San Francisco took the initiative to draw a line in the sand by passing the "Cell Phone Right-to-Know" law requiring cell phone retailers in San Francisco to include radiation information on the device label. While the intent of the law is understandable, its implementation is misguided and the net result won't actually provide any benefits for users.
The law is designed to help mobile phone users understand just how much radiation is being beamed into their heads as they walk about conversing on mobile phones. The question is: what are consumers supposed to do with that information?
While there are conspiracy theories and circumstantial evidence of health issues caused by prolonged exposure to cell phone radiation, the reality is that there is no proven connection. Without a direct, verifiable link between mobile phone radiation and health consequences, and some sort of consensus on how much is normal, or how much is too much, the numbers displayed by mobile phone retailers have no real meaning.
The CTIA--a group representing the Wireless Association--has filed suit in federal court claiming that the "Cell Phone Right-to-Know" law infringes on the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The suit claims that the San Francisco law is confusing to users and that it conveys the message that FCC standards are not sufficient, and that the safety of a given mobile phone is somehow linked with its radiation information.
In a statement, the CTIA explains, "The FCC has determined that all wireless phones legally sold in the United States are 'safe.' The FCC monitors scientific research on a regular basis, and its standard for RF exposure is based on recommended guidelines adopted by U.S. and international standard-setting bodies. Furthermore, according to the experts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the available scientific evidence shows no known health risk due to the RF energy emitted by cell phones. As the FDA states on its website, '[t]he weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems.'"
That position seems reasonable. If the assumption is that every device approved by the FCC is safe for use, what are users supposed to do when presented with seemingly arbitrary numbers posted on the various handsets? Should everyone just buy the one with the lowest radiation number? How will users know which number is the "right" number, and what are the consequences of choosing a mobile phone with more radiation than another?
I understand that San Francisco feels that there may, in fact, be some connection between the radiation emitted from a mobile phone and potential long-term health consequences, and that it feels it has some obligation to ensure full disclosure on the part of retailers and manufacturers to protect users. However, in the absence of any guidelines or consensus on what to do with the information provided, the misguided law will just confuse shoppers.