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SF Law Puts Cellphone Radiation Info Front and Center

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has voted 10-1 to approve a law requiring cellphone retailers and vendors to post how much radiation their devices emit. The measure calls upon stores to display the “specific absorption rates” next to the devices.

SAR — that is, the amount of radio frequency energy absorbed by the body when using a wireless phone — is a standard specified by the Federal Communications Commission. Levels can vary, from 0.3 to the legal limit of 1.6, as measured in watts per kilogram of body weight.

Noncompliance with the measure — assuming it is signed into law by Mayor Gavin Newsom, who was an early proponent — could lead to fines of US$100 to $300.

This law would be a first for a U.S. city, said Alex Formuzis, director of communications for the Environmental Working Group, which releases studies every year on the various levels of radiation emitted by cellphones.

The organization hopes that the San Francisco law will highlight this issue for consumers — as well as lead device manufacturers to build lower-emitting phones.

“Having this information available at the point of sale will be a tremendous educational tool,” Formuzis told the E-Commerce Times.

Customer Confusion?

The wireless industry lobbied against the measure, arguing it would confuse consumers.

“It suggests that some phones are safer than others, which is contrary to the FCC standard,” John Walls, VP of public affairs for CTIA, told the E-Commerce Times.

“All devices have to comply with FCC safety standards, and studies show that one compliant phone is not ‘safer’ than another,” Walls insisted.

That, however, is exactly what the EWG maintains.

Good List

“The spectrum of the radiation these devices emits is all over the board with some producing very high levels and others very little,” said Formuzi.

The organization produces a list of cellphones, ranked by the levels of radiation they emit.

EWG points to studies that suggest high levels of cellphone emissions lead to higher risks for brain and salivary gland tumors among people using cellphones for 10 years or longer.

For example, people who used cellphones for more than 10 years had a significantly increased risk of developing glioma, a usually malignant brain tumor, on the side of the head they had favored for cellphone conversations, researchers in Europe found.

Long-term cellphone users were 10 to 20 percent more likely to be hospitalized for migraines and vertigo than people who had taken up cellphones more recently, concluded a study of 420,095 Danish adults.

The 10 best phones for 2010, according to EWG:

  1. Sanyo Katana II [Kajeet]
  2. Samsung Rugby (SGH-a837) [AT&T]
  3. Samsung Memoir (SGH-T929) [T-Mobile]
  4. Samsung I8000 Omnia II [Verizon Wireless]
  5. Samsung SGH-t229 [T-Mobile]
  6. Helio Pantech Ocean [Virgin Mobile]
  7. Sony Ericsson W518a Walkman [AT&T]
  8. Samsung SGH-a137 [AT&T, AT&T GoPhone]
  9. LG Shine II [AT&T]
  10. LG CF360 [AT&T, AT&T GoPhone]

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