Maine Legislator Wants Warnings On Cell Phones

December 22nd, 2009
submit to reddit Share

Thanks to reader “Laura” for sending me the link to this. If she would like her whole name for proper credit, she can let me know.

Sure there’s no actual evidence of cell phones or the rf radiation they produce causing cancer, but for one Maine legislator, that’s no reason not to put warnings on them. After all, there are some countries which insist on warning people about the presumed dangers of a device that all scientific data indicates is perfectly safe. Maine is not alone in considering labels on cell phones, although that certainly doesn’t make it right.

There’s no word on whether these labels will also appear on wifi routers, baby monitors, garage door openers and remote car starters. After all, cell phones are not the only devices that produce RF radiation.

Via Yahoo News/The Associated Press:

Maine to consider cell phone cancer warning

AUGUSTA, Maine – A Maine legislator wants to make the state the first to require cell phones to carry warnings that they can cause brain cancer, although there is no consensus among scientists that they do and industry leaders dispute the claim.

The now-ubiquitous devices carry such warnings in some countries, though no U.S. states require them, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. A similar effort is afoot in San Francisco, where Mayor Gavin Newsom wants his city to be the nation’s first to require the warnings.

Maine Rep. Andrea Boland, D-Sanford, said numerous studies point to the cancer risk, and she has persuaded legislative leaders to allow her proposal to come up for discussion during the 2010 session that begins in January, a session usually reserved for emergency and governors’ bills.

Boland herself uses a cell phone, but with a speaker to keep the phone away from her head. She also leaves the phone off unless she’s expecting a call. At issue is radiation emitted by all cell phones.

Under Boland’s bill, manufacturers would have to put labels on phones and packaging warning of the potential for brain cancer associated with electromagnetic radiation. The warnings would recommend that users, especially children and pregnant women, keep the devices away from their head and body.

The Federal Communications Commission, which maintains that all cell phones sold in the U.S. are safe, has set a standard for the “specific absorption rate” of radiofrequency energy, but it doesn’t require handset makers to divulge radiation levels.

The San Francisco proposal would require the display of the absorption rate level next to each phone in print at least as big as the price. Boland’s bill is not specific about absorption rate levels, but would require a permanent, nonremovable advisory of risk in black type, except for the word “warning,” which would be large and in red letters. It would also include a color graphic of a child’s brain next to the warning.

While there’s little agreement about the health hazards, Boland said Maine’s roughly 950,000 cell phone users among its 1.3 million residents “do not know what the risks are.”

All told, more than 270 million people subscribed to cellular telephone service last year in the United States, an increase from 110 million in 2000, according to CTIA-The Wireless Association. The industry group contends the devices are safe.

“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. The peer-reviewed scientific evidence has overwhelmingly indicated that wireless devices do not pose a public health risk,” said CTIA’s John Walls.

James Keller of Lewiston, whose cell phone serves as his only phone, seemed skeptical about warning labels. He said many things may cause cancer but lack scientific evidence to support that belief. Besides, he said, people can’t live without cell phones.

“It seems a little silly to me, but it’s not going to hurt anyone to have a warning on there. If they’re really concerned about it, go ahead and put a warning on it,” he said outside a sporting good store in Topsham. “It wouldn’t deter me from buying a phone.”

While there’s been no long-term studies on cell phones and cancer, some scientists suggest erring on the side of caution.

So much bullshit and so little time. For one thing the statement that “there’s been no long-term studies on cell phones and cancer” is completely false. Numerous studies have been done that have tracked users of cell phones from the early 1980′s to 2000′s. Other studies have used accelerated exposure models, such as animals with shorter life cycles or tissue cultures. Still other studies exist that predate cell phone usage and track the cancer rates amongst those who live in the vicinity of radio and television transmitters, microwave relay stations or powerful military and civilian radar. For example, the US Air Force PAVE PAWS system and it’s predecessors have been in operation for about half a century and during that time numerous studies have been conducted to address concerns over the health effects of the systems.

These studies, whether long term or short term, whether examining mobile phones, microwave relay, radar or broadcasting have not shown any significant increase in the risk of cancer. Of course this is not unexpected. Cancer is the result of gene corruption or damage to cell chemistry and function – which cannot be caused by RF radiation.

Despite Borland’s claim that “numerous studies point to the cancer risk,” there has never been a single study that showed a clear link between RF radiation and cancer of any kind. There have been some studies which claimed to, although upon closer examination they did not meet basic scientific quality standards. However, of the high quality, peer-reviewed studies avaliable (and there are literally thousands) the worst any indicate is an increase in cancer incidence that is less than the study error.

And why a child’s brain next to the graphic, as suggested in San Fransisco? There’s no indication that RF radiation is dangerous to anyone, and even if it were, there’s no reason to presume a child would be more endangered than an adult. Even if cell phones had some danger (which they don’t) there is no reason to believe that they should be held away from the head or would pose a danger to the brain. After all, the brain is not necessarily as prone to cancer from enviornmental carcinogens as other organs. Ionizing radiation, for example, as much greater effect on organs like the thyroid or liver than it does on the brain. Cells which are most prone to the kind of damage that causes cancer tend to be varieties that reproduce quickly – this is not the case with those that make up most of the brain.

Since SAR seems to have no effect on cancer development, some of the nutty anti-cellphone groups have actually given up on that whole notion. SAR, or Specific Absorption Ratio is the most common criteria for evaluating RF device safety – it is based on the well established and tested thermal effects of RF radiation, which are neglidgable in consumer devices. The nuts at Bioiniative have actually started to claim that it’s the “information” transmitted over cell phones and not the intensity of the radiation that causes problems. The assclowns at Bioiniative are even mentioned in the article. Unbelievably, they even got their nonsense presented to the European Parliament.

Another “expert” mentioned is Dr. Ronald B. Herberman. Herberman is the director of the Pittsburgh Cancer Center, but doesn’t actually have any experience or training in the field of epidemiology or radiation safety. Last year he issued a statement acknowledging that there’s no data to indicate that cell phones cause cancer, but stating that there should be precautions taken anyway. The name of someone like Haberman can add credibility to these unfounded and thoroughly debunked claims, and Herberman really should be ashamed of himself for contributing to this scaremongering.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009 at 11:39 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Just LAME, Obfuscation, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
View blog reactions



24 Responses to “Maine Legislator Wants Warnings On Cell Phones”

  1. 1
    DV82XL Says:

    It was only a matter of time before some nobody politician decided they could get a little mileage out of this BS. It’s a wonder it took this long, to tell the truth.


    Quote Comment
  2. 2
    Kim Says:

    What is with all this “for the children” bullcrap? why a “child’s brain” or anything like that? Okay, I guess it’s tragic when a child gets cancer or any disease that could kill them, but it’s not like anyone else’s life is not worth something if they’re an adult or even elderly in age. It just seems so transparent to me at this point. “Protect the children” is so clearly an appeal to the whole outrage over children getting harmed, but it’s so overused it’s stupid


    Quote Comment
  3. 3
    Gordon Says:

    Political buzzwords and appeal to the whole helpless/cute child thing, Kim. If you oppose the measure, then you’re against “protecting the children”

    There are many things that amaze me. One thing is that people think things should get more dangerous with time. Somehow “20 year old standards” are consifdered dangerous because somehow we’re supposed to get a lower tolerance as time goes on? Or that which was safe 40 years ago is no longer safe? Another one is that the if any other country restricts something it’s grounds for everyone else to “Well, Norway has lower SAR tolerance levels” or something. So suddenly the fact that one place has a stupid policy means everywhere has to.

    You know what will happen if this goes through? The a-holes in other states will start with “Maine has standards to protect their children and label their cell phones. Why don’t we in New Jersey? Why don’t we in Wisconsin? Why don’t we in Texas?” Then it’s going to be “30 states have labels, so why are we one of the 20 that don’t?”

    Then before long it’ll be “The United States labels their phones, but Canada doesn’t care enough about our own children!”

    That’s how it works. It’s dominoes of idiocy.


    Quote Comment
  4. 4
    [Other] Matthew Says:

    Please won’t somebody think of the chiiiildrunnnn???

    This whole thing is basically people being scared of stuff they don’t understand and being too ****ing lazy and selfish to find out before they impose their ignorance on everyone around them.

    Warning stickers should be placed on babies warning that life may prove fatal because life is scary.

    “Warning! Danger of death! Prolonged exposure to life may cause cancer and other fatal diseases.”

            Gordon said:

    Then it’s going to be “30 states have labels, so why are we one of the 20 that don’t?”

    The politician who responds to this with “we’re one of the 20 states which aren’t populated by dribbling morons” will get my vote. Or would, if I were American. Of course insulting people is so very non PC these days, so that will never happen. Especially potential voters.


    Quote Comment
  5. 5
    DV82XL Says:

            Kim said:

    What is with all this “for the children” bullcrap?

            Gordon said:

    If you oppose the measure, then you’re against “protecting the children”

            [Other] Matthew said:

    Please won’t somebody think of the chiiiildrunnnn???

    Those of you that have not been through the full-body experience of being a first time parent of a new child can dismiss this as pandering to idiots, however you have no idea just how vulnerable you become when deep instinctive programs coded into your genetic makeup begin to run. The need to protect these little creatures is very powerful, and while it can be reasoned around to some extent, the reflexive response is to take a precautionary stance.

    Politicians and other social manipulators know just where these buttons are and are not adverse to pushing them for their own ends. Criticize them for being unethical, but try and avoid mocking the victims until you have spent the third night in a row pacing the floor with a sick baby on your shoulder, and all you can do is worry. I have, and while my brood are now adults, believe me I can’t wait for them to go through it, to wipe their smug attitudes on the subject away.


    Quote Comment
  6. 6
    gman Says:

            DV82XL said:

    The need to protect these little creatures is very powerful… Criticize them for being unethical, but try and avoid mocking the victims until you have spent the third night in a row pacing the floor with a sick baby on your shoulder, and all you can do is worry. I have …

    So, did you get them cell phones for christmas?


    Quote Comment
  7. 7
    DV82XL Says:

            gman said:

    So, did you get them cell phones for christmas?

    They are working professionals in their twenties, that no longer live at home. I have hinted at length that it is now their turn to surprise me with big ticket Xmas gifts, however to date this hasn’t seemed to work :)


    Quote Comment
  8. 8
    drbuzz0 Says:

            DV82XL said:

    They are working professionals in their twenties, that no longer live at home. I have hinted at length that it is now their turn to surprise me with big ticket Xmas gifts, however to date this hasn’t seemed to work :)

    Okay, here’s what you do: you have to tell them something, very directly like “You know your mother has worked so hard and I really think she’d appreciate a nice gift from you. Don’t worry about me” and you have to have arranged with your wife for her to say the same thing, except replace “your mother” with “your father”

    Now you can take it up to the next level if you think that won’t work and make it a question of pride and monetary situations. You can say “your mother would really appreciate a nice gift, but don’t feel you need to get much for me, because, you know, I understand that times aren’t great now and also, if you can’t afford to get your mother a nice gift I can lend you some.”

    This is what my parents do. It seems to be effective. It is most effective when they invoke the notion that I shouldn’t buy them a big ticket item because I don’t have the money to do so. That seems to create an urge to prove them wrong that I can’t suppress.


    Quote Comment
  9. 9
    DV82XL Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    Okay, here’s what you do: …..

    Thanks. I’ll give that a shot ;)


    Quote Comment
  10. 10
    TomT Says:

    So if they are so scared of the risk to their children then they shouldn’t buy cell phones for their kids, or pagers or any such thing. But what business is it to them what other parents do. Bah … Just bah.


    Quote Comment
  11. 11
    DV82XL Says:

            TomT said:

    So if they are so scared of the risk to their children then they shouldn’t buy cell phones for their kids, or pagers or any such thing. But what business is it to them what other parents do. Bah … Just bah.

    You’re missing the point. It’s the politicians that are leveraging this fear for their own ends. In this case someone is getting some attention paid to them by the press, demanding warnings, the parents arn’t doing anything here objectionable.


    Quote Comment
  12. 12
    Calli Arcale Says:

    Will they stick a warning notice on the planet Jupiter next? How about the galactic core, which emits enough RF to be picked up on radios? Or the Cosmic Microwave Background? OMG! We need a warning label on the UNIVERSE!!!!

    :-P

    BTW, you point out that brains aren’t the most vulnerable organs to ionizing radiation. I know you know this, but RF is not ionizing radiation. In some respects, by making that clarification about livers being at more risk than brains, it sounds almost like you’re accepting their claim that this is about ionizing radiation. A simpler rebuttal is “RF is not ionizing radiation”, and you’ve made that one before to great effect.

    Why the child’s brain? Well, children are more vulnerable to carcinogens than adults are, mostly because of their rapid growth (i.e. rapid cell division). Their brains are undergoing a period of dramatic organization. This is why, in general, things which affect the brain of an adult will affect the brain of a child more. So *if* they were right that cell phones were dangerous, it would be legitimate to say they’re worse for kids than adults. Thing is, that “if” hasn’t been demonstrated at all yet.


    Quote Comment
  13. 13
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Calli Arcale said:

    BTW, you point out that brains aren’t the most vulnerable organs to ionizing radiation. I know you know this, but RF is not ionizing radiation. In some respects, by making that clarification about livers being at more risk than brains, it sounds almost like you’re accepting their claim that this is about ionizing radiation. A simpler rebuttal is “RF is not ionizing radiation”, and you’ve made that one before to great effect.

    You’re right, of course. One of the things that these idiots have said is you should keep your phone on your belt and have a headset or something. I’m just saying that there’s no reason to think the brain would be the organ to worry about (if any are at all). The brain is not as sensitive to enviornmental carcinogens as some other organs.

    If we were to suppose that there were an RF-Cancer link, it would have to, in theory, somehow be DNA corrupting or perhaps produce some chemical carcinogen or disrupt enzymes, by some as yet undiscovered mechanism. If this were the case, the brain shouldn’t theoretically be the biggest area of concern.

            Calli Arcale said:

    Why the child’s brain? Well, children are more vulnerable to carcinogens than adults are, mostly because of their rapid growth (i.e. rapid cell division). Their brains are undergoing a period of dramatic organization. This is why, in general, things which affect the brain of an adult will affect the brain of a child more. So *if* they were right that cell phones were dangerous, it would be legitimate to say they’re worse for kids than adults. Thing is, that “if” hasn’t been demonstrated at all yet.

    Well we’re spinning yarns here on totally hypothetical topics on two levels of “if” that ***if*** it were dangerous and ***if*** it harmed the brain than ***maybe*** it would be worse of children due to the ***supposed*** carcinogenic properties.

    However, I could fire back that this supposed reason for considering children to be more vulnerable could be outweighed by a reason to think they’re not.

    Here’s what I’ll say: Children’s brains are still developing and neural connections are constantly being formed and are weak to begin with. If RF radiation caused these connections to be broken or corrupted from time to time, children wouldn’t suffer much ill effect from this because their brains are very dynamic and have enormous neural plasticity. So the connections are not as tight anyway and will reform.

    Adults don’t have nearly as much neural plasticity and their brain function is based on years of learning and more permanent. When the RF radiation interferes with their brain, the neurons don’t reconnect and the brain does not adapt. Instead it completely loses organization.

    Furthermore, as more and more connections are lost, the brain sends electrical impulses which end up sparking across the gaps in the neurons. Eventually this causes the brain to overheat, and in a thermal steam explosion, the skull fragments and the blast wave can kill anyone standing within 30 feet of the brain. If that’s not bad enough, the brain matter, by some unknown mechanism, becomes highly radioactive.

    Each little bit of brain matter retains some degree of intelligence and continues to survive as a small blob, which grows larger by eating the brains of others. It crawls around, first like a small slug, and then like a huge slug. These pieces of rogue brain join Al Queda and plot to take over the world.

    And that is why it’s worse for adults.


    Quote Comment
  14. 14
    Gordon Says:

            DV82XL said:

    Those of you that have not been through the full-body experience of being a first time parent of a new child can dismiss this as pandering to idiots, however you have no idea just how vulnerable you become when deep instinctive programs coded into your genetic makeup begin to run. The need to protect these little creatures is very powerful, and while it can be reasoned around to some extent, the reflexive response is to take a precautionary stance.

    Actually, I have. However, it doesn’t change my mind on this. If anything it’s more reason why this is despicable. It’s scare-tactics because by invoking children, they’re just trying to pander to the instinctual, emotional factor, and hopefully bypass the whole logical process by doing so. The fact that many parents are ignorant enough to bite the bait does not make it legit. It’s still a ploy, but an even worse one because they’re using a a buzz word that they know will hit you where it’s sensitive.

    I think that when a politician says “This is to protect your children” the thing you have to do there is recognize what they’re doing – they’re hoping to scare you and hit on the desire to protect your children. Take a deep breath, step back from the issue and ask yourself if it’s really the case. It doesn’t actually help your children or yourself to panic. It’s despicable that anyone would try to play your fears off for political gain, and if someone stands up to them, more power to them, and I hope the voters will realize that the children thing is just a ruse designed to make them blind to logic.

            DV82XL said:

    You’re missing the point. It’s the politicians that are leveraging this fear for their own ends. In this case someone is getting some attention paid to them by the press, demanding warnings, the parents arn’t doing anything here objectionable.

    Exactly! And whether or not you have children, if you care about safety of children and adults and elderly or any other age group, then you should oppose this. Useless warnings don’t help anyone and they can create the whole boy who cried wolf situation. If you put a warning label on things that are dangerous and things that are safe, nobody can tell the difference.


    Quote Comment
  15. 15
    Joel Upchurch Says:

    It looks like San Francisco is piling on.

    http://i.engadget.com/2009/12/24/san-francisco-considers-displaying-phone-radiation-levels-next-t/


    Quote Comment
  16. 16
    Bruce Says:

    Soo… exactly how is such a warning going to endanger anyone? I realize now that the studies don’t show evidence of this connection, and the ones that do, you guys claim are not good studies. Maybe that is true. But a simple label to make people aware of the possible dangers seems advisable. No one is talking about limiting cell phone use, just making people aware. I don’t see the problem.


    Quote Comment
  17. 17
    Bruce Says:

    Soo… exactly how is such a warning going to endanger anyone? I realize now that the studies, so far, don’t show evidence of this connection, and the ones that do, you guys claim are not good studies. Maybe that is true. But a simple label to make people aware of the possible dangers seems advisable. No one is talking about limiting cell phone use, just making people aware. I don’t see the problem.

    Also, I noticed you never covered the leak at Indian point: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/02/nyregion/02nuke.html


    Quote Comment
  18. 18
    DV82XL Says:

            Bruce said:

    Soo… exactly how is such a warning going to endanger anyone? I realize now that the studies, so far, don’t show evidence of this connection, and the ones that do, you guys claim are not good studies. Maybe that is true. But a simple label to make people aware of the possible dangers seems advisable. No one is talking about limiting cell phone use, just making people aware. I don’t see the problem.l

    The problem is that warning labels presume there is a problem, and in fact give a cachet of legitimacy
    to the claim. This is as one poster all ready pointed out, the equivalent of crying wolf, which will have the effect of legitimate Pfeiffer ligitimate warnings when they appear.


    Quote Comment
  19. 19
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Bruce said:

    Soo… exactly how is such a warning going to endanger anyone? I realize now that the studies don’t show evidence of this connection, and the ones that do, you guys claim are not good studies. Maybe that is true. But a simple label to make people aware of the possible dangers seems advisable. No one is talking about limiting cell phone use, just making people aware. I don’t see the problem.

    By this logic we should put warning labels on everything that has not been “proven” to absolutely not cause cancer. This would include things such as paper cups, toothpicks, socket wrenches, dogs, cats, two-by-fours, Lincoln Logs, pencil sharpeners, wool socks and anything else that might possibly emit some as yet undiscovered radiation that kills people.

    Seriously, though, I assume that if you think phones should be labeled, then you’d think the same of cordless phones, wifi routers, walkies-talkies, R/C cars, garage door openers and any of the other products that contain radio transmitters of any kind.


    Quote Comment
  20. 20
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Bruce said:

    Also, I noticed you never covered the leak at Indian point: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/02/nyregion/02nuke.html

    Why would I? I don’t cover everything that happens in the world and I’m not going to bother writing about something as trivial as a leak in a pipe from a secondary auxiliary system of a nuclear plant that is sometimes used to provide cooling, and which contains nothing even slightly radioactive and is not even mission-critical.

    What the hell is next? A news report every time a nuke plant worker goes to Taco Bell for their lunch break and then comes back and plugs up the john in the men’s room?


    Quote Comment
  21. 21
    Chem Geek Gregor Says:

            Bruce said:

    Also, I noticed you never covered the leak at Indian point: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/02/nyregion/02nuke.html

    Do you have any idea how annoying this off topic BS is?


    Quote Comment
  22. 22
    Yojimbo Says:

    Gee dad! All the other kids are doing it…


    Quote Comment
  23. 23
    Joel Upchurch Says:

    There is an article on this legislation in the NYT.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/02/us/02cell.html?ref=technology


    Quote Comment
  24. 24
    Depleted Cranium » Blog Archive » Sanity Prevails in Maine: No Cell Phone Radiation Warning Labels Says:

    [...] for “The children,” but it seems that the warning label bill for cell phones in Maine, which had previously been reported,  has been defeated.   The bill would have required all cell phones sold in the state to come [...]


    Quote Comment

Leave a Reply

Current month ye@r day *

Please copy the string JeJlVK to the field below:

Protected by WP Anti Spam