Berkeley Passed Measure Regarding Cell Phone Health Risks

According to the New York Times, Berkeley is the frontrunner of labeling phones with warnings for potential health risks.

The city passed a measure requiring cellphone stores to warn customers that the products could be hazardous to their health.  They are under the presumption that phones emit dangerous levels of cancer because of the radiation.  I agree and have been warning patient for years.  Just because there isn’t tons of evidence out there about brain cancer regarding phones, it seems odd to me why the rate of brain cancer is going up each year.  There must be a correlation.

The “Right to Know ordinance”, passed unanimously in May by the Berkeley City Council.  Retailers are supposed to notify customers, starting in August of 2015, that “you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure” to radio frequency radiation by carrying a cellphone in a pants or shirt pocket, or tucked into a bra. The potential risk, the warning continues, “is greater for children.”

“We want to raise awareness,” said Ellie Marks, the founder of the California Brain Tumor Association. Ms. Marks does not live in Berkeley but brought her case here because, she said, “Berkeley has a reputation for taking progressive action.” She said she is convinced that her husband, Alan, a real estate agent, contracted brain cancer at age 56 from often having a cellphone pressed to his ear.

Not surprisingly, just like the tobacco companies who knew of the hazardous chemicals in their cigarettes, the cellphone industry is not allowing this measure to go unchallenged. A few weeks after the law passed a trade group, filed a First Amendment lawsuit against Berkeley, charging that retailers cannot be forced to say something that is “false.” Well, if it is not proven false then that statement is unwarranted in my opinion.  A hearing is set for Aug. 6 in federal court in San Francisco, and the ordinance will not go into effect until the matter is settled.  We will see how this progresses.

Berkeley has a habit of passing first-in-the-nation laws that seem radical but are promptly copied by other municipalities. The city has led the way on a variety of initiatives creating smoking bans, a sanctuary for immigrants in the country illegally, a Styrofoam ban and health benefits for domestic partners. So if Berkeley succeeds in its fight to warn people about cellphones, can Cambridge, Mass., and other cities be far behind?

“If you can get it passed in Berkeley, you have a beginning,” said Susan Wengraf, a City Council member. “If you can’t, forget it, or come back three years later.”

When interviewing people from Berkeley, reviews for the ordinance were mixed. “Labeling things that have a potential threat is always good,” said Benjamin Fahrer, a farmer who said he creates “urban agriculture on rooftops.” He likened the new law to notifying the public about secondhand smoke and GMOs.

While another interviewee, Bill Doran, who had his cellphone out while waiting in line for ice cream, said, “I’m a little skeptical about cellphones causing harm.”

Even though this is controversial, a Berkeley City Council member who helped write the legislation, Max Anderson, said he had spoke to his colleagues in May to pass the ordinance on ethical grounds. “Even if the science isn’t firm, if there’s a risk, we should proceed with caution,” he said.  Again, I agree.  At least say there may be a risk and let each person decide for themselves about the exposure.