Poll: Should Cell Phone Retailers Be Required to Give Radiation Exposure Warnings?

A battle in San Francisco may set a precedent for other communities, and the customers that use hand-held devices.


A San Francisco law that requires retailers to hand out radiation exposure warnings when they sell mobile phones has been challenged this week.

"There is no evidence cell phones actually cause harm," said Andrew McBride, representing a Washington, D.C.-based wireless association.

McBride argues that the warnings violate phone makers' free speech rights by "forcing them to give an allegedly misleading and controversial message they don't agree with."

The risks of brain cancer to users of cell phones has been argued since the ubiquitous devices were introduced commercially in 1983. With billions of cell phones now in use worldwide, numerous studies have been conducted, but the results have been inconclusive.

The World Health Organization says that "there could be some risk" of cancer from exposure, and recommends continuing research, especially for long-term, heavy users of cell phones.

Authors of a study looking at cancers related to brain tumors published in The International Journal of Epidemiology said "Overall, no increase in risk of glioma or meningioma was observed with use of mobile phones. There were suggestions of an increased risk of glioma at the highest exposure levels, but biases and error prevent a causal interpretation. The possible effects of long-term heavy use of mobile phones require further investigation."

If there is no conclusive link between cell phone use and cancer, and as "continuing research" is completed, does the City of San Francisco have the right to force cell phone manufacturers to issue a consumer warning?

San Francisco Deputy City Attorney Vince Chhabria counters the manufacturers' argument, saying the city's measure is merely a "consumer disclosure requirement" justified by public health concerns.

"What about the consequences if the risk bears out? We're talking about malignant brain cancer here," he told a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at a hearing in San Francisco.

Has San Francisco gone too far? Are the rights of cell phone manufacturers being violated? Or should all communities, or perhaps states, force manufacturers to issue a mandatory precautionary warning, at least until there is more research completed.

Let us know with your comments. Then take the poll below.

Mark Burns August 13, 2012 at 06:58 AM
So what's better: speakerphone, blue tooth in your ear, or keeping conversations short?
Diane Roberts August 13, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Google 'European regulation of cell phone radiation'. You will find that most civilized countries around the world regulate not only cell phone use but microwave and TV radiation. These exposure guidelines are especially important for children. The reason we don't have similar regulations is that the companies that manufacture these products have powerful lobbies. Diane Roberts
Bob M August 13, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Mark, having worked with designing and building wireless and cell phone RF (radio frequency/microwave) technology, I can say that if you use your cell phone in conversations a lot, the more time you can get it away from your head the better. Use a speakerphone in the car and a wired headset out of the car. The use of Bluetooth in-ear device is better than simply holding the cellphone to your ear. Bluetooth devices do transmit but at a much lower power because they are designed to cover shorter distances, usually a few feet. The other part of this is your cell phone transmits at varying output levels depending on it's distance from the cell tower, closer in - lower power, further out-more power. The other factor is its need to communicate in poor reception areas, like some homes, buildings and heavy use areas. In these cases your phone may transmit at close to full power just to stay connected. So, find the areas with strongest signal strength when on a call to minimize or reduce the RF coming out of the phone that is right next to your head. Anything you can do to move the phone even a foot away from your head makes a huge difference (hence, the wired headset).
Ashley S. August 13, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Claudia Cruz August 15, 2012 at 03:51 AM
This issue comes up in Mountain View whenever a contractor for a cellphone company wants to put a new tower up somewhere (recently, church steeples appear to be quite popular because they are less intrusive). While most are against the tower for health reasons (an issue that the city council doesn't go near because the City Attorney tells them they can't), other during public comment raise the fact that people in Silicon Valley (mainly, but not exclusively) work and benefit from the cell phone industry. It makes sense considering that Google's Android is in Mountain View and Apple execs live and work in the area too. I think at the end of the day, the discussion should boil down to how much do we need to be connected all the time. The more cell phone towers we have, the faster the connectivity i.e. productivity. Isn't that what drives American innovation? I know many advocate "unplugging," but is that even possible?


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