San Francisco – where composting is compulsory and plastic bags are banned – has passed the first law in the US requiring retailers to display the amount of radiation given off by mobile phones.
The city’s mayor, Gavin Newsom, hailed the law as a victory for the public’s right to know what their mobile phones are doing to them even though some critics say there is no significant scientific evidence that they are hazardous to health.
The city council, known as the board of supervisors, voted 10-1 in favor of the law, which requires retailers to place information on the amount of radio waves absorbed by a mobile phone user’s body next to each device to allow shoppers to choose between them.
“This is about helping people make informed choices,” said Sophie Maxwell, chief sponsor of the legislation.
But the industry says that information may lead consumers to wrongly believe that there are proven dangers from using mobile phones.
“Rather than inform, the ordinance will potentially mislead consumers with point-of-sale requirements suggesting that some phones are ‘safer’ than others, based on radio frequency emissions,” said John Walls, vice president of public affairs for the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association. “In fact, all phones sold legally in the US must comply with the Federal Communication Commission’s safety standards for emissions.”
A similar measure proposed in the California legislature this year was killed off amid heavy lobbying by the mobile phone industry. A law in Maine to require health warning labels on mobiles, similar to those on cigarette packets, also failed this year in part because the impact on health of sustained use of mobile phones remains a matter of scientific debate.
The mayor’s spokesman, Tony Winnicker, said that the law was not designed to discourage the use of mobile phones but to make information that is already published by regulatory authorities more readily available. “This is not about telling people not to use cellphones,” he said. “Nobody loves his iPhone more than Mayor Newsom.”
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