Cell Phone Warning Label Requirement Revoked by San Francisco

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S4HandAfter a 3 year court battle with the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), city leaders of San Francisco have agreed to revoke an ordinance that would have required retailers to warn consumers about potentially dangerous radiation levels. 

The Right to Know law, as it was dubbed, was passed in June of 2010 and again upheld in July of 2011. It required 11-point type size text to be posted next to phones at stores, listing each phone's specific absorption rate (SAR) level. SAR refers to the amount of radiation absorbed by a cell phone owner's body tissue. SAR rates vary based on a phone's radio placements, bandwidth and design. In the U.S., all phones sold must have a rate no greater than 1.6 watts per kilogram.  In Europe the limit is higher, at 2 W/kg. 

CTIA took the city to court alleging that the law violated free speech rights and would require consumer confusion, which might make shoppers think "some phones are safer than others." 

MORE: Radiation Extremes: Highest and Lowest Rated Smartphones

The agreement comes following a preliminary injunction against the measure that signaled trying to win the case at trial would require that the city prove scientists concur about the danger of high SAR ratings and that the FCC no longer believes cell phones are safe. San Francisco city supervisor David Campos told Reuters that the settlement was somewhat reluctant.  "I think the legal reality is that if we don't approve the settlement, we're talking about having to pay $500,000 in legal fees," he said.

It is fair to say the debate over the safety of phones rages on. One recent study that appeared in the journal of Epidemiology, showed no connection between mobile phone use and gliomas (a large range of cancerous tumor types) in Denmark, Finland, Norway or Sweden. The study covered a 20-year period. A conflicting study performed at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, found that the age-adjusted incidence of malignant tumors in the parts of the brain closest to where people hold their phones rose significantly from 1992 and 2006 in California. But researchers denied the ability to draw any conclusions about the dangers of cell phones from those findings.

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Anna Attkisson
Anna Attkisson, Laptop Mag & Tom's Guide Managing Editor
A lover of lists and deadlines, Anna Attkisson covers apps, social networking, tablets, chromebooks and accessories. She loves each of her devices equally, including the phablet, three tablets, three laptops and desktop. She joined the Laptop Mag staff in 2007, after working at Time Inc. Content Solutions where she created custom publications for companies from American Express to National Parks Foundation.
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1 comment
  • Cynthia Franklin Says:

    Here are the facts that led San Francisco to pass the cell phone "right to know" law:

    1. The World Health Organization's body of top international scientists reviewed all the science to date and has declared that cell phone use is associated with a higher risk of malignant brain cancer on the same side of the head as usage of a cell phones.

    2. The microwave emissions from a cell phone against the head are more than 10 times greater than when the phone is held less than 1 inch away. (Don't people have the right to know this so they can choose how to use their phone?)

    3. Children's brains absorb up to twice the microwave radiation from a cell phone as an adults'.

    4. All cell phone user manuals contain a warning hidden in the legal fine print to never wear or use a cell phone directly against the body or risk being overexposed to microwave radiation that exceeds the FCC standard.

    San Francisco simply wanted AT&T, Verizon, Apple, etc. to provide these FACTS to people buying cell phones. Not wanting any part of that "nonsense" - the cell phone industry hired 10 of the country's most powerful attorneys who outgunned San Francisco's inexperienced, overworked lone attorney.

    The telecom industry continues to get away with hiding these facts - they "spin" the truth in the media about the science and create doubt so people are confused and uninformed.


    Kudos to San Francisco for trying to do the right thing.