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2nd Story

Cell phones under attack

Cell phones have now become a part of our lives. You can't go anywhere without seeing someone gabbing away on one or hear one "ringing" with the latest chart-topping pop song. However, some government agencies are worried about the impact cells can have.

For example, the public health agency in Canada's largest city is recommending young people limit the amount of time they spend on the phone, according to a July 12 CBC website article. Loren Vanderlinden, a Toronto Public Health supervisor, said that the results of a number of studies seem to indicate prolonged cell phone use increases the risk of brain tumours. The official is asking young people to only use the phone for essential purposes, to limit the length of the calls and to use headsets or hands-free devices if they are available. The policy follows guidelines set out in the U.K., Belgium, Germany, France and Russia.

The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, which represents the country's cell phone industry, stated there is no reason for people, including children, to change their phone habits.

"The state of the science right now from leading health agencies, including the World Health Organization, is that cell phone use - as set out in the guidelines - is that these devices are safe," Marc Choma was quoted as saying in the CBC website post.

However, it is not just young people who are being advised to curtail their cell phone usage. Many areas of the United States are cracking down on people using cell phones while driving. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 2008, 33 states have introduced 127 driver distraction bills.

As of July 1, California and Washington state both implemented laws that include fines for holding a phone while driving. They are not alone. According to a Channel Web site posting, such states as New York, New Jersey and Utah already have enacted similar laws. This means drivers are forced to either use hands-free devices or hold off on their conversations until they arrive at their destination.

Just how the laws work vary. In California, drivers can be pulled over if the police spot them holding a cell phone to their ear. The fines start at $20 and go up to $50 for subsequent offences.

In Washington state, holding and talking on a cell phone is a secondary offence. This means an officer needs another reason to pull you over. This could be something like speeding, going through a stop sign or if you are involved in an accident. A ticket for the offence is $124. According to a July 14 Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog posting, since the law was enacted 37 drivers were ticketed by the State Patrol. Another 73 received verbal warnings, while one was given a written warning.

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