February 26, 2010
The Honorable Andrea M. Boland
Maine House of Representatives
2 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
Dear Representative Boland:
As nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving public health, we strongly support the “Children’s Wireless Protection Act.” Your legislation would require cell phones sold in Maine to include a prominent warning label on the phone and its packaging stating that the device may cause brain cancer, that children and pregnant women should be particularly cautious, and that people should keep the phones away from their heads and bodies.
The frequent, heavy use of cell phones is a relatively recent phenomenon, and since cancers usually take at least 10-20 years to develop, it will be years before research is likely to conclude whether cell phones cause cancer or not. A good analogy is smoking: smoking causes lung cancer and most smokers start in their teens, but smokers don’t develop lung cancer for at least 25-35 years.
If we wait 20 years to determine the exact cancer risks of cell phones, it will be too late to protect ourselves or our family members. The evidence of risk is growing. A review of 18 studies of cell phones and brain tumors, published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2007, concluded that studies of individuals using cell phones for more than 10 years “give a consistent pattern of an increased risk for acoustic neuroma and glioma,” with the risk being highest for a tumor on the same side of the head that the phone is used.1
A 2009 meta-analysis of 11 studies published in peer-reviewed journals on long-term cell phone use and the risk of developing brain tumors concluded that using a cell phone for ten or more years “approximately doubles the risk of being diagnosed with a brain tumor” on the side of the head where the cell phone user holds the phone.2 We are very concerned about the possible long-term risks associated with the use of cell phones for adults and children. The brains of children under 8 absorb twice as much radiation from cell phones as adult brains, according to a 2008 study published in Physics in Medicine and Biology.3 A Swedish researcher found that people who begin using cell phones (and cordless landline phones) before the age of 20 are at an even higher risk of developing brain tumors than people who begin using them as adults.4, 5
Research also indicates that cell phone radiation harms sperm and may reduce male fertility.6 The solution: men of reproductive age who would like to have children should shut off their phones before putting it in their pants pockets or anywhere below the waist. Of course, the radiation is much lower when a phone is on but not in use than when a person is speaking on the phone, but since a cell phone can sit in a man’s pocket for most of the day, the cumulative exposure while the phone is on is still substantial.
The cell phone industry insists that its phones are safe, but the industry tends to focus on studies they fund themselves and that draw conclusions favorable to their business. Flaws in industry-funded studies include not evaluating on which side of the head the phone was used, rarely including business customers with corporate accounts (who tend to be the heaviest cell phone users), defining “regular cell phone users” as those who use cell phones at least one call per week, and publishing studies of adults who have used cell phones for less than 9 years.7 It is not surprising that such poorly designed studies have not found a significant increase in brain cancers linked to cell phones.
Meanwhile, prominent cancer researchers are urging people to reduce cell phone radiation exposures for themselves and their children. Dr. Ronald Herberman, the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, warned his staff in July 2008 that the risks from cell phone radiation justified precautions, such as using ear pieces and minimizing cell phone usage by children.8
We strongly support your pioneering legislation, which would make Maine the first state to require warning labels that radiation from cell phones may cause brain cancer. The “Children’s Wireless Protection Act” would provide Maine citizens with the information they need to decide whether they want to take precautions regarding cell phones.
Annie Appleseed Project
Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund of the National Research Center for Women & Families
Environmental Health Trust
Grassroots Environmental Education
Healthy Child Healthy World
HEAR (Health, Education and Resources, Inc.)
IHE (Institute for Health and the Environment of the University at Albany
Our Bodies Ourselves
For more information, contact Paul Brown at the Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund of the National Research Center for Women & Families at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 223-4000.
1 Hardell L, Carlberg M, Soderqvist F, Hansson Mild K, Morgan LL (2007). Long-term use of cellular phones and brain tumours: increased risk associated with use for = 10 years. Occupational and Environmental Medicine 64(9):626-632.
5 Hardell L, Hansson Mild K, Carlberg M, Hallquist A. (2004) Cellular and cordless telephones and the association with brain tumours in different age group. Archives of Environmental Health 59 (3): 132-137.
6 De Iuliis GN, Newey RJ, King BV, Aitken RJ (2009) Mobile Phone Radiation Induces Reactive Oxygen Species Production and DNA Damage in Human Spermatozoa In Vitro. PLoS One 4(7):e6446.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006446. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0006446 (Accessed August 17, 2009).
8 “Researcher warns of brain cancer risk from cell phones. July 24, 2008. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/24/technology/24iht-cellphone.4.14767955.html Complete warning from Herberman can be read at: http://www.upci.upmc.edu/news/pdf/The-Case-for-Precaution-in-Cell-Phone-Use.pdf