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Wireless group sues San Francisco over cellphone ordinance

The wireless industry's biggest trade group said Friday that it has sued the city of San Francisco for its recent ordinance requiring retailers to display the radiation levels emitted from cellphones.

In its suit, filed in U.S. District Court of San Francisco, CTIA seeks to block enforcement of the city's “Cell Phone Right-to-Know” ordinance. CTIA argues that the ordinance goes against Federal Communications Commission standards that they say ensure the safety of phones.

Scientists and public advocacy groups, however, have questioned the limits by the FCC on how much radiation can be absorbed by body tissue. They say the rules, put into place in 1997, are outdated and geared toward adult males.

CTIA represents the industry's biggest wireless carriers and handset manufacturers, including Verizon, AT&T, Motorola and Apple. The group said the ordinance causes confusion and misleads consumers into thinking some phones are safer than others.

"CTIA’s objection to the ordinance is that displaying a phone’s [specific absorption rate] 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," said John Walls, a spokesman for the group.

“The FCC has determined that all wireless phones legally sold in the United States are ‘safe,’ '' he said.

San Francisco mayor, Gavin Newsom, said the ordinace wasn't an attack on the cell phone industry but was an effort to better inform consumers with more data upon purchase of a device.

"This is a modest, common-sense measure which merely takes information already made available by these companies and makes it more accessible and easier to find by the point-of-sale consumer," Newsom said in a statement. "I’m surprised these industry representatives would choose to spend untold sums of money fighting this in courtrooms instead of cooperatively working with our city and county to comply with a reasonable law providing greater transparency and information without putting undue burdens on small businesses or discouraging cell phone use in any way.”

After San Francisco approved the ordinance, introduced by Newsom, CTIA said it would no longer consider the city as a host for its annual fall convention.

The local law comes amid growing concern that heavy users and children may be more prone to health problems from radiation emitted from cellphones. There is no conclusive scientific evidence that cellphone use can lead to gene mutation and brain cancer. But some scientists have argued that long-term users and young people -- because of their thinner skulls -- are more at risk.

One cellphone safety advocacy group recently sent letters to the FCC and Food and Drug Administration asking the agencies to review their oversight of cellphone radiation levels to see if rules and standards need to be updated. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Minn.) said he will introduce a U.S. House bill that would create a federal program for more cellphone health research, a warning label for phones and better regulatory oversight of cellphone health standards.

The cellphone industry has fought strongly against the San Francisco legislation and similar efforts in Maine and the California state legislature. San Francisco last month became the first jurisdiction to implement a rule warning users of cellphone radiation rates.

By Cecilia Kang  |  July 23, 2010; 4:31 PM ET
Categories:  AT&T , Apple , Consumers , FCC , Sprint Nextel , T-Mobile , Verizon  
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It's easier to sue than simply putting a label on the product?

Posted by: Weave160 | July 23, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

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