Israel to Require Warning Labels on Cell Phones

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

As use of wireless devices like cell phones and WiFi explodes, and uncertainty about the safety of these technologies looms, countries like Russia and France have taken an official “better safe than sorry” stance through precautionary legal measures. Some nations have actually banned use of WiFi in schools, while others have tightened safety regulations surrounding cell phone use by children. Most recently, the Israeli parliament approved a bill that would require all cell phones for sale to bear the following health hazard alert: “Warning—the Health Ministry cautions that heavy use and carrying the device next to the body may increase the risk of cancer, especially among children.” The bill also mandates that all cell phone advertisements reflect the warning, and makes cell phone advertisements directed toward children a criminal offense. Children are much more susceptible to the effects of radiation than adults because their tissues are still developing.

As some, but not all, evidence demonstrates health risks such as cancer associated with cell phones, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently reclassified microwave radiation from cell phones and other wireless technologies as a possible carcinogen; among other substances, lead, car exhaust and DDT are also in the 2B class of possible carcinogens. Not surprisingly, the CTIA (International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry) downplayed the WHO classification in an immediate press release, likening potential cell phone health risks to those posed by pickled vegetables and coffee (which are also in the 2B class).

Environmental health expert Devra Davis, PhD, MPH explains some of the reasons why there is lack of universal agreement about health risks posed by cell phones and other wireless devices in “More Inconvenient Truths About cell Phone Radiation.” Widespread wireless technology use, for example, is a relatively recent phenomenon, while health effects like cancer often take several decades to manifest.

Unfortunately, children’s exposure to radiation from wireless devices like cell phones is on the rise in the U.S., as cell phone manufacturers have started creating and marketing accessories and applications specifically designed for children. According to Nielson Company data, iPads, iPod-touch and iPhones were the three most wanted holiday gifts among young children in 2011.

In addition to possible peer pressure, parents might also trend toward giving their little ones cell phones and other wireless “toys” because they are convenient sources of entertainment and may bring about feelings of security (who doesn’t like knowing that one’s young child can make contact at any time?). Are parents aware of the potential dangers of these “toys,” though? Do they read the fine print that comes with them? In light of all the conflicting evidence about health risks associated with wireless devices, doesn’t it make the most sense to err on the side of caution?

A milestone in the precautionary movement, Israel’s new bill will hopefully increase public awareness of potential health risks associated with wireless technology use, especially where children are concerned. Hopefully, the U.S. and Canada will soon follow Isreal’s lead and do more at the federal level to protect public health, especially children’s health.

© 2012 HeartMD Institute. All rights reserved.

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