| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO May 8 San Francisco city leaders,
after losing a key round in court against the cell phone
industry, have agreed to revoke an ordinance that would have
been the first in the United States to require retailers to warn
consumers about potentially dangerous radiation levels.
In a move watched by other U.S. states and cities
considering similar measures, the city Board of Supervisors
voted on Tuesday to settle a lawsuit with the Cellular
Telecommunications Industry Association by accepting a permanent
injunction against the right-to-know cell phone ordinance.
The group had alleged the law violated its free-speech
rights, and the settlement marked a victory for the industry as
the Federal Communications Commission considers a reassessment
of safe radiation exposure limits adopted in 1996.
"This is just a terrible blow to public health," Ellen
Marks, an advocate for the measure, said outside the
supervisors' chambers. She said her husband suffers from a brain
tumor on the same side of his head to which he most often held
his mobile phone.
The industry association has asserted the San Francisco
ordinance, if put into effect, would mislead consumers about the
relative risks posed by cell phones, contrary to the FCC's
determination that all wireless phones legally sold in the
Unites States are safe.
The group's members include some of the nation's largest
cell phone carriers and manufacturers, including Verizon
Wireless, AT&T, Samsung and Apple.
Deputy City Attorney Vince Chhabria said a federal appeals
court decision last year upholding a preliminary injunction
against the measure signaled that trying to win the case at
trial would be a long shot. If the city lost, a judge could have
awarded the industry group as much as $500,000 in attorneys'
fees, he said.
The 2011 ordinance mandated warnings that cellular phones,
including smartphone devices, emit potentially cancer-causing
radiation. The statute, which a judge blocked before it took
effect, also would have required retailers of the devices to
post notices stating that World Health Organization cancer
experts have deemed mobile phones "possibly carcinogenic."
Supervisor David Campos reluctantly supported the
settlement. "I think the legal reality is that if we don't
approve the settlement, we're talking about having to pay
$500,000 in legal fees," he said.
Chhabria said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling
had left San Francisco in the position of having to prove that
scientists concurred about the hazards of cell phones and that
the FCC no longer believes they are safe.
Despite mounting evidence the phones may cause brain tumors,
scientists disagree and are hesitant to draw conclusions.
Dr. Gabriel Zada, a neurosurgery professor at the University
of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, found in a
2012 study that the age-adjusted incidence of malignant tumors
in the parts of the brain closest to where people hold their
phones rose significantly from 1992 and 2006 in California. But
Zada told Reuters he could not draw any conclusions about the
dangers of cell phones from his findings.
The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research
organization, had pushed for San Francisco's right-to-know law.
"If the nation's experience with tobacco taught us anything,
it is that it is dangerous to wait until there is scientific
consensus about a potential health threat before providing
consumers with information on how they can protect themselves,"
said Renee Sharp, the group's research director.
Mobile phones are tested to ensure their emissions fall
within FCC limits considered safe. The limits, however, fail to
reflect the latest research or actual conditions under which
mobile phones are used, liked being held in a pocket directly
against the body while talking through an earpiece, according to
a Government Accountability Office report.
The FCC last month agreed to consider revising its