The City Council of Berkeley, California last night unanimously voted to require electronics retailers to warn customers about the potential health risks associated with radio-frequency (RF) radiation emitted by cellphones, setting itself up to become the first city in the country to implement a cellphone “right to know” law.
“If you carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra when the phone is ON and connected to a wireless network, you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure to RF radiation,” the notice, which must be posted in stores that sell cellphones, reads in part. “This potential risk is greater for children. Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for information about how to use your phone safely.”
The ordinance is widely expected to face a robust court challenge from the Cellular Telephone Industries Association, the wireless industry’s trade group. The law “violates the First Amendment because it would compel wireless retailers to disseminate speech with which they disagree,” Gerard Keegan, CITA’s senior director of state legislative affairs, said yesterday in a letter to the council members. “The forced speech is misleading and alarmist because it would cause consumers to take away the message that cell phones are dangerous and can cause breast, testicular, or other cancers.”
Cellphones emit non-ionizing radiation in the form of electromagnetic fields (EMF) that can penetrate human tissues. Although ionizing radiation, the kind used in x-rays, is known to cause cancer, the National Cancer Institute says there is no evidence that non-ionizing radiation increases cancer risk. The American Cancer Society calls the evidence for a cellphone-cancer link “uncertain.” The federal Centers for Disease Control maintains that “we do not have the science to link health problems to cell phone use.”