California Court Won’t Give Cellphone Retailers Break on Health Warnings

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Berkeley spearheads a move to alert consumers to the potential health hazards of cell phones with this law, and holds off an industry effort to fight back -- for now.

Do cellphones pose a health threat to their owners? The jury is out, but a city ordinance passed in Berkeley, California, requires cellphone retailers to warn customers about the risk from radiation emitted by the devices — and a court ruling means that ordinance will stand for now, despite objections from the cellphone industry, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Under the ordinance, retailers must post warnings that carrying phones too close to a person’s body – such as in a pocket or bra – may expose the person to radiation levels in excess of federal guidelines.

A cellphone industry group had sought to stay implementation of the ordinance while it appeals the January ruling of a federal judge that allowed it to go into effect.

CTIA — The Wireless Association had argued to the judge that the ordinance conveys a message that is “inaccurate, misleading, and controversial.” The group said it violates retailers’ free speech rights to be required to say something with which they disagree.

The judge dismissed that argument, saying the group was still free to criticize the policy, and allowed the ordinance to take effect in January. The Berkeley City Council amended the ordinance a bit, however, after the judge expressed concern that a reference to greater risks for children was not supported by science. 

CTIA appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, but its request for a stay of the ordinance during the appeal was rejected 2-1 by that panel on March 23.

Do you have concerns about the health effects of your phone or other electronic devices? Share with us in comments or on our Facebook page.

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