Cell Phone and Brain Malignancies: The Right to Know Radiation Act

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As the controversy continues to rage over whether cell phone radiation can be linked to an increased risk of brain cancer, recently introduced legislation in the US Congress would offer the public more information to make educated choices over purchase and use of cell phones.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has introduced H.R. 6358, the Cell Phone Right to Know Act, a bill to grant a consumer’s right-to-know by providing for warning labels on cell phones. It would also create a new national research program to study cell phones and health and require the Environmental Protection Agency to update the outdated Specific Absorption Rate (SAR). A federal appeals court in San Francisco is expected to consider a local right-to-know ordinance this week.

“Consumers have a right to know the radiation levels of cell phones and whether they are buying the phone with the lowest – or the highest – level of exposure to cell phone radiation. They also deserve to have up-to-date exposure standards that are put together by health professionals without conflicts of interest,” said Kucinich.

When Kucinich first called a hearing on the issue as Chair of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee on September 25, 2008, Dr. Ronald Herberman, then Director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, testified to the Subcommittee, “I cannot tell this committee that cell phones are dangerous, but I certainly can’t tell you they are safe.”

Last year, the World Health Organization finished its assessment of the evidence about the links between exposure to radiation from cell phones and health problems. They concluded that there was enough evidence of a link to classify it as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” placing it in the same category as lead and mercury.

The long-awaited Interphone study, a major inquiry into the potential links between cell phone use and tumors, concluded that when taken as a whole, there was not a link. However, when the data was broken down, more risk was found and the picture became clearer. Those using their cell phones typically only 30 minutes per day or more were found to have a 40% increased risk of a type of brain tumor called glioma, when compared to someone who had not used a cell phone. If the phone is used mostly on one side of the head, the risk is 96% more than someone unexposed to cell phone radiation.

“It took decades for scientists to be able to say for sure that smoking caused cancer. During those decades, the false impression created by industry supporters was that there was no connection between smoking and cancer, a deception which cost many lives. While we wait for scientists to sort out the health effects of cell phone radiation, we must allow consumers to have enough information to choose a phone with less radiation,” said Kucinich. “As long as cell phone users may be at increased risk of cancer or reproductive problems, Americans must have the right to know the radiation levels of cell phones.”

The warning labels required by H.R. 6358 would show the RF radiation emissions from the phone, legal limits and health-based goals for safe exposure. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the SAR is “the amount of radio frequency energy absorbed by the body when using a mobile phone.” The current SAR sets a maximum level of radiation emission at 1.6 watts per kilogram. The current SAR does not take into account vulnerable populations like kids or pregnant women. It also assumes a person’s only exposure is from the phone in use, but with WiFi, “smart phones,” and Bluetooth technologies, exposure to only one wireless device is increasingly rare, especially in urban environments. A Government Accountability Office report on cell phones and health is expected to be released soon.

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