alara Research Corporation applauds the U.S. General Accounting Office’s (GAO) report calling for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to update its cell phone radiation exposure and testing guidelines.  According to the GAO report, the current standards—in place since 1997 (some 4 years before the first smartphones became commercially available)—“may not reflect the latest research,” “may not identify maximum exposure [to radiation] in all possible usage conditions,” and fail to test for use of phones against the body—which “could result in RF energy exposure higher than the FCC limit.” Are cell phones safe? alara has never labeled cell phones either unsafe or safe.  Notably, because most people use and carry their phones against their bodies, consumers are unknowingly and consistently exposed to radiation levels above the FCC safety limit.  Despite this fact, the FCC’s web site still informs consumers that cell phones tested by these very same FCC standards are “safe.”  The GAO reported that, “while the overall body of research has not demonstrated adverse health effects, some individual studies suggest possible effects.”  With respect to potential health impact from cell phone use, GAO states “the research is not conclusive because findings from some studies have suggested a possible association with certain types of tumors, including cancerous tumors.”  The GAO further stated that FDA and others maintain the conclusion that “insufficient information was available to conclude mobile phones posed no risk.” Are current SAR testing methods adequate? No.  alara has always urged that SAR testing methods should follow the FCC’s central premise that “portable devices should be tested or evaluated based on normal operating positions or conditions.”  The FCC’s guidelines instead prescribe that devices should be tested at between 1.5 and 2.5 centimeters from the body rather than next to it.  For this reason, the instruction manuals for cellular devices warn consumers to keep them away from their bodies.  The GAO report, therefore, concludes that “testing requirements may not identify maximum exposure in all possible usage conditions” and that “some consumers may use mobile phones against the body which the FCC does not test, and could result in RF energy exposure higher than the FCC limit.”  The FCC should update its testing standards to reflect ‘real world’ usage patterns, protect vulnerable populations such as children,consider the biological effects of radiation in testing methodology, and encourage and inform consumers on how to exercise precautions and achieve the lowest possible radiation exposures.  Until further study is completed and the FCC’s testing guidelines are updated, government agencies should not inform consumers that cell phones are “safe.” Do current SAR standards sufficiently protect consumers? No.  Current FCC guidelines assume a one-size-fits-all measurement.  SAR limits, which measure only the thermal or heating properties of devices, are benchmarked against a 6’2” 200-pound man who would be much less vulnerable to mobile phone radiation than smaller adults and children.  A significant flaw lies with how the current guidelines are measured:  by holding the cell phone between 1.5 and 2.5 centimeters (or 1 inch) away from the body.  Most consumers are surprised to learn that that their iPhone manual, for example, tells them that their phone may exceed FCC radiation exposure guidelines if they hold it less than 5/8 of an inch away from their body.  If measured for real life situations, the results would likely show that devices such as cell phones and tablets routinely exceed the radiation exposure allowed by current limits. alara calls for withdrawal of the FCC’s “safe” designation pending further review. We will do everything possible to represent consumers’ best interests as regulatory action moves forward. Dr. Shannon Kennedy, PhD, is President and Chief Executive Officer at alara Research Corporation.