's also known to cause stupidity...

Re:Yea but... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40923735)

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh scruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuump!

I just farted out of my very own asshole! I know the very notion of such a thing is preposterous, but you heard me right: I farted out of my own asshole and no one else's. Not a single other asshole did I fart out of. It was my own asshole that I shot a fart out of.

Such a thing!

Re:Yea but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40923839)

i think you have posted this a couple times today...

Does anyone hold phones to their heads anymore? (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about a year and a half ago | (#40923693)

Everybody I see is either texting or surfing the web and rarely speaking. This "phones cause brain cancer" concern eliminated itself due to a change in user behavior.

Re:Does anyone hold phones to their heads anymore? (2)

ELCouz (1338259) | about a year and a half ago | (#40923813)

You still have the pocket problem... You don't want 200 watts of RF near your balls!
Don't forget most people put their phone in their pockets, some on them always at the same place! Sure, it's better to have skin cancer than brain one (debated I know) but still don't increase the RF limit just for the lack of towers (bad signal).

Re:Does anyone hold phones to their heads anymore? (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about a year and a half ago | (#40923981)

Nobody around here uses their balls anyway. And the extra power could be useful when you're broadcasting from the basement. (ducking and running)

Re:Does anyone hold phones to their heads anymore? (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#40924611)

You still have the pocket problem... You don't want 200 watts of RF near your balls!

My balls aren't in my pocket.
Most people keep a phone in their back pocket.

But I see you have fallen for the nonsense that radio transmitters, even pathetically weak ones, cause cancer.
You are precisely one the people the GAO wrote this report for.

Re:Does anyone hold phones to their heads anymore? (1)

plover (150551) | about a year and a half ago | (#40926719)

Cell phones definitely kill people. There's no question that many people die due to cellular telephone usage. However, the full cause of death is "blunt force trauma due to vehicular accident caused by a driver distracted by a cellular telephone." And we know that increasing the transmission power of cell phones is designed to increase the range of places where cell phones will work, which will mean more people talking or texting while driving, which ultimately will lead to even more deaths.

If you want to focus on the health hazard of cell phones, at least pick the one where there's actual evidence of harm. There's not even a blip in a study anywhere that shows cell phones contribute to skin or brain cancer.

Re:Does anyone hold phones to their heads anymore? (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | about a year and a half ago | (#40930171)

Current limits of cellphones are 2W for digital and 3.6 for analog most cell phones only emit .3W peak. Increasing the legal Tx power will not endanger your balls, as radiating you balls with 2W would drain your battery in about a half an hour giving you at most 5 hours a day of ball nuking, (16 waking hours, 1 hour charge, .5 hours ball nuke). It would be similar to radiating you nuts with a .4W source 24hours a day.

Re:Does anyone hold phones to their heads anymore? (0)

slick7 (1703596) | about a year and a half ago | (#40923937)

Everybody I see is either texting or surfing the web and rarely speaking. This "phones cause brain cancer" concern eliminated itself due to a change in user behavior.

Of course the levels will be higher, then, Cons-gress will bail out the banksters and Wall-em-up Street.
Remember, Iceland did it right.

Re:Does anyone hold phones to their heads anymore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40923969)

Try driving around more. Behind the wheel is where I see most people talking on the phone (despite the illegality of it in this state).

Why bother? (2, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#40923945)

No studies have shown that there is any danger from RF so there's no reason to lower the limit. Cell phones seem to work pretty well with the power level we have now, so there's no reason to raise it. Why not just leave well enough alone?

Re:Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40924173)

Do you call not being able to penetrate concrete office buildings very well, so phones have poor and intermittent signals, and hence have single digit (hours) battery life, so you have to charge you phone at least two times per day, "working pretty well"? Maybe people who pay Verizon $100 a month have phones that work well, but for those of us on budget Sprint or T-mobile paying $50, $60, $70, plans, well, we could use better power.

Re:Why bother? (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#40924405)

If you use t-mobile, just set up wifi calling, and add the building's wifi network to your association list.

Boom. No more cellular deadzone.

The only drawback is that it cannot hand-off established calls back to the cellular network as you leave the building, so you will have to slightly change your phone habits.

Otherwise, it works exactly like having good cell signal.

Re:Why bother? (1)

leighklotz (192300) | about a year and a half ago | (#40925311)

Or you could use Skype, not pay minutes to t-mobile for using your own wifi, and not have to hang up when you leave the house.

Re:Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40925367)

If you use t-mobile, just set up wifi calling, and add the building's wifi network to your association list.
Boom. No more cellular deadzone.

It will self destruct? Thanks for the warning.

Re:Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40934705)

Yes I know this, but it causes additional problems. Firstly, the WiFi calling isn't very reliable, but that isn't the primary concern. Keeping Wifi on would get me better signal, but it only makes the battery issue worse. You would have to turn off the radio when you turn on WiFi to help with the battery. So then you have to switch back and forth every time you leave the building. I find this annoying. There is no WiFi in between buildings, and that is when I want to check my emails and stuff. I don't want to have to turn airplane mode and wifi settings on and off several times a day. I leave the building several times a day, got meetings and lunch and stuff in other places.

Re:Why bother? (2)

Misagon (1135) | about a year and a half ago | (#40924195)

No, there have been studies that have shown that the kind of radiation that is used by some cell phone standards do indeed have non-thermal effects on brain cells in humans and rats, respectively.

It is just that people tend to look only for thermal effects and ionizing effects (mutating DNA, which can cause cancer) and that is what safety guidelines in Europe and the USA have been based on, so far. That is what is not enough.

Re:Why bother? (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#40924649)

No, there have been studies that have shown that the kind of radiation that is used by some cell phone standards do indeed have non-thermal effects on brain cells in humans and rats, respectively.

Hate to be cliche, but citation needed.

Re:Why bother? (2)

thereitis (2355426) | about a year and a half ago | (#40926275)

A quick search turned up this: Cell Phone Hazards Part I [heartmdinstitute.com] and Part II [heartmdinstitute.com].

TL;DR: the current standards are insufficient because they are not measuring all the right things.

Re:Why bother? (2)

plover (150551) | about a year and a half ago | (#40926591)

That guy sure likes to sell books, doesn't he? And stirring up controversy about things like the "health risks" of 100 milliwatts of non-ionizing radiation sells books to people who are hypersensitive to scare stories.

He even "Rationalizes the Precautionary Principle", which is another way of saying "be scared because you're ignorant, not because there are actual facts." Here's the deal: if cell phones were even a measurable (not even minor, simply measurable) contributor to illness, there are billions of cellular users worldwide, so if there was any statistically detectable basis to these absurd claims, we'd be seeing very large piles of dead bodies.

I really like his "grounding" therapy: touch the ground and you will:
      " Prevent inflammation as well as assuage its physical symptoms
        Reduce or eliminate chronic pain
        Improve sleep
        Increase energy
        Thin blood and improve blood pressure and flow
        Relieve muscle tension and headaches
        Lessen hormonal and menstrual symptoms
        Dramatically speed healing and prevent bedsores
        Reduce or eliminate jet-lag
        Protect body against potentially health-disturbing environmental electromagnetic fields (EMF’s)
        Accelerate recovery from intense athletic activity; and
        Balance the autonomic nervous system (ANS) by decreasing sympathetic, and increasing parasympathetic, nervous activity."

The only things missing from his list are "improves humours & biles" and "clears thetans", and for those I expect he has a link to buy "Dr. Sinatra's Genuine Snake Oil Liniment and Elixir".

This guy is definitely not a crackpot. He's smart, and educated, and appears to be an author who wisely uses fear and psychology to sell books to the gullible. It's definitely in his best interest to have people afraid of cell phones, because those are the people who would buy his crap.

Re:Why bother? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about a year and a half ago | (#40927569)

All you came up with is "The Heart MD Institute?" You can do better than a crazy who can't even get basic facts correct. There are a few (a very few) studies in the actual scientific literature that show some "non-thermal" effects. They might be false positives or flawed, and don't actually show any danger, but at least try to be scientific.

Re:Why bother? (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | about a year and a half ago | (#40924207)

Plenty of "studies" have shown a causal link between RF and negative health effects such as cancer, benign tumors, birth defect, etc. But as far as I know there have been reasons to be skeptical of the results in every case. Usually problems with the sample size or a selection bias. I really do require some extraordinary proof of cellular damage from low power non-ionoizing radiation. Sunlight contains ionizing radiation, and we are (generally) aware of the risk and manage it appropriately. RF energy from a cell phone is, in my opinion, less dangerous than the chemical released from the plastic in your cell phone.

(note: I have a vested interest in the cell phone industry, so I could easily be a corporate shill)

Re:Why bother? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about a year and a half ago | (#40927581)

Actually, very few studies have shown links between RF and negative health effects. Some have shown possible effects of RF in petrie-dishes, but nothing definitively harmful.

And yes, even those are not particularly reproducible or reliable.

Re:Why bother? (2)

Kennon (683628) | about a year and a half ago | (#40924219)

Because somewhere there is a bureaucrat sitting around trying to justify his/her existence? As is the case with many government regulations.

Re:Why bother? (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about a year and a half ago | (#40928671)

Cell phones seem to work pretty well with the power level we have now, so there's no reason to raise it.

Cell phones only seem to work pretty well because of the amount of pain and effort that has gone into making them work with the limited power they produce. We have blanketed cities with RF towers everywhere. Where there's no RF towers there's panel antennas hanging on building tops. The weak point of these systems are always the uplink back to the tower.

Increasing the power limits could dramatically reduce the cost and complexity of the next upgrade cycle for carriers and simplify their ability to provide good coverage right out of the box. Then my phone would jump from H+ to H to 3G to E depending on where in my suburb I am currently standing and what services have been so far made available at my nearest tower.

work at home (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40924055)

what Mike implied I'm amazed that you can profit $6543 in one month on the internet. have you read this webpage makecash16.com

Conservative standards are a bad thing? (5, Insightful)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | about a year and a half ago | (#40924139)

>The FCC's safety standards include a 50-fold safety factor and, as the FCC has noted, are the most conservative in the world.'

That's hardly a reason to change them. The reason America escaped the thalidomide epidemic was that it's drug approval standards were the safest in the world. FDA Reviewer Frances Oldham Kelsey who upheld those standards received the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service for not lowering those standards despite heavy pressure from drugmakers. She is the reason some readers still have their arms. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Oldham_Kelsey [wikipedia.org]

So don't just water down a standard just because "everyone else is doing it." Do it on hard evidence. That the FCC cites "everyone else is doing in" is a cause for concern.

Re:Conservative standards are a bad thing? (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year and a half ago | (#40925845)

> So don't just water down a standard just because "everyone else is doing it." Do it on hard evidence.

But that's not the issue here. There is plenty of hard evidence.

The issue here is neo-luddites and so on holding us hostage for no reason.

Re:Conservative standards are a bad thing? (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | about a year and a half ago | (#40926231)

This is all about cost vs. benefit, right?

The costs of lax safety standards could include injury or death. In many cases, the risks can't be adequately assessed, or they can be, but a lot of people don't believe them. In these situations, fear influences our perception of risk, and that perception of risk factors into the costs. We get benefits from lax safety standards too. Products are cheaper to make. Sometimes technologies are easier to design and implement.

On the flip side, excessively conservative safety standards means that everything is more expensive. Some technologies are deemed impractical or too costly to implement and bring to market. We lose out on useful products and (more importantly) technological advancements and investments that could result from it. The benefits of conservative safety standards amount to, in some cases, fewer injuries or deaths. In many cases, though, the benefits are simply psychological: we "feel" safer.

Do it on hard evidence.

This we agree on. I think I'm a little more cynical here, though, in that I believe the more democratic a government is (ignoring corruption for a moment), the more their safety standards will bend toward the fearful and irrational than to hard evidence. A corrupt government with a big industry lobby around that has skin in the game would obviously change that, but I don't really see a Big EMR industry lobby around, so I am automatically suspicious that our safety standards are indeed too conservative for our own good.

Re:Conservative standards are a bad thing? (1)

guruevi (827432) | about a year and a half ago | (#40927511)

RF frequencies at those levels doesn't do any harm and has been proven in hundreds of studies. 1.6W/kg is nothing as MRI's which have no side effects whatsoever can easily submit you to 10W/kg.

Re:Conservative standards are a bad thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40931273)

1: Just one data point here... I use my cell phone a lot more than MRI machines.
2: It's not true that MRIs have "no side effects whatsoever".
3: A quick search shows numbers 2 to 5W/kg for typical MRIs. Can you point me at some data?

Re:Conservative standards are a bad thing? (1)

AC15 (1720178) | about a year and a half ago | (#40932655)

Standards that are too conservative stifle innovation and kill people by denying them access to drugs, technology, etc. Engineering (and life in general) is not about perfect safety or reckless risk. It is about a reasonable trade-off between the two. As for Frances Oldham Kelsey, she suspected thalidomide could cause neuropathy in users. She never mentioned any concerns about teratogenic effects on gestating children until after it was reported in the press. The bottom line is that she was dragging her feet and she got lucky. In that case, foot dragging was good because several thousand US children were spared birth defects. In the cases of beta blockers, AIDS drugs, and too many "drug lag" instances to mention, foot dragging by the FDA or insistence on insanely conservative standards killed many more people than they saved.

Loonies all (4, Interesting)

cdrguru (88047) | about a year and a half ago | (#40924187)

The problem is people do not understand. There is a substantial minority that believe electric power transmission lines are hazardous - not just when the wire breaks but living, playing, working or existing near one is a hazard. These people always know a friend of a friend that went to the doctor and was told they had cancer and it was because of electric power lines.

Such people show up at public comment sessions and pretty much mean that new transmission lines are NOT BUILT anywhere near them. Put five such people in a room and it is a done deal. The transmission line companies have no defense really - science and things like evidence are not a factor with public comment sessions. See why I think the new "smart grid" is a non-starter?

So, we have pseudo-doctors handing out diagnoses of RF Sensitivity and Environmental Sensitivity and such. There is pressure on insurance companies to pay on such claims. We now have a Congressman that wants to put warning stickers on every cell phone, thereby legitimizing this nonsense.

This is not going to end well. Would you like to live in a world where RF emissions were considered to be a cause of cancer and we were all protected by strong federal regulations against such things?

Re:Loonies all (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40924595)

The problem is people do not understand. There is a substantial minority that believe electric power transmission lines are hazardous - not just when the wire breaks but living, playing, working or existing near one is a hazard. These people always know a friend of a friend that went to the doctor and was told they had cancer and it was because of electric power lines.

Such people show up at public comment sessions and pretty much mean that new transmission lines are NOT BUILT anywhere near them. Put five such people in a room and it is a done deal. The transmission line companies have no defense really - science and things like evidence are not a factor with public comment sessions. See why I think the new "smart grid" is a non-starter?

So, we have pseudo-doctors handing out diagnoses of RF Sensitivity and Environmental Sensitivity and such. There is pressure on insurance companies to pay on such claims. We now have a Congressman that wants to put warning stickers on every cell phone, thereby legitimizing this nonsense.

This is not going to end well. Would you like to live in a world where RF emissions were considered to be a cause of cancer and we were all protected by strong federal regulations against such things?

Someone who believes in science is generally skeptical of all such claims, including "cell phones are harmful" and "cell phones are harmless." Certainly, there's no study that conclusively shows harm, but there are studies that show effects, whether harmful or not.
Not cause to panic, but not cause to declare the subject closed either.

Re:Loonies all (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about a year and a half ago | (#40927611)

There are some very large studies that place pretty strict upper limits on the possible health effects. Limits that are well within the you'd-probably-be-better-off-worrying-about-almost-anything-else range.

Re:Loonies all (1)

sco08y (615665) | about a year and a half ago | (#40928959)

Someone who believes in science is generally skeptical of all such claims, ...

OT... I'm not a fan of the phrase "believe in science." I accept various scientific theories because in some cases I've put in effort to satisfy myself that they explain the world I live in, and in other cases I don't have the explanation, but the existence of products or technologies that need such an explanation is good circumstantial evidence. Or, at the very least, I can accept that a thriving scientific community is an imperfect but effective mechanism to devise an explanation.

So my acceptance of science is both partial and conditional, a far cry from belief.

Whatever (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40924715)

Would you like to live in a world where RF emissions were considered to be a cause of cancer and we were all protected by strong federal regulations against such things?

I just want to live in a world where people don't make assumptions without thinking them through or doing any research whatsoever.

This goes for both sides. On one side, people get hysterical and look for research which confirms their fears. On the other side, people roll their eyes, fall back on out-moded arguments and and fail to do any research which which might challenge their pre-set beliefs.

EM affects living systems, even at very low power levels. This is known. We even know some of the mechanisms which cause reactions. They make sense, and they're simple enough to comprehend.

But when I try to describe the hows and wherefores, the hippies will nod emphatically without understanding a word I'm saying because they're true believers, and everybody else who cares just ignores me or tries forgets what I say asap. Fair enough. It's their problem in the end.

But I won't be using a cell phone any time soon. And hey, I seem to have a healthier, more active and less fuzzed brain than most of the fine folks around me. Connection? Maybe, but then I also do the hard non-internet research and live by my findings, not just in this subject but in many other areas as well. When you put together all the environmental and behavioral problems most people totally fail to avoid, you end up being able to classify most of Western civilization as living in a permanent toxic soup. It keeps them in a state of perpetual dull-wittedness lacking any real awareness.

Whatever. Not my problem. I have to tell myself this to keep my heart from breaking every day. The choice to be sick and dull must be respected.

Anyway, they can call me on my land-line if they want to talk. If I'm out, they can leave a message. But I probably won't bother getting back to them, (if I can avoid it).

See, I don't want to invite crazy and stupid into my life. That's another form of toxicity I find it beneficial to avoid.

Re:Whatever (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40925491)

See, I don't want to invite crazy and stupid into my life.

Welcome to Slashdot. Did you want to borrow my pajamas?

Re:Whatever (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40926331)

You know when you put the speaker up to your ear the amount of AC current going into it to drive the speaker and make it produce sound is producing far more EM radiation than the radio in a cell phone.

Re:Whatever (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40936129)

You know when you put the speaker up to your ear the amount of AC current going into it to drive the speaker and make it produce sound is producing far more EM radiation than the radio in a cell phone.

Where did you hear that? I've been unable to verify that. In fact, when I did some looking around, I discovered the following:

The average set of headphones of the cover-the-ear type outputs between 30 and 100 milliwatts. Reference [apexhifi.com]

Cell phones can range up to 2000 milliwatts at peak output for GSM and 250 milliwatts for alternative systems. Reference [admin.ch]

It is also worth bearing in mind that microwave radiation has different characteristics from speaker radiation because it carries a strong signal over long distances while using wave modulation to create resonance at much lower frequencies. The brain and cellular life in general doesn't tend to react, (as I understand it), to very high frequencies, but does react to lower frequencies even if they are artificially modulated.

Still, you're right. Any AC current near your head, as with a speaker in a phone, is less than ideal. I try to avoid it. In this world, you can't escape all toxicity, but you can do a lot to limit it. If you are eating right, (meats, saturated fats) and sleeping right, and actively working on yourself, your ability to defend against toxins of all variety goes up.

A land line is a good way to limit exposure to EM while still remaining in contact with the world. The power levels are lower and only present when in use. A cell phone or smart phone-like device, however, is often worn on the body all day long, and it is regularly transmitting and receiving.

Something to keep in mind.

Re:Loonies all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40926369)

Use HVDC lines, they emit no EM radiation, problem solved and you can now transmit power over an arbitrary distance.

Re:Loonies all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40931739)

You want to know what the problem is? Watch TV for 30 minutes.
Or listen to the radio, or read a magazine or newspaper.
Really pay attention, though.
Notice something? The ads perhaps? Yeah. Those ads. Scary, scary stuff. Your carpets aren't clean enough. Your mouth might have bacteria. You might lose money if you don't use brand x, or your kids won't be happy, or your marriage could end, or, or, or....
None of it is true, of course, but companies make billions off of telling us how to fix things that aren't really broken. The American economy thrives on superstitious hokum, ignorance and the flim-flam double-shuffle.
We will never, ever educate people on how things really work. There will be lip service and then a general dumbing-down as we refer to 'common sense' confuse terms like electro-magnetic field radiation with ionizing-particle radiation. Why tell Joe Six-Pack the difference when you can make real money from his ignorance?
So there is your problem, sir. Solve it and the world will beat a path to your door...

  then break it down, drag you out, and tear your to pieces.

Re:Loonies all (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | about a year and a half ago | (#40933899)

...science and things like evidence are not a factor with public comment sessions. See why I think the new "smart grid" is a non-starter?

Case in point, my city wants to implement smart grid technology, complete with meters that wirelessly transmit information. Public comment sessions were largely driven by these anti-radiation people, and they even distributed fliers trying to scare people with the dangers of radiation (including attributing dangers of nuclear radiation to EM radiation).

Ban cell phones! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40924209)

They do nothing but cause cancer. And anyone using a cell phone in public is automatically a rude bastard.

50-fold safety factor. Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40924929)

Back-of-the-envelope calculation: 75 kg * 1.6 Watt/kg * 50 safety factor = 6 kW. In which universe is this safe ?

Even without the 50-fold, the SAR, if applied to the whole body (120 Watt), is higher than a typical basal metabolic rate (about 90 Watt). Of course, typically the SAR from a cell phone will only be significant over a few grams but there is still reason to question the 50-fold quote. I suspect that 5-fold might be more accurate for a typical cell phone.

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...