Berkeley, California, wants to become the first city in the nation to require warning stickers on cell phone packages alerting buyers that the devices may emit cancer-causing radiation.
In 2010 San Francisco attempted to enact a similar ordinance but was defeated in federal court; the Board of Supervisors withdrew the ordinance, SFGate reports. Berkeley City Councilman Max Anderson, who co-sponsored the ordinance, said, “Cell phones are a risk, and I believe the public has a right to information that’s credible, readable and understandable about the device they’re using.” Anderson has a background in public health, according to SFGate.
The wireless industry successfully argued that San Francisco’s attempt to force them to issue the disputed warnings would violate their First Amendment rights. Berkeley will seek the help of a Harvard University law professor in drafting sticker language the city hopes will meet First Amendment requirements. Berkeley’s ordinance would require stickers on cell phone boxes to warn consumers that radiation from cell phones may cause brain cancer, according to SFGate.
The cell phone industry sent a four-page letter to the City Council on saying the courts have already settled the matter. “Any attempt to place labels on cell phones or their packaging contradicts the clear message of federal regulatory agencies that have carefully considered this issue, which is that devices compliant with the federal standards are safe for consumer use,” wrote Gerald Keegan, senior director of legislative affairs for an industry group, SFGate reports.
The cell phone industry says radiation from cell phones is well below federal safety limits, and no study has found evidence definitively linking cell phone use to cancer. Joel Moskowitz, head of UC Berkeley’s Center for Family and Community Health, has been studying the issue since 2009, and said the studies cited by the industry are outdated, SFGate reports.
The National Brain Tumor Society said that although there have not yet been studies that found a direct link between cell phone radiation and brain cancer, the possibility “has not been ruled out,” the society spokesman Tom Halkin said. Moskowitz warns that more complex wireless technology and people spending more time on their phones is likely to lead to an uptick in brain cancer, according to SFGate. Radiation from cell phones penetrates the skin and skull and absorbs into the brain tissue, having an adverse affect on cells. Moskowitz said phone radiation could also affect the sperm count of men who carry phones in their pockets.