Friday, April 17, 2015

Maine's "Cellular Telephone Labeling Act"

April 17, 2015

On a 7-4 vote, the Maine Legislature's Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology rejected the "Cellular Telephone Labeling Act" (LD 883), a proposal to require cell phone manufacturers to place health warning labels on cell phones. 

The bill now goes to the full Legislature as a "divided report." Supporters can try to revive the bill on the Senate or House floor.

For more information about this hearing on April 16, see the Portland Press Herald story.

April 5, 2015

The Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology of the 127th Maine State Legislature held a public hearing on the "Cellular Telephone Labeling Act" (LD 883) on Tuesday, March 31.

The Committee has scheduled a work session for Thursday, April 16, 2015  at 10:00 AM.

The bill requires cell phone manufacturers that include safety notifications in their owner's manuals to ensure that the phone's packaging includes these safety notifications or a label indicating where the safety notifications may be found in the owner's manual. 

The bill prohibits retailers from selling phones without the appropriate labels. It requires manufacturers to provide the safety notifications to retailers at no cost to the retailers. It prohibits retailers from selling phones that do not bear the following label warning that the device emits radiofrequency electromagnetic fields:
"This device emits radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. Avoid direct contact."
Finally, the bill  requires retailers to provide an information bulletin to the purchaser informing the purchaser of potential health risks associated with cell phone use. A violation of these provisions is considered a violation of the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act.

In March, 2014, a similar bill sponsored by Rep. Andrea Boland passed both houses of the Maine Legislature but was killed by cell phone lobbyists who co-opted the Democratic House leadership to switch their votes when it was returned to the originating body for enactment -- normally a routine vote. For more information on Rep. Boland's bill, see my Mar 21, 2014 press release.

The current bill is sponsored by Rep. Harlow of Portland. Co-sponsors include Rep. Beavers (South  Berwick), Chapman (Brooksville), Chipman (Portland), Dunphy (Embden), and Rykerson (Kittery).

Full text of the "Cellular Telephone Labeling Act":

Status of the bill:

Public Hearing Testimony, 11 items

Boland, Andrea M. Sanford
Callahan, Kevin TechAmerica
Clegg, Frank Canadians for Safe Technology
Cobb, Kristen Portland
Cotta, H David China, Maine
Friedman, Ed Friends of Merrymeeting Bay
Harlow, Denise Maine State Legislature
Hart, Debra Retail Association of Maine
Keegan, Gerard CTIA-The Wireless Association
Ory, Dr. Howard CTIA
Turner, James Swankin and Turner


Prior cell phone precautionary warning legislation (LD 1013) in Maine:

Maine lawmakers bow to industry on cellphone labeling bill
Jody Spear, Bangor Daily News, Apr 1, 2014

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Latest Research on Bioelectromagnetics: BioEM2015

Selected Presentations and Papers from BioEM2015
 Annual Meeting of the Bioelectromagnetics Society
Asilomar Conference Center, California, June 14-19, 2015

“As the premier international conference in the area of bioelectromagnetics, BioEM2015 is expected to stimulate further research in this field through the exchange of ideas and lively debate on state-of-the-art knowledge, as well as gaps to be filled.”

“With the increased presence of electromagnetic fields (EMF) in our everyday lives, the meeting aims at presenting and advancing high quality research in basic and applied aspects of bioelectromagnetics to address the medical applications, health concerns, and regulations associated with EMF. BioEM2015 will feature invited plenary talks by world-renowned scientists, a variety of special sessions and panel discussions aligned with the most pressing issues in the field of bioelectromagnetics, as well as informative technical sessions, poster sessions, and social functions.”

In the opening plenary session, Kurt Straif, the head of the Monographs Program at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the WHO will raise the question, "Should IARC's Classification of RF-EMF Invoke the Precautionary Principle?."  

Kenneth Foster, a Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania who has been discussing EMF issues since 1971 will argue, "A Case for Precaution in the Application of the Precautionary Principle."  

The rebuttal,"The Precautionary Principle Should be Invoked for RF-EMF," will be provided by Christopher Portier, former Director of the National Center for Environmental Health and the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at CDC.  Prior to his work at CDC, Dr. Portier was the Associate Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at NIH and Associate Director of the National Toxicology Program. Dr. Portier served as the CDC expert on the 31-member IARC expert working group that declared radiofrequency radiation "possibly carcinogenic" to humans in 2011.

The abstracts for a selection of key papers and presentations which have the greatest potential utility for policy makers and the public can be downloaded from

Monday, April 13, 2015

California Medical Association Calls for Stronger Wireless Communication Safety Standards

The California Medical Association (CMA) adopted a resolution that calls for re-evaluation of the safety standards for wireless communications in the U.S.

The Federal safety standards for wireless communications were designed to protect humans from the heating, or thermal, risks caused by exposure to microwave radiation. However, thousands of peer-reviewed studies have found bio-effects from exposure to low intensity, non-thermal levels of microwave radiation. Moreover, three independent, case-control studies have found a two-fold increased risk of brain cancer among adults who have used cell phones for ten or more years. And one study found a three-fold risk of brain cancer after 25 years of cell phone and cordless phone use.

In 2011, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared that radio frequency energy is "possibly carcinogenic to humans", largely based upon the cell phone research.

The CMA’s “Wireless Communications Public Safety Standards Reevaluation” resolution “supports efforts to reevaluate microwave safety exposure levels associated with wireless communication devices, including consideration of adverse non-thermal biologic and health effects from non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation used in wireless communications.” In addition, the CMA “supports efforts to implement new safety exposure limits for wireless devices to levels that do not cause human or environmental harm based on scientific research.”

Wireless Communications Public Safety Standards Reevaluation
California Medical Association (CMA) Resolution 107-14, Adopted December 7, 2014
Resolved 1: That CMA supports efforts to reevaluate microwave safety exposure levels associated with wireless communication devices, including consideration of adverse non-thermal biologic and health effects from non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation used in wireless communications; and be it further

Resolved 2: That CMA supports efforts to implement new safety exposure limits for wireless devices to levels that do not cause human or environmental harm based on scientific research.

Cindy Lee Russell, M.D. introduced the resolution which she co-authored along with Ken Yew, M.D.

According to Dr. Russell:
"Physicians and scientists have recognized for years the dangers of ionizing radiation from x rays and nuclear weapons. Tissue is directly damaged causing cancer and a wide range of other health effects. The non ionizing microwave radiation from  wi fi routers, ipads, cell phones and cell towers has been thought to be harmless until the last few decades as a rapidly growing body of peer reviewed research has shown very troubling biological and health effects from even low levels of exposure. The studies have shown negative effects on cell structures, brain function, animals, and plants. Many experts feel this is a looming public health problem as the use of wireless technology swiftly rises in our homes, offices and schools. EMF standards need to be reevalauted and designed for safety based on the biologic effects on living structures not on heat as is now currently being done."

In August, 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics, a professional organization representing 60,000 physicians, sent a letter to the FCC and the FDA urging the FCC to adopt radiation standards that: 
  • "Protect children’s health and well-being ... Current FCC standards do not account for the unique vulnerability and use patterns specific to pregnant women and children. It is essential that any new standard for cell phones or other wireless devices be based on protecting the youngest and most vulnerable populations to ensure they are safeguarded throughout their lifetimes.
  • Reflect current use patterns. The FCC has not assessed the standard for cell phone radiation since 1996 ... Many children, adolescents and young adults, now use cell phones as their only phone line and they begin using wireless phones at much younger ages. Pregnant women may carry their phones for many hours per day in a pocket that keeps the phone close to their uterus. Children born today will experience a longer period of exposure to radio-frequency fields from cellular phone use than will adults, because they start using cellular phones at earlier ages and will have longer lifetime exposures. FCC regulations should reflect how people are using their phones today.
  •  Provide meaningful consumer disclosure. The FCC has noted that it does not provide consumers with sufficient information about the RF exposure profile of individual phones to allow consumers to make informed purchasing decisions. The current metric of RF exposure available to consumers, the Specific Absorption Rate, is not an accurate predictor of actual exposure. AAP is supportive of FCC developing standards that provide consumers with the information they need to make informed choices in selecting mobile phone purchases, and to help parents to better understand any potential risks for their children. To that end, we support the use of metrics that are specific to the exposure children will experience." ( )

Four resolutions signed by scientific experts who have published research on wireless radiation and health in scientific journals were submitted to the FCC. The resolutions call on governments to issue stronger regulations on wireless radiation, especially cell phone radiation. The declarations were signed by 98 scientists. For more information, see “Why We Need Stronger Cell Phone Radiation Regulations--98 Scientific Experts Who Signed Resolutions at .”

Since 1997, twenty-two declarations have been signed by scientists and health professionals calling for stronger cell phone radiation regulations. For more information on these declarations, see


The CMA resolution (including 62 references) can be found on the Parents for Safe Technology web site.


Wi Fi in Schools: Are we Playing it Safe with our Kids? 

Cindy Russell, MD, The Bulletin (Santa Clara County/Monterey County Medical Association), March/April 2015, pp. 16-21.

Dr. Russell discusses the research which led to the adoption by the California Medical Association of the resolution calling for stronger wireless communication standards.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Wireless Technology Health Risks --The New York Times Fuels the Debate

We are increasingly surrounded at home, in the office, and in public by wireless devices that emit microwave radiation. These include Wi-Fi routers, laptops, and tablets, cell phones, cordless phones, wireless TV cable systems, smart meters, and baby monitors. Now corporations would like us to add wireless wearable technology to this mix. 

The biologic and the epidemiologic research increasingly suggests that many types of non-ionizing, electromagnetic fields (EMF) are producing harmful effects on us as well as animal and plant species. The weight of the scientific evidence produced in the last decade strongly supports the need for precautionary policy measures to be adopted immediately.

Exposure to EMF has been increasing exponentially.  If we continue to allow powerful corporations to manufacture doubt by co-opting journalists, scientists, and policy makers, we will all suffer the consequences of this global experiment.

On March 18, 2015, the New York Times published a column on their web site, "Could Wearable Computers be as Harmful as Cigarettes?" by Nick Bilton. The article has attracted more than 150 comments so far -- both pro and con -- on the New York Times web site, and more than two dozen web-based news sites have published critiques of this column (see below).

Newspaper editors typically write headlines for articles they publish. Perhaps, the original headline was too provocative as the editor changed the headline for the web version of this article the next day to "The Health Concerns in Wearable Tech."  A version of the article also appears in the March 19th print edition of the New York Times on page D2 with the headline, "New Gadgets, New Health Worries."

The New York Times should be commended for publishing the original column even though both sides of the debate about the health risks of wireless radiation can find fault. I hope that the controversy this article has stimulated does not discourage the Times from future coverage of this complex topic.

In my opinion, the backlash on web-based news sites has been disproportionate and bypasses the significant issues that  Bilton's column raised. Read the column and the ensuing media coverage (links below) and decide for yourself. 

Instead, the Times went into "damage control" mode and tried to distance itself from the original opinion piece. 

On March 19, Margaret Sullivan, the Public Editor for the Times, published the following piece, "A Tech Column on Wearable Gadgets Draws Fire as ‘Pseudoscience’."

On March 21, 2015, the Editor for the Styles section of the Times appended the following statement to the opinion piece:
Editors’ Note: March 21, 2015
Editors’ Note
The Disruptions column in the Styles section on Thursday, discussing possible health concerns related to wearable technology, gave an inadequate account of the status of research about cellphone radiation and cancer risk.
Neither epidemiological nor laboratory studies have found reliable evidence of such risks, and there is no widely accepted theory as to how they might arise. According to the World Health Organization, “To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.” The American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have all said there is no convincing evidence for a causal relationship. While researchers are continuing to study possible risks, the column should have included more of this background for balance.
In addition, one source quoted in the article, Dr. Joseph Mercola, has been widely criticized by experts for his claims about disease risks and treatments. More of that background should have been included, or he should not have been cited as a source.
An early version of the headline for the article online — “Could Wearable Computers Be as Harmful as Cigarettes?” — also went too far in suggesting any such comparison.
These arguments are similar to those employed by the CTIA--The Wireless Association: 
“The FCC, the FDA, the National Cancer Institute, and the World Health Organization have each evaluated the scientific research on wireless phones and each has found that the weight of the scientific research has not shown that wireless phone use causes any adverse health effects.” (CTIA, May 27, 2012).

On April 2, 2015, the Editor for the Styles section of the Times appended the following "correction" to the original opinion piece
Correction: April 2, 2015 
The Disruptions column on March 18, about health concerns stemming from wearable technology, referred incorrectly to research conducted by Dr. Lennart Hardell, a professor of oncology and cancer epidemiology at Orebro University Hospital in Sweden, that concluded that talking on a mobile or cordless phone for extended periods could triple the risk of a certain kind of brain cancer. The study was an analysis of two earlier studies that asked people with and without brain tumors to answer questions about cellphone and cordless phone use; it was not a longitudinal study in which patients were followed over time.    

I inserted quotes around "correction" because I don't see the problem with Bilton's description of Hardell's research in his March 18th article. The author did not allege that the research was based upon a longitudinal study:
"Analysis conducted by a group of European researchers and led by Dr. Lennart Hardell, a professor of oncology and cancer epidemiology at Orebro University Hospital in Sweden, concluded that talking on a mobile or cordless phone for extended periods could triple the risk of a certain kind of brain cancer." 

In sum, I believe the public deserves better from the New York Times -- namely a full, unbiased discussion of the research on the health risks of exposure to electromagnetic fields from wireless devices. 

Media coverage of the March 18th NY Times article by Nick Bilton

Support for the column

Ignorance drowns out precaution: NY Times tech columnist has hands slapped
Microwave News
The Conversation (Australia) (India)

Daniel Engber, Slate Magazine

Phil Plait, Slate Magazine (blog) 

James Cook, Business Insider 

Leah Finnegan, Gawker 

James Cook, Businessinsider India

Russell Brandom, The Verge

Dan Verel, MedCity News

Alexandra Ossola, Popular Science

Andrew Maynard, Risk Science Center
Tanya Campbell, Maine News Online