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fcclogo NEWS

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
News media information 202 / 418-0500
Fax-On-Demand 202 / 418-2830
Internet: http://www.fcc.gov
TTY: 202/418-2555

This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

October 21, 1999
David Fiske 202-418-0513


Washington, D.C. - - On October 20, 1999, the ABC News show "20/20" aired a story about the safety of hand-held cellular telephones and their compliance with FCC safety and testing guidelines. The Commission would like to provide consumers with the following information relevant to these issues.

In 1996, the Commission updated its safety guidelines for all the emitters of radiofrequency (RF) energy it regulates, including cellular telephones. The FCC's guidelines are based on recommendations from two expert organizations, the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

The scientists and engineers who made these recommendations devoted a considerable amount of time and effort in developing scientifically supportable safe limits for exposure. The FCC's guidelines have received the support of key federal health and safety agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The FCC takes its responsibility to monitor compliance with its cell phone safety guidelines seriously and carefully analyzes test data for compliance with the limits.

Variability in testing procedures for evaluating cell phone compliance with FCC and other exposure guidelines is a key issue that is currently being debated by several organizations, both in the United States and overseas. In that regard, the FCC is working with a committee of the IEEE to develop updated procedures for testing and evaluating hand-held phones and devices.

We renew our call for the standard-setting committees to develop specific uniform procedures and methodologies for testing cell phone radiofrequency emissions. If they do not act promptly to finalize standardized testing methods, the Commission will mandate action on its own. This will help reduce any uncertainty over appropriate techniques for evaluating cell phones for compliance with safety limits.

The ABC News story reported that certain cell telephones it tested failed to comply with FCC test guidelines. We have not seen the full report, but the preliminary data that was shared with us certainly warrants close scrutiny. We will conduct our own expert examination of the full report once it is provided to us by ABC. Whether these phones are not in compliance with our limits remains to be determined, since variability in evaluation procedures is often an issue and the specific test procedures used by the European laboratory that conducted the tests for ABC have to be reviewed further.

The FCC will work with the phone manufacturers involved to determine if any further action is required. It is important to note, however, that the FCC guidelines already incorporate a large margin of safety between allowed levels of exposure and exposure thresholds that have been identified with known adverse health effects. The values of exposure reported by ABC were well within that safety margin, and, therefore, there is no indication of any immediate threat to human health from these phones.

For additional information on safety issues related to radiofrequency emissions please see the following FCC Web Site: www.fcc.gov/oet/rfsafety. This Web Site provides further information in the form of information bulletins and factsheets that can be viewed and downloaded.

Also, for a recent statement from the Food and Drug Administration on mobile phone safety see the following FDA Web Site: www.fda.gov/cdrh/newpg.html