Under the law, FDA does not review the safety of radiation-emitting consumer products such as cell phones and similar wireless devices before they can be sold, as it does with new drugs or medical devices. However, FDA does have the authority to take action if cell phones are shown to emit radiofrequency energy (RF) at a level that is hazardous to the user. In such a case, FDA could require cell phone manufacturers to notify users of the health hazard and to repair, replace or recall the phones so that the hazard no longer exists.
Interagency Working Group
FDA belongs to the Radiofrequency Interagency Work Group. The federal agencies in this group have responsibility for different aspects of RF safety and work to ensure coordinated efforts at the federal level. The other agencies in this group are:
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Federal Communications Commission
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration
- National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Federal Communications Commission
FDA shares regulatory responsibilities for cell phones with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). FCC certifies wireless devices, and all phones that are sold in the United States must comply with FCC guidelines on RF exposure. FCC relies on the FDA and other health agencies on health and safety related questions about cell phones.
FCC also regulates cell phone base stations. These base stations operate at higher power than cell phones. The RF exposures people experience from base stations are typically much lower than from cell phones because base station antennas are mounted on towers or other building structures and are thus substantially farther away from the public. Both cell phones and base stations are required to comply with FCC RF exposure guidelines.
For the past several years, delegations from Japan, Korea, the European Union, Australia, China, the World Health Organization, and the United States have met to discuss health concerns for wireless telecommunications. The purpose of these workshops has been to discuss scientific issues related to RF exposure from wireless communications technology from an international perspective. Specific topics addressed have included:
- health effects of emerging wireless technologies
- recent biological research
- standards development
- prospects for international collaboration related to the safety of wireless telecommunication devices.