• 25 JUL 10
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    1284: CTIA Sues San Francisco Over Cell Phone Radiation Labeling Law

    (NOTE: See previous message # 1269: San Francisco 1st City to Require Warnings of Cell Phone Radiation Risk at Point of Sale)

    San Francisco’s controversial cell phone radiation labeling law took a hit Friday when CTIA, which represents the wireless industry, filed suit against the city, arguing that officials had no right to hand down regulations on an issue already addressed by the Federal Communications Commission.

    “The FCC has determined that all wireless phones legally sold in the United States are ‘safe,'” John Walls, president of CTIA public affairs, said in a statement. “In contrast, the message conveyed by the San Francisco ordinance to consumers is that the FCC’s standards are insufficient and that the safety of an FCC-authorized wireless device depends on its [specific absorption rate] SAR level.”

    In June, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a bill that would require cell phone vendors to disclose how much radiation their devices emit. Mayor Gavin Newsom signed it into law earlier this month.

    When the legislation was introduced in January, Newsom acknowledged that cell phone manufacturers provide their radiation levels to the federal government, but argued that that data should be more easily accessible to the consumer.

    The bill might also “encourage telephone manufacturers to redesign their devices to function at lower radiation levels,” Newsom said at the time.

    CTIA argued that SAR data is publicly available on various Web sites and in a phone’s user manual. “CTIA’s objection to the ordinance is that displaying a phone’s SAR value at the point-of-sale suggests to the consumer that there is a meaningful safety distinction between FCC-compliant devices with different SAR levels,” Walls said.

    San Francisco lawmakers are essentially telling customers that the FCC’s standards are insufficient and that the safety of a cell phone depends on its SAR level, Walls continued.

    “Therefore, the ordinance contradicts the thorough review of the science by the FCC, FDA and other U.S. and international expert agencies, and will send consumers the false message that there is a safety difference between wireless devices that comply with the FCC’s stringent standards,” he said.

    Newsom’s office did not immediately respond to a Friday request for comment.

    Specifically, CTIA argued that the San Francisco ordinance unlawfully pre-empts federal law by tackling a subject “reserved exclusively to and occupied exclusively by the federal government.” The Communications Act, CTIA said, prohibits states from imposing conditions on “entry” to the wireless market, including point of sale warning and labeling requirements.

    CTIA wants the California District Court to invalidate the San Francisco law, and hand down an injunction that would prevent the city from enforcing it.

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