Friday, July 22, 2011

City Should Stick to the Law and Evidence When it Comes to Cellphones and Health

Recently in the news is the San Francisco Board of Supervisors' latest misguided attempts to impose health warning mandates on stores selling cellphones. This latest stab by the San Francisco Board comes in the wake of yet another published scientific study suggesting cellphones do not pose the kinds of dangers that certain San Francisco politicians persist in claiming they might.

Apparently, the San Francisco Board is seeking to amend the wireless warnings ordinance it adopted last year that required stores to post each phone' "specific absorption rate" or SAR – a measure of radiation absorbed by a user's body. This prompted an industry lawsuit against the city, since the federal government has broad authority over the electromagnetic spectrum and wireless and exclusive authority over wireless "entry" under. As the initial lawsuit complaint spells out plainly, federal government clearly occupies the field when it comes to radio frequency (RF) emissions and SARs, including a number of FCC regulations dealing specifically with SARs. CTIA later amended its lawsuit complaint to include a First Amendment challenge to the ordinance. So now the San Francisco Board is trying to get around the lack of scientific merit, federal preemption, and First Amendment problems by dropping the SARs warning and instead imposing some kind of generic warning about radiation.

Frankly, the San Francisco Board has little to no credibility when it comes to wireless handset technologies and medical health issues. Its ordinance and revision efforts are unwarranted, unwise, and a waste of time. The better approach is found in the American Legislative Exchange Council's Resolution Opposing State and Local Mandates Requiring Warning Labels on Wireless Devices and Packaging. The San Francisco Board should direct any concerns they have to the federal authorities that actually have jurisdiction over the matter.