Wireless industry group sues Berkeley over cellphone radiation ordinance

Rachael Garner/Staff

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A city ordinance requiring cellphone retailers to provide a warning to customers about radiation exposure faces a legal battle less than a month after its passage.

CTIA ­– The Wireless Association, a nonprofit organization representing the wireless communications industry, has filed a lawsuit against the city of Berkeley, stating the ordinance violates CTIA members’ First Amendment rights. According to CTIA, many global health groups — such as the World Health Organization, or WHO — have not concluded that cellphone radiofrequency poses a health risk to consumers.

“It is unconstitutional to force cellphone retailers to communicate false, misleading and inflammatory information about their products,” said Theodore Olson, an attorney representing CTIA, in a statement.

Berkeley City Council passed the ordinance in May after working on it since 2011. Consulting with Lawrence Lessig, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, the city drafted the ordinance so that it would avoid the fate of a similar “right to know” ordinance in San Francisco, which was withdrawn by the city’s Board of Supervisors in 2013.

According to Joel Moskowitz, director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Family and Community Health, Lessig helped draft the ordinance in a way that sticks closely to the language that cellphone manufacturers use in their consumer disclosure statements.

“The language (is) basically from the manufacturers themselves,” said Councilmember Max Anderson, who spearheaded the ordinance. “So they should be suing themselves.”

But CTIA argues in its formal complaint that the language of the Berkeley ordinance is still “misleading” and “alarmist,” citing the Federal Communications Commission’s online statement that there “is no scientific evidence that proves that wireless phone usage can lead to cancer or a variety of other problems.”

Both the federal government and the WHO, however, are continuing to look into the possible health effects of radiofrequency exposure, which is why many supporters of the Berkeley ordinance believe a retailer-provided notice benefits consumers.

“(The notice) just says, to assure safety, the federal government requires that cellphones meet radiofrequency exposure guidelines,” Moskowitz said. “That’s not debatable.”

As of Monday, the city had not yet been served with legal papers, according to Berkeleyside. But Anderson said he is sure they will be coming soon, and when they do, Lessig — who had expected the ordinance to be challenged by cellphone manufacturers — will assist the city in its fight to maintain the ordinance.

“(Lessig) agreed to assemble a team of lawyers from Harvard Law to pro bono defend this ordinance,” Anderson said. “We will continue to implement this ordinance unless legally blocked by the courts.”

The ordinance is set to go into effect June 25.

Contact Andrea Platten at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @andreaplatonic.

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  • 4CRPG

    FIVE facts about your new smart meter.
    #1 It generates enough radiation in your home to have a warning from the FCC. RADIATION Implanted medical device interferrence.
    #2 It send enough information about the homeowners private life, that the US Congress is concerned. PRIVACY
    #3 The smart meter measure very accurately. So accurately, they can measure all of the crap on the power line that shouldn’t be there and bill the customer for that crap.
    #4 It does not have any built in thermal protection. If the smart meters maximum power rating of 48KW’s is exceeded, you have FIRES.
    #5 The smart meter radiation is so powerful, they trip AFCI and GFI breakers in your electrical panel.

  • Steve Berman

    I use an air tube headset it blocks radiation and sounds awesome as well…great gadget!!

  • Mark Talmont

    I thought the docs that come with the Iphone already said don’t hold it closer than 10 mm from your body.

    Not so sure this is all settled just yet. I believe the Swedes just went 180 on WiFi in classrooms and have ordered all the elementaries to use strictly wired connections only.

    If it turns out the risks were more than people realize it wouldn’t be the first time. Once the “scientific consensus” was slobbering acceptance of whatever the nuclear industry said and the AEC chairman went around promising “electricity too cheap to meter”. Later UC Berkeley’s own Dr. John Gofman co-authored “Poisoned Power” and changed the situation considerably, years before any prominent actual meltdowns validated his concerns.

    I would like to see somebody from the CTIA or one of the outspoken “skeptics” (like economics lecturer Michael Shermer) volunteer for a little experiment. They can park their head close between a couple N routers while they sleep. No problem?

  • Biron_1

    This law was instigated by Drs. Devra Davis and Joel Moskowitz. Their respective PhDs are in psychology and philosophy thus they are not scientists.

    The presumptuous Lessig has offered to defend this law pro-bono and seems to be itching for a fight with Anderson along for the ride.

    I hope the CTIA gives Anderson and Lessig their comeuppance. Unlike San Francisco, I would like to see the CTIA pull out all the stops and sue the city for legal fees and any other damages.

    • 4CRPG

      Derek Ward says “What is the distance to compliance for an AMI7 transmitter?” Care to answer Biron_1????

  • Good for them.