Do Smartphones Need a Consumer Warning?

smartphoneOur smartphones are on us constantly; we hardly every have them off our person. The age-old argument over whether or not these devices are safe continues, with some calling for proper consumer warning labels outlining the potential danger.

The link between radio-frequency waves and illnesses like cancer is still entirely ambiguous, which leads to varying levels of suspicion where mobile phones are concerned. Advocates who believe there are health risks say that, like any other potentially harmful product, our smartphones should have a clearly visible label on the back of the device. People on the other side of this debate believe consumers will be unnecessarily scared away by unproven concerns.

Joel M. Moskowitz, a researcher and director of the Center for Family and Community Health in the School of Public Health at the University of California, believes manufacturers need to be more transparent about the possible risk associated with RF emissions.

“Manufacturers have a legal duty to provide warnings that are clear and conspicuous when products raise health and safety concerns. But, typically, RF safety instructions are buried in user manuals with tiny print, hidden within smartphones, or made available on the Internet,” Moskowitz wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

He also points out that, “Even before we had scientific consensus about the public health threat from tobacco, Congress mandated warning labels on cigarettes in 1965.”

University of Michigan’s professor of neurology Larry Junck is on the other side of the debate. He believes there is not enough risk to warrant labels. He also says that labels would not prevent brain tumor deaths.

“Consider that brain tumors have not increased in incidence in correlation with cellphone use. If cellphones were an important cause of brain tumors, we would have seen an increase perhaps starting in the 1990s, when cellphones came into widespread use, or starting several years later, if it took several years of cellphone use to cause a brain tumor,” wrote Junck. “While the number of people diagnosed with brain tumors has risen, the increase has been mainly among the elderly, who use cellphones less than others.”

Learn more about both sides of the debate in this Wall Street Journal article.