Cancer Risk of Cell Phones at Issue in Legislative Hearing

Thank you to Angela Flynn for bringing this to our attention.

Cancer Risk of Cell Phones at Issue in Legislative Hearing
03/02/2010   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

Maine would become the first state to require warning labels on cell phones, under a bill before state lawmakers. Supporters say consumers should be warned that cell phones can cause brain cancer, but opponents argue that there is no proof of such a link.
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Cancer Risk of Cell Phones at Issue in Legislative Listen
The bill before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee would require warning labels on cell phones, and cell phone packaging sold in Maine.

“People need to know the risk they are incurring when they hold cell phones to their heads and give them to their children — they are radiation emitting devices,” said state Rep. Andrea Boland of Sanford, who sponsored the bill.

Boland says the messaging would alert users to the risks of electromagnetic radiation and advise that children and pregnant women should keep the devices away from their heads and bodies. “We have about 940,000 cell phone customers in Maine, and approximately 14,000 live births a year,” she said. “The average cost of brain tumor surgery is $250,000.”

For others who testified at the committee hearing, the costs are immeasurable. “The summer before last I was diagnosed with a brain tumor,” said San Francisco businessman Alan Marx. “I had a craniotomy, my skull was cut open, and a golf-ball sized tumor was removed from my brain. It was malignant, and it was my death sentence.”

Marx has dedicated what remains of his life to warning people against the dangers posed by cell phone use. He and other supporters of Boland’s bill were influenced by a 2006 study by the Swedish National Institute for Working Life that shows a correlation between brain tumors and heavy cellphone use.

Marx says he has paid dearly for his reliance on a cell phone as part of his daily routine. “My profession is real estate development and sales,” he said. “I used the cell phone for over 20 years for about 10,000 lifetime hours, I always held my phone to my right ear, and my tumor is on the right side of my head. It’s ironic that the very thing that aided me to do my business ruined my ability to do business, and will kill me.”

But some public health officials, including Dr. Dora Anne Mills of the Maine Center for Disease Control and prevention, say the evidence of a link between cell phone use and brain cancer is lacking. “At this point in time we believe the preponderance of evidence does not suggest a defined brain cancer or other cancer risk associated with use of cell phones,” Mills said.

The bill is also opposed by the cell phone industry. “Impartial experts, as we’ve heard, say that the body of scientific evidence does not include a public health risk caused by the low level of RF energy emitted by cell phones and mobile devices,” said Eric Ebenstein of TechAmerica, which represents about 1,200 firms in communications-related industries.

Ebenstein says the federal government has already set mandatory safety limits on RF energy emissions from wireless devices sold the U.S. “Based on the expertise and credibility of some of our most valued and respected standard-setting bodies requiring companies to add confusing warning labels is unnecessary and misleading,” he said.

But sponsor Andrea Boland says Maine should learn from the painful history of tobacco. “Decades ago, I know that people stood where I stand today, asking for warning labels on cigarettes. The tobacco industry made all the same arguments, and was able to delay enactment, to the grief and economic costs of our people,” she said.

The legislative panel is expected to continue work on the cell phone bill next week.


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