San Francisco Considers Revamped Cell Phone Radiation Ordinance

For the second time, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will try to enact an ordinance that would require retailers to display information on <"">radiation and cell phones. However, according to, the new ordnance is likely to be somewhat watered-down compared to an earlier attempt.

As we’ve reported in the past, the original San Francisco ordinance, which passed by a 10-1 vote, would have mandated that stores selling the devices post the specific absorption rates (SAR) – the levels at which radio frequencies penetrate body tissue – near cell phones in at least 11-point type. SAR rates can vary from phone to phone, but all phones sold in the United States must have a SAR rate no greater than 1.6 watts per kilogram.

The wireless lobby quickly mobilized against that ordinance, with the group CTIA filing suit against the Board of Supervisors, claiming the law infringed on the industry’s First Amendment rights by forcing it to acknowledge, against its beliefs, there may be a problem with radiation exposure. CTIA further claimed that cell-phone regulation is a federal matter, and that no city or state can require the type of disclosure that San Francisco sought. Faced with the prospect of having to pay CTIA’s legal bills should the group win in court, the Board decided to table the ordinance.

Now, according to, the Board is working to resurrect the ordinance – sort of. The new version would require retailers to display a more-general information placard informing customers that cell phones emit radiation. Retailers would also have to provide tip sheets on how to reduce exposure, said.

The new San Francisco cell phone radiation ordinance is expected to pass the Board of Supervisors easily. But even though it requires far less from retailers in the way of disclosure, CTIA is still opposed, according to The group argues that it places an undue burden on retailers, and continues to insist the link between cell phones and cancer is unsubstantiated.

But Supervisor John Avalos, who is sponsoring the new ordinance, argues that consumers have a “right to know” about cell phones’ potential health hazards.

News of the revamped ordinance comes just a month after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) decided to classify cell phone radiation as possibly carcinogenic to humans after reviewing hundreds of human and animal studies. Their review included the 2010 INTERPHONE study, which found that the heaviest cell phone users experienced a 40 percent higher risk for gliomas, the most common type of brain tumor. The IARC panel did caution that much of the research they reviewed was limited, and said more study was needed before definitive conclusions could be reach.

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