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25th Anniversary of FCC Decision Enabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

25th Anniversary of FCC Decision Enabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
A series of posts describing how this all came about. (Click on picture above)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

USA Today Article on
Cell Phones' SAR Data
and FCC

On September 8, USA Today published an article entitled "Cellphone radiation levels vary widely, watchdog report says" . It began with this line the CMRS industry probably didn't want to hear, "Some cellphones emit several times more radiation than others, the Environmental Working Group found in one of the most exhaustive studies of its kind."

Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) is a measurement of how much radio power from a cell phone is absorbed in body. Usually the head is the key area for cell phones since they are held there. The FCC limit for SAR is 1.6 Watts/kilogram. It found phones that ranged from as low as 0.35 to as high as 1.55. Interestingly, Motorola had both one of the highest units as well as one of the lowest.

I have no personal knowledge or firm opinion about whether radio signals from cell phones affects health. However, there is no reason to believe it does any good to your health* so I understand why people might want to decide to minimize exposure even though the CMRS establishment thinks this is unnecessary. I think it is a matter of consumer choice in the face of uncertainty and government should make reasonable efforts to make relevant data available so market forces can work. Thus I am proud that while at FCC I helped break the impasse on making this information public by proposing a method for doing so that did not require unaffordable redesign of the FCC website.

At the end of the USA Today article, it stated
"The FCC currently doesn't require handset makers to divulge radiation levels. As a result, radiation rankings for dozens of devices, including the BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8230 and Motorola KRZR, aren't on the group's list."
This statement is misleading to wrong. The SAR data is submitted to FCC and is in the publicly available file on equipment approval for each model. The required report is difficult to read for the nonexpert, but in the process of reviewing it, FCC extracts the key numbers and puts them in a place that can be found relatively easily.

I posted the following to the USA Today site to clarify this point ans tell the public how to find the data for any model sold (legally) in the US. (Since FCC spends little resources on equipment marketing enforcement, one can never be sure that all models sold are actually legally authorized.):

The article says
"The FCC currently doesn't require handset makers to divulge radiation levels." When FCC decided about 10 years ago to follow a UK precedent and make the information public, it had no money to revise its website to make the information simple to find. Also industry was lobbying strongly against making the information public - actually it always was public but the key number was in an obscure detailed report.

If you can't find the data for a specific phone on a nongovernment website, you can look it up yourself. First find the FCC ID of the cell phone in question. It is often under the battery. Then go to https://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/oetcf/eas/reports/Gene ricSearch.cfmI The first 3 characters go in the first box and then the rest go in the second box. Then hit "Start Search" at the bottom of the page.

When the next screen appears, hit the checkmark icon under "Display Grant". You will get a copy of the FCC approval for that model. Just below the section with 6 columns of data is a statement of the SAR data.
So for the Nokia model with FCC ID PDNRM-421, enter PDN in the first box and then RM-421.

Like many cell phones, this model can transmit on several frequencies so there is different data for each band.

The process is not simple, but it is straightforward. This is how the private sites get their data to make it more usable for the public.
* By contrast, there is a controversial theory dealing with ionizing (nuclear) radiation called radiation hormesis that states that small doses of such radiation actually improve health. However, I am not aware of anyone supporting a parallel theory for radio radiation.

1 comment:

Bob@weller.org said...

First, the hormesis response isn't limited to nonionizing radiation. It is found in the body's response to many agents. The theory is that exercise of the bodily defense mechanisms keeps them working efficiently, but I agree that the existence of any long-term protective effect is controversial.

Second, I think that Mike Marcus should more clearly claim due credit for getting the FCC to move the SAR data from a multi-page test report exhibit onto the actual grant of equipment authorization. That was a consumer friendly move.

It might be more helpful to the concerned public if the SAR information were associated with an actual make and model number, rather than an obscure FCCID number.