Maine lawmakers mull cell phone health warnings

BOSTON Tue Mar 2, 2010 7:11pm EST

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BOSTON (Reuters) - Maine's state Legislature could soon vote on a bill making the Northeast U.S. state the first to require that cellular phones carry warnings of a possible link between mobile phone radiation and brain cancer.

Dozens of studies on the issue have shown no link, but have not ended the debate. Any requirement for warning labels could be a headache for cell phone manufacturers.

Maine's bill, the Children's Wireless Protection Act, was the subject of emotional testimony on Tuesday in the joint House-Senate Health and Human Services Committee in Augusta, the state capital.

The committee will next schedule one or more work sessions that could kill the bill outright, or advance it to debate by the state's House and Senate. Votes in the full Democratic-controlled state House and Senate could come as early this month, a legislative aide said.

The state's Democratic governor, John Baldacci, has not commented on the measure.

Representative Andrea Boland, a Democrat, introduced the bill after her concerns were raised by a 2006 study by the Swedish National Institute for Working Life showing a correlation between brain tumors and heavy cell phone use.

Numerous other studies have shown no such link. More research is under way.

If passed, cell phone companies selling in Maine would need to put prominent labels on phones and packaging, warning of the potential for brain cancer associated with electromagnetic radiation from the devices.

The warnings would recommend that users, especially children and pregnant women, keep the devices away from their heads and bodies.

San Francisco is also considering warning labels on cell phones. Mayor Gavin Newsom has suggested that packaging show radiation absorption levels for each phone "in a font at least as large as the price."

About 89 percent of the U.S. population used a wireless phone in June 2009, according to the CTIA, the international wireless trade association. Twenty percent of U.S. households had dispensed with land lines to go "wireless only."

(Editing by Mark Egan and Peter Cooney)

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