GAO questioning federal cell phone safety standards

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Last updated April 12, 2019

The Government Accountability Office has released a 46-page report about the safety of cell phones.  While the report issues no alarms, it does raise some questions.  The GAO is calling for a reassessment of the radio frequency energy emitted by the devices, questioning whether federal safety standards should be changed to reflect the new ways in which users are handling their cell phones.

After all, the same safety standards have been in place for well over a decade.  During that time, however, the amount of exposure each individual has to a cell phone has increased dramatically.  Many people keep their phones with them on a near-constant basis.  Even more troubling is the fact that now, cell phones are often in direct body contact while they are operating.  Instead of holding the phone a short distance from the ear, for example, a user may have it in his or her pocket during operation while an earpiece wirelessly receives and transmits sound.  When the federal safety standards were formulated 16 years ago, relatively few cell phones were small enough to fit into a pocket, and wireless earpieces were much less common.

Marcia Crosse, who serves the GAO as director of health care, was blunter:  “They’re connecting all the time … so there may be some emissions coming from the phone all the time if you have it turned on.”

If new safety standards emerge and encourage you to get a new phone, be sure to sell your phone in current use so that its valuable metals and materials can be recycled.