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Celling Fear: The Cell Phone Scare that Refuses to Die

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Celling Fear: The Cell Phone Scare that Refuses to Die

Soon would-be cell phone buyers in Maine might be checking out the latest models, only to find a jarring red box on each unit with the image of a brain next to a phone.

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Soon would-be cell phone buyers in Maine might be checking out the latest models, only to find a jarring red box on each unit with the image of a brain next to a phone. On it, the alarming words:

WARNING, THIS DEVICE EMITS ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION; EXPOSURE TO WHICH MAY CAUSE BRAIN CANCER. USERS, ESPECIALLY CHILDREN AND PREGNANT WOMEN, SHOULD KEEP THIS DEVICE AWAY FROM THE HEAD AND BODY.

The above notice would be mandated by Maine’s Children’s Wireless Protection Act, which was recently introduced as emergency legislation following a unanimous vote by the state’s legislative council. Does this mean science shows that cell phones really are harmful? On the contrary. The real problem comes from misinformation from activists and a policy called “the precautionary principle” that could be devastating if it makes inroads into public policy.

Unfortunately, the Maine legislature is not the only government body considering such a hysterical action. This month, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is expected to consider a resolution already approved unanimously by a commission as well as by the mayor. Among other things, it requires radiofrequency emission levels for each phone to be displayed as large as the price and asks for “warning labels [to] be placed on all cell phone packaging regarding exposure to radiation, especially for children.”

The idea, says San Francisco Toxics Reduction Program Manager Debbie Raphael, is that since the city cannot require manufacturers to redesign phones, requiring a label presumably warning of health risks will influence them to redesign their products. However, there is no call to require the same labels on other radiofrequency emitting devices, such as televisions and personal computers.