Product Liability

San Francisco law would expose cell phone radiation levels

San Francisco, California is poised to become the first city in the United States to order cell phone companies and manufacturers to disclose how much radiation their phones emit. Cell phone use has been linked to cancer and brain tumors by many medical researchers. Other researchers, however, say the studies are inconclusive or reject them outright.

The city’s board of supervisors voted 10 to 1 earlier this week in favor of the new law, which would require cell phone vendors to publish the radiation emission levels of all wireless devices in their stores. Mayor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the measure into law.

City board members say that the measure will help consumers differentiate between cell phones that emit low and high levels of radiation.

“It’s information that’s out there if you’re willing to look hard enough,” Tony Winnicker, a spokesman for Mayor Newsom, told the New York Times. “And we think that for the consumer for whom this is an area of concern, it ought to be easier to find.” The law would be akin to laws that require fast food restaurants to disclose how much trans fat their menu items contain.

The cell phone industry would like to prevent the San Francisco bill from becoming law, saying that it would mislead consumers into thinking some cell phones are safer to use than others. However, while some scientists argue that the link between wireless phones and tumors is inconclusive, shouldn’t consumers have the right to know how much radiation they are exposed to as researchers continue to study the possible connections?

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission requires a “specific absorption rate” of less than 1.6 watts per kilogram, which is the “amount of radio frequency energy absorbed by the body when using a mobile phone,” according to the FCC.