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US researchers demand cell phone safety tax

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A US senate subcommittee was told this week by cellphone safety researchers that more money is needed to research cellphone safety, ideally through a $1 tax on every mobile-phone bill.

The usual suspects turned up to present evidence to the Subcommittee on Labour, Health, and Human Services, which was sitting to consider the issue. It heard evidence from researchers on both sides of the debate, some of whom were attending a conference on the subject nearby.

The call for a levy on every mobile phone bill was proposed to the subcommittee by Devra Davis, of the University of Pittsburgh. She thinks the industry has a responsibility to fund the kind of research she happens to be doing.

Additional research might throw up some better arguments to support the claims of cancer-inducing mobile telephony. When testifying to the subcommittee, Ms Davis was reduced to arguing that user manuals now recommend keeping handsets slightly away form the body, and that this proves there's a problem, which is nice circular reasoning if ever we've heard it.

Linda Erdreich, of Exponent's Health Sciences Center for Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Computational Biology, was asked if she could prove that mobile phones don't cause cancer. She couldn't, since one can't prove negative statements, but the admission still provides more evidence for the prosecution.

Current FCC guidelines are based on the increase in temperature of the head generated by holding a mobile phone beside it. This is less than the effect of walking up a couple of steps, and besides, slight increases in temperature have no discernible affect on the brain.

So the protesters against stuff have moved their argument on to DNA damage or something similar - they don't present much of a unified case. The thesis is that the FCC limits are no longer valid, and so more limits should be imposed.

We are pleased to hear that only two of the twelve senators on the subcommittee bothered to turn up to the hearing, and while we're reluctant to commend politicians for anything, we hope the other ten found a more productive way to spend their time. ®

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