US lawmakers want health warnings on mobile phones

Doctor on a mobile

Two US lawmakers are making progress in their bid to have health warnings appearing on mobile phones highlighting the possible link between mobile phone radiation and cancer.

The state legislature will consider Maine Democrat Andrea Boland's proposal that warning labels be placed on the packaging and the phone itself based on "what she had read" about the possible link between mobile phones and cancer.

Boland revealed that she had become concerned after reading a 2006 Swedish study showing a correlation between brain tumours and heavy mobile phone use, as well as a recent report from consumer advocate Lloyd Morgan detailing research linking phone use to an increased risk of tumours.

"The main thing is that the warning labels get on there, and when people go to purchase something, they have a heads-up that they need to really think about it," Boland told the New York Times. "This is a big important industry, and it's a small modification to assure people that they should handle them properly."

And Boland is not alone in trying to raise the profile of the potential health risks surrounding mobile phone use. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has suggested retailers should display the radiation absorption rate level next to each phone in print at least as big as the price.

This follows an Environmental Working Group, which claimed in September that recent studies had found "significantly higher risks" of brain and salivary gland tumours among those using mobile phones for 10 years or longer.

However, scientific opinion is widely split on the health risks associated with mobile phone use, and has been so for years. In 2005, the World Health Organisation said studies had found "no convincing evidence of an increased cancer risk" from mobile phones or their towers.

The US Federal Communications Commission, meanwhile, says it maintains a standard for the absorption rate of radio-frequency energy, but that manufacturers aren't required to reveal radiation levels.