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Cell-Phone Manufacturers to Publish Radiation Specs

Aired July 17, 2000 - 2:32 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: An about-face from the cell phone industry today: CNNfn's Steve Young reporting manufacturers plan to publish the precise amount of radiation that enters a user's head. The literature should start showing up inside cell phone boxes this fall. The industry has opposed radiation labels, saying they would lead to a "meaningless beauty contest" among manufacturers.

Cell-phone makers insist their product is safe, though some studies have suggested that energy emitted near the head can lead to brain cancer.

Joining us on the line now is Louis Slesin. He's the publisher of "Microwave News." Dr. Slesin has been writing on electromagnetic radiation for 20 years. He holds a Ph.D. from MIT, and thank you, Dr. Slesin, for joining us.

Will this information that consumers receive help us make an informed choice about what to do as far as using cell phones?

LOUIS SLESIN, PUBLISHER, "MICROWAVE NEWS": To those who are concerned, it will be a great, great benefit, because this means that while we don't have information about the risks, people can make choices about which phones are safer.

ALLEN: And when will we have real clear information about the risk? Is it the government that's going to have to force that issue?

SLESIN: The government unfortunately is asleep on this issue and is moving very, very slowly. So this is why this is such a big victory for the consumers. While the government takes its time, people can now choose the lower radiation phone if they think there is a risk.

ALLEN: But still unknowing if they're really causing a danger to themselves?

SLESIN: That's exactly right. We don't know. There are some indications in the scientific and medical literature that there might be a problem, but we need a lot more work to get to the bottom of this.

ALLEN: Why do you think these companies are now willing to release this information? Steve Young alluded to the tobacco outcome last week where jurors seemed to punish who are not being forthcoming about their products.

SLESIN: I think there's a lot of consumer pressure. The FCC has said that it wants consumers to have this information and a blue- ribbon panel in England in May issued a report that said that consumers must have this information and these numbers should be on the box.

ALLEN: Do you think, Dr. Slesin, that there's going to be a lot of discrepancy between various cell phones? Is it going to make it -- make it confusing about which one is best for someone?

SLESIN: Well, I think it will be easier to tell which is best because the lower the number the better off you will be. But there is a wide variation among phones by a factor of 10. So there's a lot of difference among the different phones. So people will, if they are concerned, people will have a clear choice in front of them.

ALLEN: And what exactly do we know about radiation and its effect on the brain?

SLESIN: We don't know very much, but there are experiments from all over Europe -- from England, Finland, Germany -- showing that, you know, it can affect the brain function. And this is a very important fact. We don't know what the effects are over the long term. That is, what happens if you use a cell phone over 10 years. Most of these experiments are based on 20 minutes exposures. What happens after a lifetime of use? We don't know.

ALLEN: All right, Dr. Louis Slesin, thank you for joining us.

SLESIN: Thank you.

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