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It took 15 years for FCC to propose first cellphone radiation investigation

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission says it's planning to propose first cellphone radiation investigation, partly because of how often we use smartphones now and we converse for longer periods than we used to do earlier.

The agency's chairman, Julius Genachowski is asking his fellow commissioners to approve a notice commencing a formal inquiry, said an agency spokesperson.
"Our action today is a routine review of our standards," she said, according to Bloomberg News. "We are confident that, as set, the emissions guidelines for devices pose no risks to consumers."

The FCC last updated its guidelines setting maximum radiation-exposure levels, which are based on the amount of heat emitted by mobile phones, in 1996. Back then, 44 million people had mobile phones. Today that number stands at 332 million wireless subscribers.
“Any changes in the rules will have an impact on handset vendors,” said CW Cheung, the Asia-Pacific head of consulting for telecoms at Ovum, which advises companies in the telecommunications industry. “As most vendors are based outside the U.S., it could also become a trade issue.”

A number of independent studies have raised concern over wireless radiation emission and its possible role in causing brain tumors, though a lack of conclusive evidence has kept the debate from being resolved. The proposed inquiry is not meant to put these questions to bed and an FCC official said that the agency has no plans to create new rules based on any possible findings.

"The great weight of the most credible scientific evidence tells us there is no causal link between cellphone usage and brain tumors," said FCC commissioner Robert McDowell (R-Va.). "Nonetheless, it is prudent to reassess our methodology and procedures from time to time, provided we don't cause unwarranted concern among cellphone consumers along the way."

"We fully expect that the FCC's review will confirm, as it has in the past, that the scientific evidence establishes no reason for concern about the safety of cellphones," said CTIA Vice President of Public Affairs John Walls. The CTIA is an international nonprofit organization that represents the wireless communications industry.

The FCC's commissioners are expected to give a go ahead signal to the inquiry, though it is unclear how it will conduct the investigation or what it will do with the subsequent results.