Perennial bill would require health warnings on cell phones

Posted April 23, 2011, at 10:25 a.m.
Last modified April 24, 2011, at 2:48 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A year after Maine lawmakers rejected a bill requiring warnings about mobile phone use, a legislative committee will hold a hearing on a new version of a cell phone safety bill.

Rep. Andrea Boland’s bill would require warnings on cell phones, and notices posted by cell phone retailers telling users of potential health hazards and how to use cell phones more safely. Retailers would not have to pay for the warnings.

“It is to sharpen people up, to alert them that they need to take precautions” in using cell phones, said Boland, D-Sanford, adding that she wants to give users a heads-up on how to use cell phones safely. The Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology will hold a hearing on Boland’s bill Wednesday afternoon.

A year ago, a similar measure was rejected. Supporters tried to keep it alive by weakening it so it only directed Maine’s health website to include links to existing federal cell phone advisories and encouraged more research on the issue. Boland wants to warn people to avoid long-term use, especially by children, and to avoid cell phones’ contact with the head and proximity to reproductive organs. Pregnant woman also would be warned to avoid using cell phones.

Last year’s bill was opposed by the mobile phone industry, which cited studies by impartial health organizations in saying wireless devices post no health hazards. Maine’s previous administration also saw no need for the warnings, saying there was no corresponding increase in cancers caused by the devices despite their widespread use.

It was not immediately clear whether Gov. Paul LePage would support Boland’s new bill.

The issue has come up elsewhere, notably San Francisco, whose supervisors last year voted in favor of an ordinance requiring cell phone retailers to disclose the phones’ specific absorption rate.

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