Long-overdue release of information about cell phone risks
March 3, 2017
It took years of public pressure and a lawsuit, but the California Department of Public Health has finally released a set of guidelines for the public about the risks associated with cell phone use and the best ways for cell phone users to reduce their exposure to potential dangers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that more research is needed about the subject.
However, the state’s document, dated April 2014 and stamped “draft and not for public release,” used then-existing scientific research. It paints a very clear picture of the potential dangers of cell phone use.
“Health officials are concerned about possible health effects from cell phone EMFs (electromagnetic fields) because some recent studies suggest that long-term cell phone use may increase the risk of brain cancer and other health problems,” the guidelines read.
The two-page document goes on to suggest ways to lower your exposure, including using speaker phone and headsets, keeping the phone away from your body when it’s not being used, and sending text messages instead of voice calls.
California’s public health department released the document only after a judge said she would order the guidelines to be disclosed. Joel Moskowitz, a public health researcher at UC Berkeley, sued the department last year after repeatedly requesting them.
Moskowitz, who has repeatedly sounded alarms about the potential risks of cell phone EMFs, pronounced himself “pleased” with the draft guidelines and unconvinced by arguments about the lack of conclusive scientific proof.
“That argument would say you’d never raise any concerns about pesticides,” Moskowitz said. “We don’t have absolute conclusive proof with regard to a lot of toxic measures. At the very least this supports much stronger regulation of this industry. There’s a substantial scientific community that’s been calling for caution for decades now.”
There have also been a substantial number of public officials calling for caution — and being shot down.
In San Francisco, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom championed 2010 legislation mandating cell phone retailers display radiation levels next to each phone for sale.
The Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, a trade group representing cell phone companies, sued San Francisco over the law. San Francisco dropped the fight after a three-year battle.
The association also sued the city of Berkeley after it adopted an ordinance in 2015 requiring cell phone retailers to warn customers about potential health impacts.
It’s certainly true that more study is needed, but that doesn’t mean the scientific community believes there’s no threat.
In fact, the threat at the moment seems to be the suppression of scientific concerns and necessary consumer information.