Berkeley to implement radiation warning in all city cellphone retailers

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Rachael Garner/File

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A U.S. district judge authorized a disputed city ordinance — which requires cellphone retailers to post a warning against cellphone radiation in their store — to go into effect in Berkeley this past Wednesday.

The warning, which can be no less than 5-by-8 inches, notifies customers of the risk of a powered-on, wireless cellphone releasing radio frequency exposure that may exceed federal guidelines.
Berkeley City Council passed the original ordinance in May 2015, which ignited a lawsuit between the city and CTIA–The Wireless Association, a nonprofit organization representing the wireless communications industry.

By allowing the law to go into effect, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen rejected the CTIA’s request for the ordinance to be stalled during legal proceedings.

In an email, the CTIA stated that it will be appealing Chen’s ruling, which it believes “dramatically weakens First Amendment protections,” hinging the majority of its argument on the fact that the Ninth Circuit previously invalidated a similar cellphone ordinance in San Francisco.

“The overwhelming scientific evidence refutes Berkeley’s ill-informed and misleading mandatory warnings about cellphones, according to the (Federal Communications Commission) and other experts. With these realities on our side, we are confident that we will prevail in our appeal,” a CTIA spokesperson said in an email.

Some, however, disagree with the CTIA’s claim that scientific evidence does not back up reports that radio frequencies can do extensive damage to the human body.

Joel Moskowitz, director of the campus Center for Family and Community Health, said the current regulations from the Federal Communications Commission on health notices regarding radio frequencies are outdated.

Moskowitz has studied the effect of radio frequencies on human health since 2009 and has read hundreds of studies showing compelling evidence that low-intensity thermal exposures to radio frequencies are harmful to various systems in the body.

“This could become the most wide-sweeping problem worldwide, but it often is not defiling because it can be reduced by limiting exposure to cellphone use,” Moskowitz said.

Berkeley will be one of the first cities in the country to pass such a law. Other countries, however, such as Israel, have been researching the negative effects of radio frequencies for years.

The Israeli Ministry of Health indicated in a 2014 report based on previous research findings that a link has existed between cellphone use for more than a decade and the development of tumors in the salivary glands.

In light of scientific findings, some businesses believe posting the warning is necessary in order to inform consumers.

Nibun Eagmani, a sales representative from the University Avenue branch of MetroPCS, likened the warning about radio frequencies to the precautions printed on cigarette cartons.

“I don’t think (the ordinance) is going to impact our business,” Eagmani said. “People will buy what they want to buy, even if they know it’s bad for (them).”

Brenna Smith covers business and the economy. Contact her at [email protected].