SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.--Melodramatic cell phone safety risk warnings are a violation of the First Amendment, ruled U.S. District Judge William Alsup as he overturned most of a San Francisco ordinance mandating such warnings.
Judge Alsup said that the ordinance from San Francisco’s City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee misrepresented the risks of mobile phone use.
"The overall impression left is that cell phones are dangerous and that they have somehow escaped the regulatory process," he wrote in his judgment adding, "That impression is untrue and misleading, for all of the cell phones sold in the United States must comply with safety limits set by the FCC."
The city of San Francisco had been attempting to pass legislation requiring phone retailers not only to hand out "fact sheets" to customers detailing possible health risks associated with mobile phone use, but also to put up large warning posters. The city wanted those posters to state in bold text: "studies continue to assess potential health effects of mobile phone use."
A previous draft of the ordinance –which was also rejected—had required retailers to warn customers of the risks of cancer due to cell phone use. The World Health Organization recently admitted, however, that there was not enough evidence to support such a risk.
Giving customers a fact sheet would be acceptable said Judge Alsup, though he asked that the leaflets be rephrased so as not to give customers the wrong impression that phones were dangerous.
The ordinance is the brainchild of Supervisor John Avalos, who has been pushing for the law to go through since mid-2010. Avalos believes consumers should be told the specific absorption rate of all phones sold in any particular store, along with facts on RF energy and tips to limit one’s exposure to it.
Though this has delighted environmentalists across the country, it has also deeply angered the wireless industry, specifically the CTIA Wireless Association lobby, which has sued San Francisco on the grounds that the ordinance is not constitutional and misleading.
Judge Alsup has now put the ordinance on hold until Nov. 30, giving San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera time to appeal. The judge ruled, however, that should San Francisco refuse to make changes to the wording of its warning pamphlets, the entire ordinance will be thrown out of court.
The City of San Francisco can hardly be considered an authority on cell phone radiation risk. The FCC, on the other hand, is empowered to assess risk of radio usage, and if not the FCC, perhaps the FDA. In short, there are other agencies that are authorized to weigh in on the issue. If every local governmental authority required its own warnings, where would we be? There are so many issues wrong with San Francisco grandstanding over this that it can hardly be discussed in a brief note. Even if one wished a local government to get involved in something that it has neither expertise nor a real mandate to interfere in, this particular issue is fairly clear: there doesn't seem to be enough evidence of harm to get very excited. If we are to start issuing warnings for "possible (but uncertain) health risks, we may as well just all go home. San Francisco's Chicken Little department should just calm down.
Isn't anyone concerned that now "freedom of speech" means the freedom to not warn users of possible (but uncertain) health risks?
I'm inclined to agree that the ordinance was "over the top", but so is striking it down on 1st amendment grounds.
It's just a warning, after all, that people would quickly learn to ignore just like all the other warnings.
Why is everybody so certain, that method for evaluating risk levels from Cell-phone radiation (absorption of wave energ as heat...)has any merit at all? Influence of RF carriers with all acompanying harmonics from myrad of different sources, interferring in human body cells, can effectively jam the intracellular communication links... This would be much more serious condition than simple heating of tissue, and if I may add - much more probable one.
You need some evidence of harm before you run off and do a lot of statistical studies, testing and theoretical work. Do you know anyone harmed by cell phone emissions? Not likely. Now, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but you need some indication that it's worth doing the studies, and I don't think we've seen much in the way of injuries reported. Hence, no real interest in spending a lot of money investigating a non-starter.
But DDT is ok to spray on crops... the denial of prudent DDT use hasn't helped anyone in any way. Third-world countries need the darned stuff. Ditto for cyclamates: banned out of foolishness. The government makes both bad calls and good calls.
Since the federal government is beholden to big business, the court's decision is not surprising. The non-thermal, non-ionizing biological effects of EMF are not studied in the US. There is no clear theoretical damage model, so no proposed studies get past peer review, so no theoretical models are developed.
This is silly. Put the money into educating people about the risks of talking/texting while driving. Put the enforcement into preventing those things. You will certainly save more lives that way. Based on the studies done, it may well be 100% more efficient use of money.
As in, you will save many lives this way, you will save few to none by screaming about cell phone "radiation".
Most of the "alarmist" reaction was in my opinion related to studies of cancer clusters vs distance from certain RF TOWERS in San Francisco.
Then came the edict to add smart meters to every house (essentially a radio talking to the electric company, but dumping radiation into your house), plus all the new wireless networks plus radiation from mining, including COAL which when burned emits radiation as well as soot.
The trigger was most likely the cancer clusters as distance from that major cell tower increased, the cancer rate decreased.
I will try to find the link to that particularly scary medical study. But of course, any bad news is bad for business. Personally, I prefer wired ear buds to radiating ear phones for long listening (like music or conference calls), as radiation falls off as the square of the distance, so any distance from your mobile stuff and your head is a good thing, even small air gap. So gather the weight of evidence, and work on options for educated users. With all the drug side effect warnings on TV, people are numb to health warnings and figure life is risky..but you have to live it. Our job is to make sure that new technology is fully characterized, and modern brain scanner (also a source of radiation) can see things better now days. For example, hockey "enforcers" dying in three's due to multiple concussions, proven to be medical problem, and NHL ignoring it as fans love fights? What is the right thing to do? Just talk about it, let the public and the players work it out. Is the pay worth the risk? Should glatiators like boxers be encouraged to risk brain damage just to make a living? Should more powerful cell towers and phones pressed against our heads be judged by an old standard of acceptability ignoring additive effects from other sources of radiation? Life is risky. Be informed. Get off the grid is this worries you.
Duane's right. If a cell phone posses any health risk at all, it becomes only one of a myriad of risk factors. A huge number of studies over many years would be required to rule out all the other factors to be able to assess the true risk of cell phone usage. In the meantime, give me a call.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.