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Hearing Today on Lawsuit to Ban Cell-Phone Safety Advisories

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The cellular industry claims that an ordinance requiring a sign such as this at the point-of-sale about safety is a violation of the manufacturer's First Amendment rights. (Zachary Marks)
The cellular industry claims that an ordinance requiring a sign such as this at the point-of-sale about safety is a violation of the manufacturer's First Amendment rights. (Zachary Marks)
 By Suzanne Potter - Producer, Contact
July 22, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO -- Should cities be able to require a flyer at the point of sale advising people of cell-phone safety guidelines? That's the crux of a lawsuit that goes before a federal judge in San Francisco tomorrow, pitting the cell-phone industry against the city of Berkeley.

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association says the flyers are a violation of cell-phone manufacturers' free speech rights, though the information - that phones can exceed RF radiation guidelines if held too close to the body - is already in user manuals, normally buried in the fine print.

Ellie Marks, executive director of the California Brain Tumor Association, said she's disgusted that the Federal Communications Commission has sided with the CTIA.

"So we're dealing with intensive collusion between the FCC and the wireless industry to hide the truth from the American public that cell phones are not the safe device consumers are led to believe," Marks said. "And the public should be outraged that this is happening."

The lead attorney for the FCC, Thomas Johnson, used to work for the same firm that now represents the CTIA. The FCC has weighed in, saying user manuals provide consumers with sufficient information about cell-phone safety, and the ordinance risks "over-warning" and misleading consumers into believing that cell phones are unsafe.

A 2018 study by the National Toxicology Program found that cell-phone radiation can cause brain tumors in rats. Marks said people should store their phones away from their bodies and turn them off at night.

"People should not keep them on while they're on their body - not in a pocket, not in a bra," she said. "And they should just take simple precautions: Use the speakerphone, use a wired headset and don't hold it to your head or body while it is on. "

The CTIA filed the suit five years ago and fought it all the way to the Supreme Court - twice - and lost.

Disclosure: California Brain Tumor Association contributes to our fund for reporting on Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Toxics. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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