SF Cell Phone Warning Law Nixed

William Alsup
Judge William Alsup

We’re a day late on this but it’s worth noting that the Judge William Alsup nixed most of San Francisco’s ordinance that required phone retailers to post health warnings about the potential risks of cell phones.

The Wireless Association challenged the law as a First Amendment violation that is also preempted by federal law.

The ordinance required cell phone providers who sell products through retailers in San Francisco to display prominently posters in stores warning customers that radiofrequency energy emissions from the phones may have links to cancer and to display the SAR value, or Specific Absorption Rate of energy into the body, for each brand of phone.

The health concerns grow out of comments from World Health Organization cancer experts that use of the phones may have carcinogenic implications.  But the group said it does not mean that cell phones can cause cancer.

Alsup concluded that it is acceptable that customers be given “fact sheets” that discuss potential cell phone risks, but said the current versions should be changed so consumers are not misled into thinking the phones are a hazard.

He also refused to allow the mandatory posters and warning stickers on phone displays required by the city ordinance.

The Federal Communications Commission has not set such standards.

Said Alsup:  “The FCC set a conservative standard, one weighted heavily in favor of minimizing any public health hazard.  San Francisco has long been bathed in RF radiation from the Sutro Tower transmitting facilities, from radar, from hand-held television remotes, from portable phones, from WiFi (vigorously promoted by San Francisco itself), from WiFi-equipped notebook computers, from cell towers, from satellites, not to mention EMF radiation from our AC power infrastructure dating back a hundred years or more.”

“If this exposure has been so dangerous, one might ask reasonably why hasn’t it manifested itself by now?” wrote Alsup.

As for the fact sheet, he concluded that it was not aimed at slowing phone sales but as cautions to consumers.  “Industry profits will not sag,” he wrote.

Case:  CTIA – The Wireless Association v. City and County of San Francisco,             No. C10-3224WHA

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