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Are There – or Are There Not – Risks With Cellphone Use?

About one and one-half years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a statement regarding the correlation between radiation from cellphones and a person’s health. Essentially, the CDC recommended “caution in cellphone use.” To some, this represented a departure from the agency’s previous stance that cellphone use did not present any greater risk to health than other normal, everyday activities. To make matters more confusing for the average individual, the CDC later issued a statement clarifying its earlier statement. The new, revised statement clarified that “some” agencies and organizations – but not the CDC – urged caution when using cellphones, especially amongst children. This begs the ultimate question: Are cellphones dangerous for ordinary use?

Those Urging Caution Point to the Radiation Concern

Those urging caution in the use of cellular telephones point to the hazards of radiation exposure. It is well known that exposure to certain sources of radiation can lead to brain tumors, certain types of cancers, and other health complications. As the National Cancer Institute indicates on its website, cellphones emit radio waves, a type of non-ionizing radiation that can be absorbed by tissues near the cellphone (such as around the ear and head). Non-ionizing radiation is contrasted with ionizing radiation found in things such as nuclear bombs. While ionizing radiation is known to cause cancer and other health issues, the National Cancer Institute (along with the CDC) claims there is no evidence linking exposure to non-ionizing radiation sources with cancer or any other health risk.

This conclusion, however, is not universally shared. Some individuals and organizations – including individuals who have previously worked at CDC – contend that there is sufficient evidence to justify the CDC’s original statement: cellphone use may present a health risk to users and that caution when using a cellphone is warranted.

What This Hype Over Cellphone Dangers Can Teach Us About Product Liability Cases

The CDC’s waffling on whether cellphone use can cause health complications presents an opportunity to review some principles of product liability cases. A manufacturer that knowingly releases a product that is dangerous to a consumer if the product is used as intended has a duty to inform the consumer about such risk. (This is why, for example, light bulb packages contain a warning advising consumers that the product becomes hot and can cause burns). If cellphone radiation is determined to pose health risks to consumers, cellphone manufacturers will have to include such language on packaging or else risk a product liability lawsuit for defective labeling. What is more, there may be an issue of what damages are owed to cellphone consumers who used a cellphone prior to June 2014 (when the CDC statement was issued) and who later develop health complications because of radiation exposure in the future. This issue of “causation” is similar to situations where individuals are exposed to asbestos at home and/or at work and who are now facing serious health complications like mesothelioma and may be entitled to compensation.

Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C., is a product liability law firm representing clients injured by defective merchandise and goods. Contact their offices today by calling (215) 567-3500 or online through their website if you or a loved one have been injured by a dangerous product.

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