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FCC 'Did Nothing'

RF Safety Group Says FCC Rules Are Based on Old Science; Asks Court to Order Update

The Environmental Health Trust (EHT), Consumers for Safe Cell Phones and the Children’s Health Defense asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to rule the FCC’s refusal to update its 25-year-old “obsolete” RF exposure rules is a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Telecom Act. EHT officials argued for forcing FCC action during a news conference Thursday.

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The FCC “did nothing in response to the submissions it received beginning in 2013” before a 2019 order (see 1912040036) “when it decided that the submissions were insufficient to convince it that it needed to revise and update the 1996 standards,” Edward Myers, EHT lawyer in the case, told reporters Thursday. The standards “were promulgated at a time when cellphones were in the 2G stage, generally speaking,” he said. Most cellphones then “just had one antenna inside of them transmitting” RF radiation, he said. Current devices contain five or six antennas “many times operating simultaneously and each one of them generating … radiation.”

The agency did not even look at most of the evidence, and what it did look at it based on a conclusory letter from the Food and Drug Administration,” which also provided no analysis, Myers said. “It was just a short, couple-of-page letter containing a lot of conclusions and no facts,” he said. Myers expects a decision from the court in about a year.

Last year, the commission “unanimously decided to maintain our stringent RF exposure limits,” an FCC spokesperson emailed: “This decision followed an extensive process lasting more than six years that involved substantial public input as well as consultation with expert agencies charged with regulating health and safety, including” FDA. “We are confident that these stringent limits protect the health of the American people and that our decision will withstand judicial review,” the FCC said.

The FCC adopted the recommendations of expert organizations that have reviewed the science and reaffirmed its safety standards on a unanimous and bipartisan basis,” a CTIA spokesperson said. A CTA spokesperson referred us to recent comments the group filed (see 2007210028) seeking “international, consensus-based standards.”

This lawsuit is the last thing between us and allowing radiation levels that we know can damage human health and the environment to become ubiquitous,” said EHT President Devra Davis. It’s “astounding” that the methods for testing and evaluating devices is based on science that is more than 20 years old, she said. “It is an appalling failure of this administration and others to take into account the most current science,” she said. Davis noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic children, at the most risk from radiation, “are spending more and more time with wireless devices.”

The factual record in this case is strong,” said the brief in Environmental Health Trust v. FCC: “Yet the Order gives no consideration to most of the evidence presented to it. By perpetuating a situation that is proven to constitute a threat to public health and safety, the FCC has failed to meet its statutory obligation under the Communications Act to protect public health and safety.” The FCC also “failed to engaged in reasoned decision-making and to base its decision on substantial evidence and has acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner” in violation of the APA, the brief said. The brief was filed Wednesday in docket 20-1025 (in Pacer). The FCC’s response is due Sept. 14.