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San Francisco cellphone radiation law blocked: an 'opinion'

updated 10:40 pm EDT, Thu October 27, 2011

San Francisco law said misleading, not scientific

San Francisco's contested cellphone radiation warning law was at least temporarily denied on Thursday over scientific grounds. Judge William Alsup, the same judge overseeing Oracle's lawsuit against Google, said that the claim cellphones triggered cancer was a "debatable question" and that it was a "matter of opinion," not an incontestable fact the city could use to make laws. He added that the tone of the proposed fact sheet, which would post radiation levels, was "misleading" by implying that phones weren't just dangerous but had circumvented the law just by being on sale.

The ruling didn't completely side with the CTIA, the telecom-backed organization that sued to block the law. Judge Alsup believed San Francisco could require a fact sheet but had to phrase it to avoid the alarmist tone. In its arguments, the CTIA believed that just posting radiation levels was wrong and a free speech violation.

Either side can appeal before November 30. City officials have planned to contest the ruling; the CTIA isn't likely to object despite the opening for a radiation sheet.

Conflicting studies have surfaced for much of the past decade as to the possible cancer-inducing effect of cellphones. The WHO drew attention when it left the possibility open in a study, but a countering Danish report found no evidence, even after studying hundreds of thousands of residents for almost two decades. FCC officials so far haven't seen enough signs of trouble to warrant tougher regulation.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Bobfozz

    Joined: Dec 1969


    At last...

    a California judge with a reasonable attitude.

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The Danish study

    seems pretty acceptable to me as a reason to stop this proposed legal requirement from coming to pass. I would think it would be in the various cell phone outlets' interests to post a two or three paragraph overview document, in plain view, covering all the basses and providing references regarding this controversy, but at this point, I don't see it as being something that has to be legally required.

    Prior to hearing about the Danish study, I was okay with the legal requirement to provide the available related information to customers. Arguably, a periodic review and action to remove the legal requirement in light of comprehensive evidence alleviating the original concern would be necessary.

  1. Makosuke

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Even-handed Decision

    I seriously doubt cell phone transmitters cause cancer (other neurological phenomenon, I'm not so sure about, and social overuse is almost unquestionably harmful based on my direct observations). The latest major study seems to back that up, so this decision seems even-handed and reasonable, as laws like this should be based on science. If you want to legally warn about cell phones, do it for some reason other than shaky or very uncertain science.

    And I confess to an ulterior motive--the anti-Smartmeter paranoids here in California are such a circus-freak sideshow generating undue paranoia about a technology that hits you with less radiation than walking between your house an the car without a hat on and has all kinds of large-scale social and environmental benefits that anything that knocks the legs out from under them is a good thing. And I say this as someone who wouldn't let his kids use a cell for more than a few minutes a day.

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