December 12, 2012The Honorable Dennis Kucinich
2445 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative Kucinich:
On behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a non-profit professional organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists, and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults, I would like to share our support of H.R. 6358, the Cell Phone Right to Know Act.
The AAP strongly supports H.R. 6358’s emphasis on examining the effects of radiofrequency (RF) energy on vulnerable populations, including children and pregnant women. In addition, we are pleased that the bill would require the consideration of those effects when developing maximum exposure standards.
Children are disproportionately affected by environmental exposures, including cell phone radiation. The differences in bone density and the amount of fluid in a child’s brain compared to an adult’s brain could allow children to absorb greater quantities of RF energy deeper into their brains than adults. It is essential that any new standards for cell phones or other wireless devices be based on protecting the youngest and most vulnerable populations to ensure they are safeguarded through their lifetimes.
In addition, the AAP supports the product labeling requirements in H.R. 6358. These standards will ensure consumers can make informed choices in selecting mobile phone purchases. They will also enable parents to better understand the potential dangers of RF energy exposure and protect their children.
On July 24, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report on federal cell phone radiation exposure limits and testing requirements. The GAO noted that the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) most recent data indicates that the number of estimated mobile phone subscribers has grown from approximately 3.5 million in 1989 to approximately 289 million at the end of 2009.
Cell phone use behaviors have also changed during that time. The quantity and duration of cell phone calls has increased, as has the amount of time people use mobile phones, while cell phone and wireless technology has undergone substantial changes. Many more people, especially adolescents and young adults, now use cell phones as their only phone line, and they begin using wireless phones at much younger ages. Despite these dramatic changes in mobile phone technology and behavior, the FCC has not revisited the standard for cell phone radiation exposure since 1996. The current FCC standard for maximum radiation exposure levels is based on the heat emitted by mobile phones. These guidelines specify exposure limits for hand-held wireless devices in terms of the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), which measures the rate the body absorbs radiofrequency (RF). The current allowable SAR limit is 1.6 watts per kilogram (W/kg), as averaged over one gram of tissue. Although wireless devices sold in the United States must ensure that they do not exceed the maximum allowable SAR limit when operating at the device’s highest possible power level, concerns have been raised that long-term RF energy exposure at this level affects the brain and other tissues and may be connected to types of brain cancer, including glioma and meningioma.
In May 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the United Nations’ World Health Organization’s (WHO) agency promoting international cancer research collaboration, classified RF energy as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” In addition, the National Cancer Institute has stated that although studies have not definitively linked RF energy exposure from cell phones to cancer, more research is required to address rapidly changing cell phone technology and use patterns. This and other research identified by the GAO demonstrates the need for further research on this issue, and makes clear that exposure standards should be reexamined.
The GAO concluded that the current exposure limits may not reflect the latest research on RF energy, and that current mobile phone testing requirements may not identify maximum RF energy exposure. The GAO proposed that the FCC formally reassess its limit and testing requirements to determine whether they are effective. The AAP commends the activities proposed under H.R. 6358, as they would address this research gap and improve consumer knowledge and safety. Establishing an expanded federal research program as the basis for exposure standards will ensure that consumer protections incorporate the latest research.
Currently, the National Institute of Health (NIH), the only federal agency the GAO identified as directly funding research on this topic, provided approximately $35 million from 2001 to 2011. Given this previous funding level, the AAP supports the $50 million per fiscal year for seven years that H.R. 6358 would authorize.
The AAP appreciates your recognition of the need for new research and standards for mobile phone radiation, and is pleased to support H.R. 6358. For further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Sonya Clay, Assistant Director, Department of Federal Affairs, at 202-347-8600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thomas K. McInerny, MD, FAAP