An ordinance designed to inform consumers about the risks associated with cell phone radiation has been blocked from going into effect. Last month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals told the city of San Francisco that it could not force retailers to provide warning materials on cell phone radiation effects, ruling the city could not mandate that retailers distribute a message they disagreed with.

The San Francisco ordinance would have been the first of its kind in the country.  It was passed by the city’s Board of Supervisors amid growing concerns that long-term exposure to cell phone radiation may be associated with brain tumors and other ailments. The ordinance would have required San Francisco retailers to provide cell phone buyers with a fact sheet detailing the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2011 warning on cell phone radiation and cancer, in which it classified radiation from cell phones as a possible human carcinogen. The fact sheets also would have advised consumers to take protective measures to guard against dangerous cell phone radiation levels, such as wearing headsets, making shorter calls and limiting use by children.

Under the San Francisco ordinance, cell phone retailers would also have been made to add warning stickers to display ads, and put up large posters with the same type of cell phone radiation warnings. The law was to go into effect in October 2011, but the wireless industry’s lobbying arm, the CTIA, sued the city shortly after its passage.

Last year, the CTIA got much of what it wanted when U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled that parts of San Francisco’s ordinance went too far. He instructed the city to delete some of the information on the fact sheets and posters, but ruled it could still force retailers to disclose undisputed facts about a “plausible public health threat. “Both sides appealed that ruling, and last month, the Ninth Circuit said San Francisco could not enforce any part of the ordinance while the case drags on.

The debate over the health effects of cell phones and radiation has grown heated  since last year, after the WHO’s Interphone study found that using cell phones for typically only 30 minutes per day or more resulted in a 40% increased risk for a type of brain tumor called glioma, when compared to someone who had not used a cell phone. If the phone is used mostly on one side of the head, the risk is 96% more than someone unexposed to cell phone radiation, according to the study.

In August, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) called on federal regulators to revamp standards that measure the impact of radiation from cell phones. Those standards haven’t been reassessed since 1996, and didn’t even take the effects of cell phone radiation on children into account. According to the GAO report, the current standards set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “may not reflect the latest evidence on the effects” of cell phone radiation. It also criticized the way the FCC tests phones for radiation levels, stating the Commission assumed that people would place their phones at a distance. This “may not be identifying the maximum exposure, since some users may hold a mobile phone directly against the body while in use,” the GAO said.

Many believe consumers have a right to know about potential cell phone radiation effects. Shortly after the GAO report was released, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) introduced H.R. 6358, the Cell Phone Right to Know Act, which would require warning labels for cell phones. It would also create a new national research program to study cell phones and health.

“It took decades for scientists to be able to say for sure that smoking caused cancer. During those decades, the false impression created by industry supporters was that there was no connection between smoking and cancer, a deception which cost many lives. While we wait for scientists to sort out the health effects of cell phone radiation, we must allow consumers to have enough information to choose a phone with less radiation,” Rep. Kucinich said in a statement announcing the bill.

Bernstein Liebhard LLP is currently investigating cell phone radiation lawsuits on behalf of individuals who used cell phones for a prolonged period of time and developed certain types of cancers or tumors. Contact a cell phone side effects lawyers at our firm to learn more and for a free case review. You may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Call today: (877) 779-1414.

Published October 3, 2012 by