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After SF's Cellphone Radiation Law Stalls, Weaker Ordinance in the Works


c. iStockphoto.com/nao
c. iStockphoto.com/nao

Remember San Francisco’s cellphone ordinance that made national news last year by requiring retailers to display each phone's radiation level?

Well, neither do most people. The law was supposed to take effect in February, but it never did, thanks to a lawsuit against the city by CTIA, the wireless telecommunications association. To date, the ordinance remains in legal limbo.

So now the city has a new, watered-down version in the works. Instead of allowing consumers to compare radiation levels from various cellphones, this measure would require retailers to display a more-general information placard informing customers that cellphones emit radiation. Retailers would also have to provide tip sheets on how to reduce exposure.

Supporters of the ordinance, including its sponsor, Supervisor John Avalos, argue that consumers have a “right to know” about cellphones’ potential health hazards. In May, cellphone radiation landed a spot on the World Health Organization's list of possible carcinogens, joining the ranks of pickled vegetables and DDT. 

Opposition to the new ordinance largely comes from the CTIA, which contends that the link between cell phones and cancer is not sufficiently substantiated, and that the ordinance would place a burden on retailers.

The legislation is expected to pass the Board of Supervisors easily, since last year's tougher measure passed with a 10-1 vote. The board is scheduled to vote on July 19 and July 26. If the ordinance passes, Mayor Ed Lee would have 10 days to sign it into law.

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