SAN FRANCISCO (Oct. 4, 2011)— CTIA, a trade group representing the wireless phone industry, renewed its attack on San Francisco’s effort to inform consumers about the possible health effects of cell phone radiation.
The industry requested a preliminary injunction from United States District Judge William Alsup, to prevent San Francisco’s “Cell Phone Right to Know” Ordinance from taking effect today. The industry alleges that the ordinance is preempted by federal law and violates the First Amendment rights of cell phone retailers. The ordinance, which the San Francisco Board of Supervisors revised in July 2011, requires the San Francisco Department of the Environment to create materials that retailers must provide consumers. These materials inform consumers that the World Health Organization has classified cell phone radiation as a “possible carcinogen,” and advise consumers of the measures they can take to reduce their exposure.
In response to the wireless industry’s actions, City Attorney Dennis Herrera made the following statement:
“I’m disappointed that the wireless industry is so bent on quashing the debate about the health effects of cell phone radiation. And I’m especially troubled that the industry is invoking the First Amendment,” Herrera said. “Freedom of speech is about encouraging the exchange of ideas, not about keeping people in the dark about vital health information. The industry is trivializing the First Amendment by trying to use it for this purpose. Cities like San Francisco have a vital interest in keeping people informed about health issues, and I’m hopeful the court will recognize that.”
The “Cell Phone Right to Know Ordinance” was passed in July 2010 by the Board of Supervisors and required cell phone retailers to disclose the cell phones’ SAR values, a measurement of the maximum amount of radiation a phone is capable of emitting, not a measurement of the actual amount of radiation the phone will emit in everyday use, at the point of sale. CTIA immediately sued in federal court, alleging the ordinance is preempted by federal law. In January 2011, CTIA amended its lawsuit to add a First Amendment claim, asserting that the retailers were being required to provide misleading information to consumers. The amended ordinance removes the SAR disclosure requirement, but strengthens the other disclosure requirements. It now requires that every purchaser of a cell phone receive a factsheet that informs them of the potential health issues with cell phone use and informs them of measures they can take to reduce their exposure. The ordinance also requires that the retailers put up a poster, and place a label on any display materials.
A response from the City Attorney’s Office to the CTIA’s preliminary injunction motion is due on Friday, October 7, 2011. A hearing will take place on Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 8:00 a.m. in Judge Alsup’s courtroom, in the federal building at 450 Golden Gate Ave, 19th floor.
PDF copy of the Cell Phone Right to Know Ordinance(July 11, 2011)
PDF copy of the City’s fact sheet
PDF copy of City’s informational poster
PDF copy of complaint filed by CTIA (October 4, 2011)
PDF copy of the preliminary injunction motion filed by CTIA (October 4, 2011)
PDF copy of City’s response, opposition to CITA’s preliminary injunction motion (October 7, 2011)