This week, California Magazine published an article about a proposed Berkeley city ordinance that would require every new mobile phone sold in town to have a sticker on it warning that the World Health Organization has deemed transmissions from cell phones a “possible” cause of brain cancer. Berkeley would be the first city to propose something like this while the debate on the accuracy of this statement rolls on strong between epidemiologists and the scientific community.
Students are pretty attached to their cell phones — so, we thought we’d ask our fellow Golden Bears what their opinions were on the proposal.
Lynn Yu, Freshman, Biology
“I think it’s fine, because not much effort is put in to warn people about cancer. If there’s a sticker, maybe we’ll pay more attention in everyday life.”
Matthew Adams, Freshman, Political Science and PACS
“I don’t have an extremely strong opinion. I trust the World Health Organization and what they have to say. I wouldn’t call it paranoia — I think the average Berkeley resident would be more liberal in their approach to a cancer warning. It’d be nice to know about the risks.”
Sarah Stoker, Sophomore, Theater Performance and Media Studies
“With how much time we spend plugged into our phones, the precaution of possible brain cancer is not a surprising consequence. It also seems like the culmination of many modern lifestyle choices, like standing next to a microwave or the use of Styrofoam, is cancer. Whether these speculations are true or not, cancer is obviously not something to be taken lightly. If society begins to see an overflow of cancer warnings, they will lose potency. I believe that awareness should be highlighted more with educational articles, social media and news. If the goal is to spread awareness of the harm cell phones have, there are more options than just stickers. Providing solutions to decrease harm is more likely than simply telling us to decrease screen time with these devices. For example, they could be revealing studies that show how bad it is to sleep with your phone or keep it in your pocket. Solutions that allow for easy adjustments in our lifestyles when published in articles will produce better results than obnoxious stickers that will just be scratched off two weeks later.”
Victor Lee, Junior, Economy
“Since there’s no sure scientific results that shows whether it’s doing harm to our health or not, I believe there’s no need to put the sticker on, because it may cause some fear among the public.”
Carol Kuo, Sophomore, Economy and Statistics
“I think it’s a good idea, but I don’t think people will like it, because they like their phones to be fancy without a sticker thing on it. If the sticker is beautiful or fancy, I think people will accept it. But if it’s a normal sticker, I wouldn’t want it on my phone, because I already know that this might cause cancer. I’m aware of it, so I don’t want a sticker on it.”
Evan Pope, Senior, Political Economy
“I disagree with passing this ordinance, mainly because I don’t think it’s either the government’s job or responsibility to require foreign manufacturers to do that, especially in light of the fact that the science has not been proven.”
Maryam Zeineddine, Junior, Interdisciplinary Studies
“Nowadays, I think everything causes cancer, so we shouldn’t just start labeling phones and stuff. This goes back to GMO labeling — I personally don’t think that it should be labeled because, at this point, everything else is going to have to be labeled with cancer warnings.”
Sergio McGirr, Senior, Linguistics
“It’s interesting that they’re trying to propose it even though there is still work being done to prove it. If they’re gonna do this, they might as well put cancer warning stickers on most things, like food and people.”
Becca Pharaon, Junior, MCB
“We are at a point in society where, if we pass this point, there’s no turning back. Yes, I understand that it is preventative in a sense, but there is no conclusive evidence, so it’s pushing it too far. When we go to the hospital, we get CT scans just for health causes, and those are radioactive — so the labeling might be taking it too far.”
Alexander, First-year doctoral student, Geography
“So, if the ordinance is citywide, then you can’t just assume that everybody is already going to have some type of educated opinion on it, despite the fact that Berkeley folk are generally pretty well educated. I tend to think that those sort of warnings don’t do a whole lot, to be honest. But, nonetheless, because this is something that is so impactful for so many people, I think that it’s worthwhile to advise people of the potential risks, because before conclusive evidence comes out — when is that going to happen? We don’t know exactly. If this is something that people are using everyday, sleeping with it next to their heads when they’re asleep and not even using it, and we suddenly find out in 25 years that everybody has brain cancer — or whatever it might be, given the fact that everything causes cancer. There are serious ramifications to that, and every potential avenue that could prevent that kind of impact should be explored. Will it change anything? No — people are still going to use their cell phones anyways. Will it lead to any more kind of serious legislative change? I think that’s the more serious question. If people would take this as a wake-up call to ask for more legislative action rather than just not using their cell phones because of the sticker, then it would be successful.”
So, is the proposed ordinance “paranoia” or “precaution?” Let us know what you think in the comments below.
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Contact Kristin McFadden at [email protected].