Cell Phone Industry Sues SF Over Radiation Ordinance

CTIA, the wireless industry's biggest trade group announced on Friday that it has sued the city of San Francisco over its recently passed ordinance requiring retailers to display the radiation levels emitted from cellphones. The “Cell Phone Right-to-Know” law requires retailers to display the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) next to phones they sell.

In the U.S. and Canada, the SAR must be 1.6 watts per kg or less. In Europe, the maximum level is 2.0 kw per kg or less.

At the time of passage, the CTIA said then, and emphasizes now, that the law will confuse consumers. It will, the CTIA said, make them believe that certain models will be "safer" to use than others. John Walls, a spokesman for the group, issued the following statement:
"CTIA’s objection to the ordinance is that displaying a phone’s [specific absorption rate] value at the point-of-sale suggests to the consumer that there is a meaningful safety distinction between FCC-compliant devices with different SAR levels. The FCC has determined that all wireless phones legally sold in the United States are ‘safe.’"
It's quite clear, however, that not all experts agree with the CTIA. Although cell phone radiation studies seem inconclusive, some doctors, including a cancer center director in 2008, have warned about cell phone radiation.

Despite inconclusive studies, many warn on the side of caution with regards to cell phone radiation, especially in the case of children, who tend to absorb more radiation because of thinner skulls and ears.

Earlier this month, the American Association for Cell Phone Safety wrote to the FCC and FDA about the issue. The group noted that while the popularity of cell phones has grown, federal regulators continue to rely on outdated standards while evaluating cell phone safety.
“The FCC is clearly not a health agency and makes no mention of the agency’s qualifications to set health and safety standards with cell phones and wireless PDA’s."
Certainly, the CTIA has a vested interest in seeing any warnings about cell phone radiation muted. As is the case with any studies related to health or safety done by the industry involved, their objections must be taken with a grain of salt.

San Francisco is the first jurisdiction to implement a rule warning users of cellphone radiation levels. C|Net has long published an SAR table at its site, for those interested. A few readings (lower is better).
  • Apple iPhone 4 (16GB, 32GB) - 1.17 (up sharply from the iPhone 3GS, with .79, but you can probably fix that with a finger in the right location)
  • Palm Pixi Plus (Verizon Wireless) - 1.47
  • LG Ally - 1.36
  • BlackBerry Bold 9700 - 1.37
  • Nokia N97 - 0.74
  • HTC Evo 4G - 1.03