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San Francisco Cell Phone Users Gain Right-to-Know

cell phone

The city will be the first in the country to provide cell phone radiation data at the point of sale.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 Tuesday (June 15) to approve an ordinance that would require posting cell phone radiation emissions by retailers.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, one of the strongest supporters of the bill, has said he plans to sign it into law when it reaches his desk. The mayor’s spokesman said:

“This is a modest and commonsense measure to provide greater transparency and information to consumers.”

Currently, finding out how much radiation a cell phone transmits to the human body (a measurement known as a specific absorption rate (or SAR) prior to a phone’s purchase is a time-intensive, and sometimes impossible task for consumers – which is why EWG developed an easy-to-use, freely accessible cell phone radiation database.

Generally, consumers can only learn the SAR value for their phone after they make their purchase, either the owner’s manual or by navigating through the cryptic website of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which sets federal limits for cell phone radiation.

The science on whether cell phone radiation poses a health risk is far from definitive. The most recent studies, which sought to track the effects of long-term use, found a correlation between brain and salivary gland tumor development. This is especially of concern for children, whose skulls are much thinner than adults’, leaving the brain less protected from radiation.

The federal limits, which do not allow SAR values to exceed 1.6 W/kg (watts absorbed per kilogram of tissue), were set in 1996, before long-term studies of cell phone use had been conducted. EWG has called upon the FCC to update its standards, based on the current science.

In the meantime, consumers have a right to at least know their phone’s SAR when making purchasing decisions.  The legislation would not require a warning label or any mention of possible health effects. It’s just a number – but a potentially important number – when choosing a phone.

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