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US to chat again with Campaigners Against Stuff on mobile health regs

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The FCC has launched an official enquiry into the rules around cellphone radiation, and has invited world+dog to pitch in and have their say on the brain-melting devices.

Most of the FCC's suggestions are amendments to the rules on handsets which haven't been updated since 1996. Those ageing rules don't reflect the latest research on the subject, or the increasing use of wearable computers.

There's now an inquiry into the actual limits of radiofrequency exposure, complete with the inevitable invitation for all and sundry to pitch in with their opinion on cancer-inducing tech.

...the Commission invites health and safety agencies and the public to comment on the propriety of our general present limits and whether additional precautions may be appropriate in some cases, for example with respect to children...

...says the FCC's statement, opening the doors to anyone who wants to express their psychosomatic illness brought on by clamping a mobile phone to their ear for hours on end.

Not that ears will be the concern for much longer, as the proposed changes also reclassify the pinna (outer ear) as an extremity, thus permitting exposure levels similar to those permissible for one's hands and feet. The debate is now open on what those levels should be and how - or if - the public should be informed about them.

The problem with exposure to radio frequency energy is that in large doses it is dangerous. Dangerous enough to cook a chicken, even if it won't brown properly. We also know that small doses, such as those continuously bathing our planet (and even generated by it) aren't dangerous. It's also important to note the difference between ionising radiation, which can cause cancer, and non-ionising radiation (like radio signals) which can only heat your tissues up - and that only at very high power levels and short ranges.

The difficulty is finding the safe middle ground amidst the half-truths and misdirection perpetrated by both the mobile operators and Campaigners Against Stuff.

The FCC is asking if customers need more information on the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of handsets and whether the information should be in the manual or even displayed at the point of sale - the latter being briefly required in California, before being knocked back as an infringement on free speech. At the moment this info is only available though a tortuous FCC database search.

Perhaps more rationally, the FCC is also asking for input in wearable devices; those existing within a centimetre or two of the body for extended periods of time. Google Glass, for example, puts a mobile phone against the skull for every waking moment (in theory) and the FCC wants to know if that's something to worry about.

While the regulator will, no doubt, be inundated with hearsay and personal testimony the call for input makes the point that it can't judge the science, only respond to the conclusions reached by scientific bodies.

Though if previous experience is anything to go by, it could well end up judging those scientific bodies instead. ®

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