Lawmakers Push Bill To Fund Wireless Health Research
RCR Wireless News
Journalist: By Jeffrey Silva
July 16, 2001

House and Senate lawmakers plan to introduce legislation after the August recess that would provide federal funding for mobile-phone health research and repeal a 1996 law prohibiting local officials from considering health as a factor in reviewing tower-siting applications, a top Senate staffer said last week.

The legislation comes as the mobile-phone industry faces increased health-related litigation in courts across the country. Some lawsuits, such as those in Maryland, Georgia, Nevada, and California, claim cell phones caused brain tumors. Class-action suits in various states allege industry knew from the start of possible health risks from mobile phones and should now supply consumers with hands-free headsets to reduce injury or compensate those who have already paid for the radiation-protection accessory.

An Illinois state court last week rejected industry’s attempt to block a partial settlement in a health-related privacy case, paving the way to create the first-ever registry of subscribers who believe they’ve been injured by mobile-phone radiation. The database will be managed by Dr. George Carlo, the epidemiologist who headed a $28 million industry-funded research program that found genetic damage from cell-phone radiation. Edward Barron, deputy chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, said another bill will be offered to return full jurisdiction of broadcast antenna siting to state and local authorities. Mobile-phone antennas are sometimes placed on broadcast towers.

The three bills will be sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and James Jeffords (I-Vt.) and Reps. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) and Thomas Tancredo (R-Colo.). The lawmakers hosted a congressional briefing last Thursday, hoping to drum up additional support from colleagues.

Presentations were made by Barron, the EMR Network, and individual activists who want local control of antenna siting and stronger federal oversight of health issues associated with mobile-phone and base-station radiation exposure, Dr. Theodore Litovitz, director of bioelectromagnetics research at Catholic University of America and attorney Gerry Lederer. “This [excessive mobile-phone-radiation exposure] enhances the probability of cancer,” said Litovitz.

Litovitz said recent research, some replicated, has documented non-heating, adverse bioeffects from mobile-phone radiation and from electromagnetic fields produced by power lines. Litovitz acknowledged some researchers do not believe mobile phones or power lines cause non-thermal bioeffects. But he said science is gravitating toward the non-thermal view. Federal Communications Commission radiation guidelines for mobile phones and towers do not take non-thermal radiation consequences into effect.“The standards that protect you are based on the heating of tissue. … It’s an enormously important issue,” said Litovitz. Litovitz has funding from millionaire Baltimore lawyer Peter Angelos to study therapeutic applications of radiofrequency radiation. Angelos has involved in brain cancer and headset lawsuits against the mobile-phone industry.

The mobile-phone industry claims the preponderance of scientific studies say cell phones are safe. The U.S. government is doing very little research, though the National Toxicology Program recently announced it plans to spend $10 million over the next five years on experiments that expose rodents to mobile- phone radiation. FDA is working with the cellular industry on limited studies, but that research has been criticized for possible conflict of interest.

In the past, similar bills championed by the Vermont congressional delegation have not gone far. The bills likely will be referred to the House and Senate commerce committees. Barron said the bills’ sponsors plan to work with Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.). Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) refused to consider previous health-antenna siting bills when he headed the panel.

In the House, the Vermont bills will face an uphill battle in getting a hearing from Commerce Committee Billy Tauzin (R-La.), who has championed various pieces of mobile-phone industry legislation.