New Cell Phone Labeling Law Heats Up Safety Debate

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Last month, progressive San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom signed the first in the nation cell phone radiation right-to-know law. Similar to cautionary nutrition guides, the new ordinance requires all cell phone retailers to clearly display the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) - radiation energy emitted - at the point of sale.

For nearly 20 years, safety advocates and researchers have raised concerns about the possible adverse health effects caused by cell phone use. Although the wireless industry insists there is no conclusive evidence that radiation from cellular phones pose any risk, efforts to educate the public about cell phone radiation levels gained attention following the publication of a ten-year study that found a link between prolonged cell phone use and brain and salivary gland tumors.

Earlier this year, I wrote about the growing concerns expressed by some experts who are worried about cumulative cell phone radiation exposure and how children may be particularly vulnerable. Click here to read.

The current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) radiation absorption limit guidelines are set at 1.6 watts per kilogram of tissue, were set in 1997 and were established based on an adult male. Many experts argue that these standards do not take into consideration the fact that teens are among the fastest-growing group of cell phone users.

Approximately 71 percent of American teens are currently using cell phones. Because kids start using cell phones at such an early age, they are likely to experience a lifetime of radiation exposure. Some researchers fear that we will begin to see a spike in brain tumors among young people and warned that cell phone radiation may eventually be as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.

Clearly more research is needed.

In June, the Food and Drug Administration announced a joint collaboration with the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) to examine the health risks of cellular phones but many safety advocates are skeptical of industry's involvement in the study. The World Health Organization (WHO) is also conducting a study to investigate whether children are at higher risk of developing brain cancer from prolonged cell phone usage.

Most people agree - cell phones are here to stay and have become almost irreplaceable. But like most consumer products, we are also learning that some models may be safer than others.

As consumers, we should be informed about the radiation levels of each model so that we can make an educated decision about which phone we want to use and what risks we are willing to take. As parents, we also have a responsibility to educate our children about the possible risks associated with cell phone radiation and ways they can minimize their exposure, such as text messaging and using a headset.

I believe children using cell phones may be proven as damaging as smoking cigarettes.

Deirdre Imus is the Founder and President of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology (r) at Hackensack University Medical Center and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. Deirdre is the author of four books, including three national bestsellers. She is a frequent speaker on green living and children's health issues, and is a contributor to For more information go to