San Francisco’s Department of the Environment is currently considering a controversial proposal that would require all cell phone retailers to label the devices with the level of radiation that they emit, according to a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom also backs the measure, despite the fact that the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) insistence that any cell phone legally sold in the U.S. is completely safe for use.
If the measure passes, it would be the first of its kind in the nation.
"The information exists, but not at the point of sale," he said. "If we prevail, and I believe we will prevail, other cities will follow suit."
Though the FCC has already adopted limits for safe exposure to radiation from cell phones, calculated in units called a Specific Absorption Rate, Newsom and others point to recent studies that have found increased rates of brain tumors and salivary gland tumors on the side of the face where the user typically puts his/her cell phone.
Unlike previous studies, these newly released studies look at cell phone use over the long term by examining radiation effects of people using cell phones for more than 10 years.
Despite the recent studies, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, a trade group that represents cell phone companies, maintains that cell phones are safe.
John Walls, vice president of public affairs for the trade group, released a statement reading in part, "CTIA and the wireless industry have always been guided by science, and the views of impartial health organizations. The peer-reviewed scientific evidence has overwhelmingly indicated that wireless devices do not pose a public health risk."
Earlier this year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a national nonprofit research and advocacy organization, conducted its own study on radiation in cell phones. Based on the information it found, the organization believes that consumers have a right to know how much radiation that their cell phone emits.
On the EWG Web site, it's stated that “We at Environmental Working Group are still using our cell phones, but we also believe that until scientists know much more about cell phone radiation, it’s smart for consumers to buy phones with the lowest emissions."
Since the U.S. government doesn’t currently require that cell phone companies label their products’ radiation output, the EWG recently created its own online guide to cell phone emissions, which covers more than 1,000 phones currently on the market by brands such as Motorola and Samsung. The guide also includes the 10 best phones for low radiation emissions.
The legislation that Mayor Newsom supports would require that cell phone retailers display the SAR level next to each phone in a font at least as large as the price and provide information about what SAR values mean.
The Department of Public Health would monitor stores' compliance and could levy fines to those that don’t comply. The final measure, currently being discussed by the environmental department, would need approval at the Board of Supervisors to become law.