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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)

Monday, November 02, 2009

France's "CTIA"
RF Safety Issues

I was visiting France recently, went into a store of one of the major cellular operators and bought a new SIM card to activate my old French GSM unit during my visit. With the card came all sorts of literature, but what caught my attention was the brochure shown at left - the picture is linked to a .pdf of the whole brochure on the website of Association Française des Opérateurs Mobiles (AFOM), the French counterpart to CTIA.

Now, based on my high school French study and 3 years living in Paris, I am not exactly a certified translator, so what follows is the gist of what it says. But feel free to consult the original text with someone of more professional skills if you don't believe me.

The brochure clearly says that the health authorities do not think that cell phone use is a health issue at exposure levels required by governments.

(Actually the French use the European standard of an SAR limit of 2.0 W/kg vs the FCC limit of 1.6 . Furthermore, details of how the European standard is measured actually makes it actually somewhat higher than it would appear numerically.)

So what does the real CTIA have to tell the public about RF safety? Surf on over and see. You will find statements like

To date, the available scientific evidence does not show that any health problems are associated with using wireless phones. Many studies of low-level RF exposure, such as that which occurs with wireless devices, have not discovered any negative biological effects. Some studies have suggested such a connection, but their findings have not been replicated or supported in additional research.

You find similar statements on the AFOM site and in this document. But you will also find the section shown at left entitled "Comment réduire mon exposition aux ondes radio quand je téléphone ?" Which your nonexpert translates has "How can I reduce my RF exposure while using the phone?" As I have said before, RF exposure doesn't do you any good, so why not try to reduce it?

AFOM reports that the health authorities recommend using what we would call a Bluetooth headset during calls. Health authorities also advise, according to AFOM, that pregnant women keep cell phones away from their abdomen (" il est conseillé aux femmes enceintes d’éloigner le téléphone du ventre et aux adolescents de l’éloigner du bas ventre. ")

Finally, AFOM tells us that the "health authorities" advise that you should use your phones in areas with good reception, that is more bars. (On the phone, not drinking establishments nearby! In French it is unambiguous.) ("Elles conseillent également de téléphoner de préférence dans les zones où la réception est de bonne qualité. La qualité de la réception est indiquée par le nombre de barrettes sur l’écran de votre téléphone.") That, perhaps should be obvious, but I must admit I have never thought of it before.

So this guidance does not come from some radical left wing tree-hugging environmentalists opposed to capitalism, but from a CTIA-like trade association of major French operators. I agree with CTIA that there is no evidence the cell phones cause health problems, but why not encourage people to think about selecting models with lower SAR, using Bluetooth headsets, and using handsets in areas with better reception?

I note that Verizon Wireless puts SAR date for each cell phone model it sells on the web pages for the models. But the other major operators that are CTIA members do not appear to have the information on their websites - perhaps it is there but hidden in obscurity.

Cell phones are useful devices that have contributed both to economic growth and public safety. It is a shame that CTIA starts acting like the former Tobacco Institute when it concerns any possible negative impact of cell phones.

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