[I]ndications that the
technology is potentially less than safe have been, and continue to be,
studiously ignored, both by the industry and by national and international
regulatory bodies ... The concern of the public is thus not unfounded ...
March 2001 report by
the European Parliament STOA
The FCC standard was
originally intended to prevent interference between pieces of electronic
equipment and was later modified to protect workers exposed to microwaves from
heating effects (the only effects recognized at the time). It was not created to
protect the general public, including those most vulnerable (children, the
elderly, the infirm). It was created by engineers, not anyone with knowledge of
physiology or biology. It was, and still is, created with heavy industry
involvement. Therefore, to suppose that it provides adequate protection is
The FCC standard is purely
arbitrary and unrealistically high. Many countries do not permit levels anywhere
near the FCC standard, as can be seen from the following listing. Only the U.K.
is higher. The unit in which microwave exposure is often measured is “microwatts
per square centimeter” (μW/cm2),
referred to as the “power density.” The idea behind this is that if you consider
a transmitter a point source, microwaves radiate from it in all directions,
forming an imaginary sphere. The energy falling on a square centimeter of the
sphere at a particular distance is the power density at that distance.
Exposure level (μW/cm2)
Japan, New Zealand, U.S.
Auckland, New Zealand
New South Wales,
Source: Radio Wave Packet, Cellular Phone
What the FCC standard
protects you from is high levels of radiation. If you’re worried about being
fried by microwaves, the FCC standard is just the ticket. If your next-door
neighbor installs an army-surplus radar station pointed directly at your home
and you call the FCC, they’ll be there in minutes to make your neighbor take it
down — no question about it.
But what about lower levels
of radiation? At a distance of one meter, the output of these microwave meters
(about 2–4 nanowatts, or thousandths of a microwatt) is about 200,000 times
lower than the FCC standard. However, extensive research has shown adverse
health effects as a result of long-term, low-level exposure (see the Health
Effects — Western page). The industry chooses to ignore this—understandably,
since no industry will voluntarily admit that its product could cause adverse
Here’s an analogy. You
might expect that if you touch a 480,000-volt high-tension wire, you could
experience an adverse health effect. You could probably touch a 110-volt (U.S.)
household power line briefly and feel only a mild jolt. But would you want to
touch it 24 hours a day, even though it’s thousands of times lower than the
power from the high-voltage line?
And what about something
much less—a 1-volt battery, say. Would you be willing to have it hooked up to
you around the clock? Does anyone seriously think there wouldn't be any effect
over the long term, even though it’s nearly 500,000 times less than the
high-voltage line? What about a tenth of a volt? A hundredth of a volt?
What is the lowest level at
which you can be assured of no long-term effect? And what about vulnerable
members of the population — children, the elderly, and the infirm? They couldn't
withstand even what others could.
The point is that if you
start with an arbitrary, unrealistically high number, you can always say that
something is a million times less, and it will sound impressive, but it has no
relation to actual effects. The body is a low-voltage system, and effects have
been documented at levels not previously thought possible.
A more reasonable
comparison is to naturally occurring background radiation, which is 10–17
to 10–14 microwatts per square centimeter, because the absorption
rate of the atmosphere depends on the frequency of the radiation. Then, instead
of saying that the meter output is 200,000 times lower than the FCC standard, we
could point out that it’s ten thousand to ten million times higher than natural
background radiation — which is what the human organism developed in. The amount
of radiation we’re receiving began to increase during the mid-1900s and has
increased dramatically in the last few years.
For a decades, it was
thought that the only effects of microwaves were due to heating of tissue:
“thermal” effects. However, some research at the time and much more recently has
shown that so-called “nonthermal” effects occur at levels where no measurable
heat increase occurs. “Nonthermal” is a misnomer, since some heating always
occurs at the cellular level from molecular excitation. However, the industry
and the military still maintain that the only effects possible from microwaves
are due to heating and that “nonthermal” effects do not exist.
Part of it is adopted from
a standard set by a committee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic
Engineers and later approved by the American National Standards Institute.
However, even the FCC recognizes that the ANSI/IEEE standard is too high at
higher frequency levels, so it also incorporates part of the National Commission
on Radiation Protection (NCRP) standard.
The IEEE is a professional
association with heavy industry representation. Its Standards Coordinating
Committee (SCC) 28 decides the standard. The 1991 standard, which has been
modified only slightly since, did not include any studies later than 1986. Only
a few were on non-thermal effects (many more have been done since the mid-90s),
and in any case, the SCC-28 committee still does not seem inclined to take any
notice of non-thermal effects.
president of the Cellular Phone Taskforce, submitted an affidavit to the Irish
High Court in January 1998 regarding a cell-tower case. The affidavit contained
a copy of the ANSI/IEEE Ballot Summary of May 14, 1991, for the adoption of the
standard by the IEEE SCC-28 committee.
Firstenberg says, “The
voting membership was overwhelmingly dominated by military and industrial
interests, to the total exclusion of the general public and the health care
community. Of the three health and safety agency representatives on the voting
committee, two voted ‘no’ on the adoption of this standard.”
He also says the following:
Further, the ANSI/IEEE C95.1 1992 standard ... has been criticized on health
grounds by every health and safety agency in the United States which commented
on its proposed adoption as a national standard by the Federal Communications
Commission. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommended “against
adopting the 1992 ANSI/IEEE standard because it has serious flaws that call into
question whether its proposed use is sufficiently protective of public health
and safety.” ... The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in its comments, said
“... We do not believe this standard addresses the issue of long-term, chronic
exposures to RF fields.” The National Institute for Occupational Safety and
Health (NIOSH) was “concerned about the lack of participation by experts with a
public health perspective in the IEEE RF standards setting process.”
The chairman of the SCC-28
committee is John Osepchuk, a Concord, Massachusetts, resident who is a
consultant and has acted as a representative of the wireless industry at town
meetings, attempting to assure boards and residents that microwave antennas are
safe. To some, this might seem a conflict of interest: chairing a committee that
sets safety standards for an industry that pays him to represent it.
An editorial in the
March/April 2001 issue of Microwave News said this:
The Pentagon’s new microwave weapon has been brought to you by the U.S. Air
Force and Raytheon. ... These are the same organizations that control the
IEEE’s SCC-28 committee that writes the standard for exposures to RF and
Dr. John Osepchuk, the chair of SCC-28, worked for Raytheon for most of his
professional career. And three of the other five members of the SCC-28 executive
committee work either at Brooks Air Force Base or for Raytheon.
It seems obvious, but it’s worth repeating: Health standards should be written
by medical and public health professionals, not those who make weapons for the