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San Francisco Sued Over Cell Phone Radiation Law

July 24, 2010

The wireless industry filed a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco in US District Court on Friday to halt a law that requires cell phone stores to post how much radio energy each model emits.

The law, first of its kind in the US, is being contested by CTIA – The Wireless Association. The group said the law will mislead consumers into thinking that one phone may be safer than another on the basis of radiation measurements.

Studies have not convincingly found that cell phone radiation is a health risk, however, research is ongoing on brain tumors.

The industry group said the city is taking over the authority of the Federal Communications Commission, which sets limits for phone radiation.

The Associated Press (AP) reports that the city office was unable to comment on the lawsuit at press time. Previously, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office said that the ordinance is a “modest measure that will provide greater transparency and information to consumers for whom this is an area of interest or concern.”

The local ordinance makes cell phone retailers disclose how much energy will theoretically be absorbed by a user’s head. The FCC limits this specific absorption rate (SAR) to an average of 1.6 watts per kilogram. Measurements for phones sold in the US are available on the agency’s site, but rarely in stores.

“Nobody should be suggesting to consumers that they ought to be shopping for phones based on a difference in SAR values,” John Walls, vice president for public affairs at CTIA, told AP. “There’s no scientific basis to suggest, as the ordinance does, that two phones with different values have a safety distinction between them,” as long as the measurement’s are below the FCC limit.

The law states that larger retail chains will have to start placing SAR notices on phones beginning in February 2011, while other stores will have until 2012.

CTIA, in response to the San Francisco law, said it will hold its annual trade show in San Francisco this fall, as it usually does, but will look for another host city for the 2011 show. “We thought it was a clear message from the mayor that we weren’t wanted there,” Walls told AP.

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