Hidden Health Risks of Cell Phone Usage

To the Editor,

Democracy requires participation amongst the governed, but the people must be provided the information necessary to render informed decisions. All people maintain a fundamental right to safety and health information about technologies that will directly impact one’s health.

San Francisco’s trend-setting disclosure of radiation specific absorption rates (SAR) signifies a pivotal shift in the raging debate over the hidden long-term health risks of cell phones. Lt. Gov. Newsom describes his legislation as “a modest and commonsense measure to provide greater transparency and information.”

For over a decade, the FCC, a federal agency handling communication matters, stipulated the exact methods used approximating cell phone’s SAR. Shockingly, the FCC established SAR limits without any pre-market safety testing, and guidelines are outdated by over 15 years. Currently, the FCC is arguing (without offering any reasoning) that SAR is meaningless and proposing to eliminate all wired landlines. The FCC withdrawal of information from their website paralleled arguments from the Cellular Telecommunications Industry (CTIA) opposing San Francisco Right to Know ordinance about disclosing cell phone radiation levels.

In order to separate truth from fiction, we need more independent research instead of self-serving studies funded by the cell phone industry. UC Berkeley Professor Joel Moskowitz argues that independent studies demonstrate “consistent evidence that heavy cell phone use for a decade or longer increases brain tumor risk at least 30%.” Mr. Snowden of the CTIA wants to be “very clear. The CTIA has not said once…that cell phones are safe.” The CTIA argues that most studies do not demonstrate a direct link between cell phone usage and cancer. However, these studies examine health effects only in the short-term. The early introduction and ubiquity of cell phones in Scandinavia translates into a 240% increased risk of glioma for individuals using their cell phone in excess of ten years.

Comparatively, Israel, Germany, Finland, Russia, Switzerland, France, and Canada have all expressed serious concerns. Switzerland already requires SAR warning labels on cell phones, and France already has cell phone marketing restrictions to children. Additionally, the U.S. President’s Commission on Cancer reports that extended cell phone usage causes brain tumors. It is inexcusable to allow technological advances invented to enrich our lives rob us of our lives instead. Reducing direct radiation exposure to the brain can be achieved by promoting simple precautionary measures like wearing a headset, using the speakerphone, or texting. Enacting simple precautions to reduce exposure will save us from a potential global epidemic of brain tumors.

Consumers in California must continue to demand the successful Right to Know ordinance be implemented in San Francisco. Consumers must demand cell phones require warning labels similar to cigarettes. Consumers must demand their city follow in the footsteps of San Francisco. Even if we agree to disagree on the validity of current studies, we should make the compromise that information and simple precautions help protect public health.

Zack Marks

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