“Right to Know” law is ignorant

The Berkeley City Council late Tuesday voted unanimously to require retailers to warn customers of possible radiation exposure when purchasing cell phones.

Source: Berkeley Approves “Right to Know” Cell Phone Radiation Warning Ordinance | NBC Bay Area

The Berkeley City Council late Tuesday voted unanimously to require retailers to warn customers of possible radiation exposure when purchasing cell phones.

The so-called “right to know ordinance” is expected to be challenged by a lawsuit from the cell phone industry.

Ellie Marks with the California Brain Tumor Association wants everyone to think about where they hold their cell phone.

Marks, who believes a cell phone caused her husband to have a brain tumor, has spent years fight for cell phone radiation “right to know” legislation.

Question ONE: Where is the evidence to support this? Is a LAW needed?

There is no convincing data to link cell phone use and brain cancer. This has been studied and discussed extensively. Keeping a cell phone on and on you for 12 hours a day likely does not contribute to cancer but if that is your lifestyle, other unhealthy factors may be at play.

It’s fine to tell consumers that you MAY exceed the federal recommended limit for exposure but that does not equate to “this will cause cancer” and the bill is misleading in its intent. Will there be a similar warning for consuming red meat, being outside in the sun, sitting in front of your computer monitor? This is a terrible law with faulty reasoning and indeed does appear to place an unfair blame on the devices for a complicated outcome.

Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig (you may recognize him, he’s no slouch) is promising to defend the City of Berkeley free of charge if the cell phone industry files a lawsuit. That’s unfortunate, since it deserves litigation. We don’t need nonsense laws based on speculation.

The current consensus is that the weak non-ionizing radition emitted from cell phones does not constitute a health threat. It’s been rather thoroughly examined and critiqued. Proponents of the scaring tactic included Dr. Oz and apparently people who supported this law who think that you should warn people because of their fears. Not valid.

The “right to know” law means a right to be mislead and possibly misinformed. Ironic and dumb. If you are afraid of your cell phone, don’t pin it to your head talking too much. It impedes your ability to connect with the people and environment around you and your reaction time. (Why isn’t that a warning?) But it isn’t the cause of tumors from what science can tell.

Tip: Ben Bradley

  7 comments for ““Right to Know” law is ignorant

  1. Craig
    May 17, 2015 at 5:03 PM

    You’d think with the prevalence of cell phones…the cancer and tumor rates would be off the charts.

  2. David H
    May 17, 2015 at 6:13 PM

    Well, we are talking about Berkeley.
    When I lived there about 20 years ago, the city was a declared nuclear free zone.


  3. One Eyed Jack
    May 17, 2015 at 7:17 PM

    Considering the prevalence of texting, why aren’t we seeing a surge in tumors on hands? People text, surf, FB, tweet, snapchat, etc. more than they talk.

  4. May 18, 2015 at 1:53 AM

    Well, according to the Guardian, at least the required notice is fairly benign in that it doesn’t mention cancer or anything.

    “‘To assure safety, the Federal Government requires that cell phones meet radio frequency (RF) exposure guidelines,’ it reads. ‘If you carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra when the phone is ON and connected to a wireless network, you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure to RF radiation. This potential risk is greater for children. Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for information about how to use your phone safely.'”


  5. One Eyed Jack
    May 18, 2015 at 9:55 AM

    No, that is not benign. It implies there is a danger, which there is not.

  6. May 18, 2015 at 12:54 PM

    If the Guardian report is accurate this law only says that the already required federal warning be more prominently displayed. If that’s really all it does it seems pretty benign to me.

    Most of the reputable sites I checked regarding the issue, the Mayo Clinic, the American Cancer Society and others all note that there doesn’t appear to be any convincing link or plausible mechanism that could result in cancer. However, they all also note that the question of other possible health effects isn’t yet completely settled. For example, the National Cancer Institute says, “The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) states that the weight of the current scientific evidence has not conclusively linked cell phone use with any adverse health problems, but more research is needed.” The Mayo Clinic even says,” The possible connection between cellphones and cancer is controversial. Many years’ worth of studies on cellphones and cancer have yielded conflicting results.”

    More conclusive studies are underway.


  7. Niall Forrester
    May 21, 2015 at 11:54 AM

    Interesting that this is basically a warning telling you not to ignore other warnings that are already present in the documentation and packaging of the devices. As far as I can see, there is nothing controversial in the statement

    “If you carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra when the phone is ON and connected to a wireless network, you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure to RF radiation.”

    This is definitely true, it just means that if you do not follow the guidelines provided with your phone, then there is some risk that you will be exposed to more RF radiation than if you do follow those guidelines. Whether that possible additional exposure has any significant effect is a whole other question.

    For example, here is a typical example of included information from the iPhone 6 (http://www.apple.com/legal/rfexposure/iphone7,2/en/):

    “To reduce exposure to RF energy, use a hands-free option, such as the built-in speakerphone, the supplied headphones, or other similar accessories. Carry iPhone at least 5mm away from your body to ensure exposure levels remain at or below the as-tested levels. ”

    Or from the Samsung Galaxy S6

    “For body-worn operation, this device has been tested and meets FCC RF exposure guidelines when used with an accessory that contains no metal and that positions the mobile device a minimum of 1.5 cm from the body”

    So sure, ‘in your bra’ would be closer than 1.5cm or even 5mm. Now these distances could be argued to be a bit arbitrary, and SAR levels are very dependent on distance from the body, but on the other hand, the SAR values given for any particular phone represent a fairly specific ‘worst case scenario’ for that phone that you would not necessarily encounter in reality.

    No doubt some owners do not read the safety information anyway. I wonder whether the “Right to Know” law will have any effect whatsoever on people’s behaviour.

    (Disclaimer / Disclosure of Interest – I have previously worked in the Mobile Communications industry and now work in an independent lab measuring SAR levels, so I have some knowledge of SAR measurement and requirements. I have no qualifications to comment on whether particular exposure levels are dangerous or not however – I usually point to e.g. W.H.O. statements on this topic: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs193/en/)

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