Health & Human Services

Cancer-Causing Phones?

Andrea Boland is worried about cell phone safety, but unlike a lot of state legislators, her focus is not talking or texting while driving. Instead,...
by | February 1, 2010

Andrea Boland is worried about cell phone safety, but unlike a lot of state legislators, her focus is not talking or texting while driving. Instead, she sees a different threat from cell phones: an increased risk of brain cancer.

Whether there is a link between cell phone use and cancer is still murky, but Boland, a Maine state representative, points to Scandinavian studies suggesting that use of cell phones over a 10-year period could increase the risk of brain cancer. Boland plans to introduce legislation, partially based on those studies, to add warning labels to cell phones, advising users that electromagnetic radiation emitted from the devices may increase users' risk. A legislative council unanimously voted to review the legislation in a special session usually reserved for emergency measures. Boland's bill, along with a similar ordinance proposed in San Francisco requiring retailers to display the amount of radio frequency a cell phone emits, has attracted international attention and re-sparked the conversation about the possible harms of cell phone use.

Cell phones emit radio frequency similar to microwaves, but the FCC already limits the amount of electromagnetic radiation that can be absorbed from cell phones. According to CTIA-the Wireless Association, research indicates no known public health risks for using wireless devices, and the American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration agree.

While Boland acknowledges that the only certainty regarding her bill is that it will be discussed, legislators in a couple of states are also considering introducing similar bills. Boland doesn't see herself as a crusader against the cellular industry, and says users could dramatically reduce their amount of exposure just by using a speakerphone or a headset. "I just think it's a simple piece of legislation for alerting people so they can take steps for safer ways to use cell phones," she says. "We have warning labels on all sorts of things, like hair dryers."

Tina Trenkner
Tina Trenkner  |  Deputy Editor, GOVERNING.com
ttrenkner@governing.com  |  @tinatrenkner

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