Oregon considers cellphone radiation label

By Cecilia Kang
Oregon state Sen. Chip Shields on Monday introduced a bill that would require retailers to put warning labels on cellphones and packaging of wireless devices, advising consumers of possible risks associated with radio frequency exposure.

Shields, a Democrat who represents parts of Portland, introduced the legislation along with five other Democratic and Republican state lawmakers, amid growing concern that long-term exposure to cellphones could lead to health problems, including cancer, particularly among youth and children. San Francisco has adopted the nation’s first ordinance requiring labeling of radiation data at retail stores — a rule the wireless industry has fought with a lawsuit against the city.

In the Oregon bill, Shields said recent medical studies including the multinational Interphone study, showed there was a greater chance of health problems associated with long-term use and that more research was needed.

Federal regulators, Shields said, don’t adequately protect consumers. The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t test devices for safety. The Federal Communications Commission only supervises certain radiation levels emitted by devices that cause thermal heating of body tissue. But the FCC doesn’t look at non-thermal radiation levels and the long-term effects of exposure.

“Given the absence of any federal entity with primary jurisdiction to evaluate and regulate health and safety effects of cellular telephones on humans . . . the state of Oregon may lawfully exercise its health and safety and police powers to prohibit cellular telephones in this state unless the cellular telephones and their packaging contain a visible, written label advising consumers of possible risks and steps a consumer can take to reduce the risk of radio-frequency radiation exposure,” the bill states.

Specifically, the bill calls for a label with the following:

WARNING: This is a radio-frequency (RF), radiation emitting device that has nonthermal biological effects for which no safety guidelines have yet been established. Controversy exists as to whether these effects are harmful to humans. Exposure to RF radiation may be reduced by limiting your use of this device and keeping away from the head and body.

The label would be affixed on the front and back of the package. It would also be on the back of the cellphone, occupying at least 30 percent of the surface.

The CTIA wireless trade group refutes concerns about cellphone safety, saying studies by the World Health Organization and American Cancer Society show radio frequencies cannot harm people.

“The scientific consensus from these impartial health organizations is that there are no negative health effects from consumer use of wireless devices,” said John Walls, CTIA’s vice president of communications. “Warning labels would mislead consumers suggesting that wireless devices are not safe which contradicts the consensus of the leading federal and international health organizations.”

The CTIA has successfully fought legislation in California and Maine over the past year, sending lobbyists to speak at public forums against warning labels. Apple, AT&T, Verizon and the CTIA have also hired locally based lobbyists to fight the legislation that could curb consumers’ appetites for cellphones.

By Cecilia Kang | February 8, 2011; 8:00 AM ET
Categories: FCC, Verizon

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