Radiofrequency Microwave Radiation Exposure Guidelines

Dr. Andrew A. Marino on the Hazards of EMFs and RF Microwave Radiation


The guidelines for Human Exposure Limits for Radiofrequency Microwave Radiation that the FCC chose to adopt back in 1996 were only procedural guidelines; they never were and still are not safety guidelines and, according to Arthu Firstenberg, the contributor of this history, they are unenforceable.

Arthur Firstenberg is both

  • The founder of Cellular Phone Task Force and
  • The author of the excellent 2017 Book, The Invisible Rainbow, A History of Electricity and Life

Arthur Firstenberg:

"In April 1993 the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in ET Docket 93-62. The Notice essentially said that the FCC must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act by adopting guidelines for Human Exposures to Radiofrequency Microwave Radiation. Applicants that exceed the limit will have to file an Environmental Assessment. If they don’t exceed the limit they will not have to file an EA. We do not have the expertise to develop an exposure standard, therefore we are going to adopt an existing standard. Should we adopt the 1992 ANSI standard, the 1986 NCRP standard, or the IRPA standard?

The ANSI, NCRP, and IRPA standards were virtually identical, so there wasn’t much to choose from. The telecoms generally preferred ANSI, but EPA and other federal agencies preferred NCRP. The FCC dragged its feet as long as it could, until Congress ordered the FCC to finish its rulemaking within 180 days. On August 6, 1996, the FCC adopted a hybrid of ANSI and NCRP.

My organization, the Cellular Phone Task Force, had just been created in July, 1996. I only found out what the FCC had done when David Fichtenberg called me in August and asked me if I wanted to join him in appealing. He created the Ad Hoc Association of Parties Opposed to the Federal Communications Commission’s Radio Frequency Health and Safety Rules (which later morphed into the EMR Network), and he started putting hundreds of scientific studies into the record. He and I filed administrative appeals, and one year later, the FCC reaffirmed its rules with only slight modification.

In October 1997, 57 parties — organizations and individuals — sued the FCC. The Ad Hoc Association was an umbrella for all the parties except the Cellular Phone Task Force and the Communications Workers of America. The CWA had its own attorney. CPTF was the only party representing people with ElectroMagnetic Sensititivy (EMS) and claiming violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Ad Hoc Association and CPTF hired James R. Hobson to be our attorney. Hobson refused to advocate the ADA issue, at which point we fired him and hired someone else (John Schulz, a former Nader’s Raider). When I looked into Hobson’s background I discovered that he was a former staff attorney for the FCC and that he was representing various telecom companies and the Telecommunications Industry Association on other matters, simultaneously to representing us.

I wrote a letter asking Hobson to recuse himself from the case on account of conflicts of interest, an act that earned me the enmity of Janet Newton and others and caused an early split among activists. We were all joined together in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and we lost. The case has Cellular Phone Task Force in the title only because we filed our case first. Essentially the Second Circuit said, "The FCC proposed to adopt one of these three existing standards, and then did exactly that. The FCC has done nothing wrong."

What none of us quite realized at the time was that

   (a) the FCC had never proposed to develop safety guidelines but had only proposed to choose among one of three existing and almost identical guidelines,

   (b) the hundreds of studies David had put into the record were irrelevant because the FCC was only proposing to adopt an existing standard and not develop a new one, and

   (c) that the FCC-adopted guidelines were procedural only and neither mandatory nor enforceable.

We plodded on and asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. Senator Patrick Leahy wrote a Friend of the Court brief on our behalf that was signed by scores of other public officials including then-Representative Bernie Sanders. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case in 2001.

A few years later, the EMR Network petitioned the FCC to revisit its RF safety rules, and when the FCC refused, the EMR Network took the FCC to court again, this time in the D.C. Circuit, and again lost. This is where we still stand today. The FCC still has no statutory authority over health and safety, and its rules remain procedural only and unenforceable.

The EPA has authority to adopt mandatory guidelines for environmental Radiofrequency Microwave Exposure, but has abdicated its responsibility. If we want protection, the FCC is not the right agency to which to go, it’s the EPA.

The EPA first proposed to adopt guidelines in 1978, issued a Notice of Proposed Recommendations in 1986, and actually completed Phase I of its rulemaking in 1995 and announced they would be released in early 1996 — at which point the Personal Communications Industry Association lobbied Congress to delete all funding for the EPA’s rulemaking effort and to insert Section 704 into the Telecommunications Act, awarding preemptive power to an agency that didn’t even have the authority to enforce its own rules.

The 1996 federal budget not only deleted all funding for the EPA’s effort, but contained wording forbidding the EPA to regulate non-ionizing radiation. The EPA’s draft Phase I guidelines were never published and were withheld from us when we sent a Freedom of Information Request to see them. We know generally that they would not have differed significantly from what the FCC did adopt, except, according to the EPA’s summary, they contained an explicit statement that they protected against thermal effects only and did not protect against, chronic, low-level, or modulation effects. Phase II, which was scheduled to take an additional two years, was going to address chronic, low-level, and modulation effects.

OSHA adopted exposure guidelines decades ago, but an administrative judge within OSHA ruled that they were not enforceable for technical reasons, and OSHA has never done anything to change that."

47 CFR 2.1091 – Radiofrequency radiation exposure evaluation: mobile devices.

§ 2.1091

(d) The limits to be used for evaluation are specified in §1.1310 of this chapter. All unlicensed personal communications service (PCS) devices and unlicensed NII devices shall be subject to the limits for general population/uncontrolled exposure.

   (1) For purposes of analyzing mobile transmitting devices under the occupational/controlled criteria specified in § 1.1310 of this chapter, time-averaging provisions of the guidelines may be used in conjunction with typical maximum duty factors to determine maximum likely exposure levels.

   (2) Time-averaging provisions may not be used in determining typical exposure levels for devices intended for use by consumers in general population/uncontrolled environments as defined in § 1.1310 of this chapter. However, "source-based" time-averaging based on an inherent property or duty-cycle of a device is allowed. An example of this is the determination of exposure from a device that uses digital technology such as a time-division multiple-access (TDMA) scheme for transmission of a signal. In general, maximum average power levels must be used to determine compliance.

Guideline Differences Among 4G/5G Wavelengths/Frequencies

Year Organization Wavelengths Frequencies Velocity Power Density Description
(inches) (MHz) (mph) (µW/m²)  
1996 FCC 22.6 600 671,000,000 4,000,000 MPE for general population/uncontrolled exposure (time-averaged)
1996 FCC 19.4 700 671,000,000 4,666,667 MPE for general population/uncontrolled exposure (time-averaged)
1996 FCC 17.0 800 671,000,000 5,333,333 MPE for general population/uncontrolled exposure (time-averaged)
1996 FCC 15.1 900 671,000,000 6,000,000 MPE for general population/uncontrolled exposure (time-averaged)
1996 FCC 13.5 1,000 671,000,000 6,666,667 MPE for general population/uncontrolled exposure (time-averaged)
1996 FCC 12.3 1,100 671,000,000 7,333,333 MPE for general population/uncontrolled exposure (time-averaged)
1996 FCC 11.3 1,200 671,000,000 8,000,000 MPE for general population/uncontrolled exposure (time-averaged)
1996 FCC 10.4 1,300 671,000,000 8,666,667 MPE for general population/uncontrolled exposure (time-averaged)
1996 FCC 9.6 1,400 671,000,000 9,333,333 MPE for general population/uncontrolled exposure (time-averaged)
1996 FCC 9.0 1,500 671,000,000 10,000,000 MPE for general population/uncontrolled exposure (time-averaged)
1996 FCC 8.5 to 0.1 1,600 to 100,000 671,000,000 10,000,000 MPE for general population/uncontrolled exposure (time-averaged)
2012 BioIntiative 22.6 to 9.0 600 to 1,500 671,000,000 3 to 6 MPE for general population to pulsed, data-modulated RF microwave radation (peak)
2012 BioIntiative 8.5 to 0.1 1,600 to 100,000 671,000,000 3 to 6 MPE for general population to pulsed, data-modulated RF microwave radation (peak)
Legend
  • FCC = Federal Communications Commission
  • MHz = MegaHertz or thousands of times per second
  • mph = miles per hour
  • MPE = Maximum Public Exposure
  • µW/m² = a rate of exposure for an unlimited amount of time (not total exposure in a set period of time) in millionths of a Watt (or microWatts) spread over a square meter
Sources:

FCC Guidelines for Human Exposure to Radiofrequency Microwave Radiation (‘RMR’)
Reported as Average RMR

Frequency range (MHz) Electric field strength (V/m) Magnetic field strength (A/m) Average Power density (µW/m²) Averaging time (minutes)
0.30-1.34 614 1.63 (1,000,000,000)* 30
1.34-30.00 824/f 2.19/f (1,800,000,000/f²)* 30
1.3 1,000,000,000 30
1.5 800,000,000 30
3.0 200,000,000 30
10.0 18,000,000 30
15.0 8,000,000 30
25.0 2,880,000 30
30-300 27.5 0.073 2,000,000 30
300-1,500 (f/1500)*10 million 30
600 4,000,000 30
700 4,670,000 30
800 5,330,000 30
900 6,000,000 30
1,000 6,670,000 30
1,250 8,330,000 30
1,500-100,000 10,000,000 30

*Plane-wave equivalent power density; f = frequency in MHz;


FCC Guidelines for Human Exposure to Radiofrequency Microwave Radiation
Translated to Peak RMR, which is at least 10x to 100x higher than Average RMR

Frequency range (MHz) Electric field strength (V/m) Magnetic field strength (A/m) Average Power density (µW/m²) Averaging time (minutes)
0.30-1.34 (1,000,000,000) x 100* 30
1.34-30.00 (1,800,000,000/f²) x 100* 30
1.3 100,000,000,000 30
1.5 80,000,000,000 30
3.0 20,000,000,000 30
10.0 1,800,000,000 30
15.0 800,000,000 30
25.0 288,000,000 30
30-300 200,000,000 30
300-1,500 (f/1500)* 1 billion 30
600 400,000,000 30
700 467,000,000 30
800 533,000,000 30
900 600,000,000 30
1,000 667,000,000 30
1,250 833,000,000 30
1,500-100,000 1,000,000,000 30


*Plane-wave equivalent power density; f = frequency in MHz; 1 µW/m² average RFR = 100 µW/m² peak RFR


BioIntiative Guidelines for Human Exposure to Radiofrequency Microwave Radiation
Reported as Peak RMR

Frequency range (MHz) Electric field strength (V/m) Magnetic field strength (A/m) Power density (µW/m²) Averaging time (minutes)
0.30-1.34 5* N/A
1.34-30.00 5 N/A
1.3 5 N/A
1.5 5 N/A
3.0 5 N/A
10.0 5 N/A
15.0 5 N/A
25.0 5 N/A
30-300 5 N/A
300-1,500 5 N/A
600 5 N/A
700 5 N/A
800 5 N/A
900 5 N/A
1,000 5 N/A
1,250 5 N/A
1,500-100,000 5 N/A


*Recommendation is 3 to 6 µW/m²; mid-point is 4.5 µW/m², which rounds up to 5 µW/m²; f = frequency in MHz;