April 19th, 2011 3:20 pm | News | Posted In: Politics, Tech, Health, Legislature

Cell Phone Labeling Bill Dies in Oregon Legislature

Oregon bill requiring warning labels on cell phones is no more

Two months ago we wrote about a bill in the Oregon Legislature that would require warning labels on all new cell phones sold in the state.

For those worried their smart phone’s shining newness might one day be sullied by an ugly warning label, fear not. That measure, Senate Bill 679, is dead. The bill, which would have required labels on cell phones and their packaging warning consumers of the potential dangers of radio-frequency radiation, was introduced by state Sen. Chip Shields (D-Portland). But it didn't make it out of committee.

Shields introduced the measure on behalf of a constituent, David Morrison. A rare book dealer and parent, Morrison says he became concerned about radio-frequency radiation six years ago after he noticed a cell phone tower near his daughter’s school. In his testimony to the committee, Morrison said, “Senate Bill 679 is not a bill about brain cancer and cell phones. It is a bill about good policy and the public’s right to know." Radio-frequency radiation from cell phones and their towers have been blamed for multiple problems—from brain cancer to lower sperm counts. And cell phone industry officials have responded by rejecting any links between their product and those problems.

Testifying against the Oregon labeling bill on behalf of the wireless industry was Dr. Howard Ory, former deputy director for epidemiology at the Centers for Disease Control, who also recently testified against a similar bill introduced in Maine.

Ory called the Oregon bill “ill-conceived.”

“Studies to date,” Ory said, “do not show a causal association between cell phones and cancer or other harms to humans.”

While there has been recent media interest in the cell phone safety—most notably articles in Harpers, GQ, and the New York Times—for many, the question of cell phone safety remain unresolved. Cell phone critics cite studies, including one by the World Health Organization that stopped short of saying there is a definitive link between heavy cell phone use and a particular type of neurological cancer. A recent study published by The Journal of the American Medical Association shows an alteration in the brain’s metabolism of glucose. What exactly this means for human health is open for debate.

And debate was what Shields wanted from the bill, says his spokeswoman MaryAlecia Briggs. She says Shields is willing to reintroduce the bill in 2013 if Morrison remains interested.

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