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Berkeley's Proposed Cell Phone "Right to Know" Ordinance
Elected officials in Berkeley, California want cell phone retailers to inform consumers that manufacturers stipulate a minimum separation distance from the body to their devices in compliance with Federal regulations to protect the user's health.
The ordinance would require cell phone retailers to provide consumers who purchase a phone a fact sheet referring the user to read their cell phone manufacturers' disclosure regarding the recommended user separation distance from the body.
The proposed wording of the fact sheet is as follows:
"The Federal Government requires that cell phones meet radio frequency (RF) exposure guidelines. Don't carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra when the phone is turned ON and connected to a wireless network. This will prevent exposure to RF levels that may exceed the federal guidelines."
"Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for the recommended separation distance."
The ordinance is necessary because most cell phone users are unaware that cell phone manufacturers recommend the use of an approved holder that keeps the phone away from the body. This stipulation is often buried in the cell phone manual or in the phone itself. When carrying and using a cell phone next to the body, one may absorb more microwave radiation than was detectable when the phone was tested for legal certification.
Cell phone radiation is a possible carcinogen in humans according to the World Health Organization. Moreover, some peer-reviewed research suggests that use of a cell phone near the body may increase the risk of infertility, cardiovascular problems, and breast cancer, and may contribute to neurological damage in the fetuses of pregnant women.
Unlike the cell phone ordinance that San Francisco adopted and vacated after a multi-year battle in the Federal courts with the CTIA-The Wireless Association (1-5), the proposed Berkeley ordinance is both factual and non-controversial. Hence, the proposed ordinance does not infringe upon the industry's First Amendment rights, nor is it pre-empted by Federal law. Professor Lawrence Lessig from the Harvard University School of Law has reviewed the proposed ordinance and has offered to defend it pro bono should the CTIA sue the city as it has threatened.
The ordinance is sponsored by Council member Max Anderson.
The referral and a briefing document are available on the Electromagnetic Radiation Safety website along with links to prior media coverage about the Berkeley cell phone ordinance: http://www.saferemr.com/
Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D.
School of Public Health
University of California, Berkeley
(1) “Cell phone radiation warning on San Francisco government web site.” May 18, 2012. http://../11879000-
(2) “Big Week for Cell Phone Radiation Legislation.”
(3) “San Francisco’s Cell Phone Fact Sheet is Factual.” September 12, 2012. http://../11973342-
(4) “Will San Francisco Abandon Its Cell Phone Right to Know Law?” May 6, 2013. http://../12132051-
(5) “San Francisco Updates Cell Phone Safety Warnings.” June 3, 2013. http://../12149797-
Page Updated Last on: Jan 29, 2015