City to consider posting cell phone radiation information on its website

Kevin Foote/Staff
A woman uses her cell phone as she walks down Bancroft Way. Berkeley City Council will consider a resolution that would post online info regarding cell phone radiation.

Berkeley City Council will consider at its meeting Tuesday a resolution that would post information regarding cell phone radiation on the city’s Public Health Division’s website.

If approved, the recommendation — from the city’s Community Health Commission — would link to information from the World Health Organization and other reputable sources on the division’s website, according to the resolution.

The resolution states that posting the information is an opportunity to provide information to residents to protect their health from cell phone radiation, which was declared a possible human carcinogen by WHO earlier this year.

“It’s a disservice to society at large to argue against the need for precautionary health warnings,” said Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.

The decision to link to the information is at the discretion of health officer Janet Berreman, according to city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross.

This is not the city’s first time approaching the idea of providing residents with information regarding radiation. According to Brian McDonald, chair of the city’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission, the commission looked into the matter in April and May, but decided to not pursue it further until lawsuits were settled with CTIA-The Wireless Association and the city of San Francisco — which passed “Right to Know” legislation last July that requires businesses to provide safety information about radiation before customers purchase cell phones.

Moskowitz said most cell phone companies do provide warnings about radiation exposure in each phone’s manual, but those warnings tend to be “in very fine print, in obtuse language, or you have to download the manual from a website.”

According to the resolution, the City Council has pursued legislation modeled after Right to Know, and providing information on the health division’s website is part of the city’s pivotal role “due to the potentially adverse health effects from inaction.”

Moskowitz said that though evidence regarding possibly carcinogenic cell phone radiation is not yet conclusive, there is “highly suggestive evidence” that cell phone users should take precautions to reduce potential harm.

“The cell phone industry does a lot of double speak around the whole issue, and a lot of cell phone companies think that if radiation emissions are below the legal limit, there’s not a problem,” Moskowitz said. “I think it’s unfortunate because a lot of people will suffer needlessly.”