Despite a paucity of hard scientific evidence, both the state of Maine and the city of San Francisco are considering legislation requiring cell phone makers to affix labels on their devices warning consumers of possible brain cancer risks due to electromagnetic radiation.
In Maine, State Rep. Andrea Boland has won approval for the state legislature to consider a bill requiring that warning labels be placed on the packaging and the cell phone itself. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom would require retailers to display the absorption rate level next to each phone in print at least as big as the price.
The San Francisco initiative was prompted by an EWG (Environmental Working Group) report Sept. 9, 2009, stating that "recent studies find significantly higher risks for brain and salivary gland tumors among people using cell phones for 10 years or longer." The report added, "The state of the science is provocative and troubling, and much more research is essential."
The World Health Organization and National Cancer Institute, though, have said there is little clear evidence to prove the linkage. The Federal Communications Commission says cell phones are safe and maintains a standard for the specific absorption rate of radio-frequency energy, but doesn't require manufacturers to reveal radiation levels.
Boland said she is convinced warning labels are needed based on "what she had read" about the possible linkage between cell phones and cancer.
"The main thing is that the warning labels get on there, and when people go to purchase something, they have a heads-up that they need to really think about it," Boland told the New York Times. "This is a big important industry, and it's a small modification to assure people that they should handle them properly."
More than 270 million people currently subscribe to cellular telephone service in the United States, according to industry trade group CTIA.
"With respect to the matter of health effects associated with wireless base stations and the use of wireless devices, CTIA and the wireless industry have always been guided by science and the views of impartial health organizations," CTIA spokesperson John Walls told the Associated Press. "The peer-reviewed scientific evidence has overwhelmingly indicated that wireless devices do not pose a public health risk."