Cell Phone Radiation

The first really complex story I did for the New York Daily News was an explainer on the new system for rating the radiation emissions of mobile phones that was rolled out by the Federal Communication Commission in 2000.  This was back when the only safety data available was from studies funded by the telecom industry, so the story also had to address the larger controversy over the possible dangers of cell phone radiation.

Scientific controversy is always hard to write about, especially for a layman reader scanning a tabloid on the subway, but a few choice details can often provide the context necessary for readers to make up their own minds.

For example, I thought the comfort offered by the industy’s published findings that cell phone radiation posed no risk was somewhat mitigated by the telecom industry’s lead scientist telling me that he was buying plug-in headsets for everyone in his family and didn’t recommend holding cell phones near your head.

Another interesting takeaway from this story was that the FCC’s SAR radiation standard used to declare cell phone radiation levels safe is actually based on the standards for microwave ovens and pertain only to the heat they generate.  So despite the implicit assurance that the radiation won’t cause genetic damage or brain tumors, all the safety standards really guarantee is that your cell phone won’t literally cook your brain.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s