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Cell Phone Warning Label Requirement Revoked by San Francisco

After 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.