The Washington DC-headquartered Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, an organization representing the interests of communications companies including Apple and Google, is attempting to have San Francisco’s Right to Know ordinance overturned on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. The ordinance, passed in 2010, requires cell phone companies to inform consumers that their products pose a possible health risk to consumers. The United States 9th Circuit court of appeals is currently attempting to determine whether the ordinance is preempted by federal law by limiting cell phone companies’ First Amendment rights.
Though no scientific study has proven that cell phones cause cancer, their radio frequency emissions have been classified as potential carcinogens by the World Health Organization. The Council of Europe adopted a resolution recommending that its 47 member nations take precautionary measures and ban all cell phones and Wi-Fi devices from classrooms to prevent any possible health risks to schoolchildren. In June, in contrast, the United States Federal Communications Commission released a statement declaring that cell phones pose no risk to consumers under current emissions guidelines.
Representatives from the city’s district attorney office and the California Brain Tumor Association attended the court hearing in support of the ordinance, which was previously upheld by a Northern District of California court judge in October of last year. Attorneys representing the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association argue the ordinance limits the free speech of cell phone companies.
Last week a United States congressman from Ohio introduced legislation that would require the national government to create a program that would research the possible health risks associated with cell phone use in order to inform the public of any “adverse human biological effects associated with exposure to electromagnetic fields from cell phones and other wireless devices.”
The legislation, if enacted, would also require the Environmental Protection Agency to provide updated guidelines for the maximum Specific Absorption Rate values for cellular phones and other wireless communication devices. The Specific Absorption Rate is the unit of measurement describing how quickly energy is absorbed in the body when exposed to a specific radio frequency electromagnetic field.
In addition, the newly introduced bill would require labels for cellphones that would inform consumers of the device’s radio frequency emissions levels alongside the legally imposed limits and recommended exposure levels to reduce any health risks. In the near future, the United States Congress is expected to request that the Government Accountability Office provide an updated version of its cell phone-safety regulations, last updated in 1996.