Wednesday, July 22, 2015

New York Times article on Berkeley cellphone ordinance puts the Times on same side as industry at forefront of radiation debate

Critical responses to NY Times article:

July 27, 2015

Paul Brodeur, a former staff writer for The New Yorker who has published numerous books on occupational and environmental health hazards, posted an article today on the Huffington Post entitled, "Leave It to the New York Times."

Mr Brodeur cites the recent article in the New York Times by Carol Pogash as the most recent example of the newspaper's long-standing bias in its reporting about the health effects of exposure to low-intensity microwave radiation from cell phones and other wireless devices.

July 25, 2015

Mitchell Shapiro of the Quello Center at Michigan State University posted a commentary that criticizes the New York Times' coverage of the Berkeley cell phone "right to know" ordinance, "NYT Buries Lead, Muddies Water on EMF Health Issue." 

He also sent a message to Margaret Sullivan, the Public Editor at the New York Times, in which he recommends that the author of the article, Carol Pogash, needs to review the research on EMF health impacts.

July 24, 2015

Following is a letter from Drs. Lennart Hardell and Michael Carlberg to the New York Times. Drs. Hardell and Carlberg arguably are the leading epidemiologists in the world who study brain tumor risk from wireless phone use.

I wrote the earlier posts below (July 21-22).

Ms. Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor                                       July 24, 2015

Ms. Carol Pogash, Reporter

The New York Times

Regarding: Cellphone Ordinance Puts Berkeley at Forefront of Radiation Debate
Published online July 21, 2015

Dear Ms. Sullivan and Ms. Pogash,

We have read this article in the New York Times with interest. However, there are several mistakes, and even wrong statements, on the health hazards from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) from cell phones in the article. In the following we want to correct some of the false statements.

The brain is the primary target organ for exposure to RF-EMF during the use of the handheld wireless phone. This has given concern of an increased risk for brain tumours. The carcinogenic effect of RF-EMF on humans was evaluated at a meeting during 24 – 31 May 2011 at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) at WHO in Lyon, France. One of us (LH) was part of the expert group. The Working Group categorised RF-EMF from mobile phones, and from other devices that emit similar non-ionising electromagnetic fields in the frequency range 30 kHz–300 GHz, as a Group 2B, i.e. a possible, human carcinogen (

Since then more studies have been published that strengthen the association between use of  wireless phones (mobile and cordless phones) and increased risk for brain tumours. We have performed long-term research in this area and in the following we give a short up-dated summary of our findings based on research since the 1990’s. In our publications relevant information can be found also on other studies, as well as discussions of the current scientific evidence.
Glioma is a malignant brain tumour (“brain cancer”), and the most common type is glioblastoma multiforme with a poor prognosis. We have published a statistically significant increased risk for glioma among users of both mobile and cordless phones. The risk increased with latency (time from first use of the phone) and cumulative number of hours for use. Highest risk was found in the area of the brain with highest exposure to RF-EMF. All these results are of biological relevance; that is what would be expected for a causal association. The full paper can be read here:

Menigioma is mostly a benign brain tumour and accounts for about 30 % of all intracranial tumours. The incidence is approximately 2-times higher in women than in men. No conclusive evidence of an association between use of mobile and cordless phones and meningioma was found in our study. However, taking the long latency periods that have been reported for the increased meningioma risk associated with exposure to ionizing radiation it is still too early to make a definitive risk assessment. Results for even longer latency periods of wireless phone use than in our study are desirable, see more details here:

Acoustic neuroma:
Acoustic neuroma or Vestibular Schwannoma is a rare benign tumour in the eighth cranial nerve that leads from the inner ear to the brain. It grows slowly and does not undergo malignant transformation, but may give compression of vital brain stem centres. Tinnitus and hearing problems are usual first symptoms of acoustic neuroma. We published a clear, statistically significant, association between use of mobile and cordless phones and acoustic neuroma. The risk increased with time since first use. For use of both mobile and cordless phones the risk was highest in the longest latency group. Tumour volume increased per 100 hours of cumulative use and year of latency for wireless phones indicating tumour progression from RF-EMF. The whole study can be read here:

Brain tumour incidence:
It is not correct to claim that the incidence of brain tumours has not increased in the Scandinavian countries. The age-standardized incidence of brain tumours increased dramatically in Denmark with +41.2 % among men and +46.1 % among women during 2003-2012 ( - dansk/Sundhedsdata og it/NSF/Registre/Cancerregisteret/Cancerregisteret 2012.ashx).

Due to the well-known under-reporting of brain tumours to the Swedish Cancer Registry we studied brain tumour rates using the Swedish National Inpatient Register and the Causes of Death Register. In summary we found a statistically significant increasing rate of not specified brain tumours from 2007 in the Inpatient Register and from 2008 in the Causes of Death Register. Our study indicated that several of these tumours were never reported to the Swedish Cancer Register. Thus, the Swedish Cancer Register data cannot be used to dismiss an increased risk for brain tumours associated with use of wireless phones. On the contrary our study is consistent with an association considering a reasonable tumour induction period, see more here:

Mechanistic aspects:
It is correct that RF-EMFs do not cause direct DNA damage. On the other hand numerous studies have shown generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that can cause oxidative damage of DNA. This is a well-known mechanism in carcinogenesis for many agents. The broad biological potential of ROS and other free radicals makes radiofrequency radiation a potentially hazardous factor for human health, not only cancer risk but also other health effects. A recent update can be read here:

To further evaluate strengths of evidence Bradford Hill wrote in the 1960’s a famous article on association or causation at the height of the tobacco and lung cancer controversy. Hill offered a list of nine aspects of an association to be considered when deciding if an association is causal. However, he did not request all nine viewpoints to be fulfilled for causality. We used the Hill criteria to evaluate the causality on brain tumor risk from RF-EMF emitted from wireless phones. We concluded that based on the Hill criteria, glioma and acoustic neuroma should be considered to be caused by RF-EMF emissions from wireless phones and regarded as carcinogenic to humans, classifying it as Group 1 according to the IARC classification. Current guidelines for exposure need to be urgently revised. See more here:

Our results are in agreement with other studies such as the international Interphone -study and the French so-called CERENAT study. This is discussed in e.g. our article on glioma risk. In summary, there is consistent evidence of increased risk for glioma and acoustic neuroma associated with use of mobile phones and cordless phones. Furthermore, the risk is highest for persons with first use before the age of 20, which is of special concern. Our conclusion is that RF-EMF should be regarded as a human carcinogen. The IARC classification should be updated to at least Group 2A, a probable human carcinogen. It is necessary to give the public correct information on the cancer risk. The precautionary principle should be used to minimize exposure to RF-EMF. Media have an important role to inform in a balanced way. Unfortunately this article in the New York Times is biased towards the no risk assumption. It should be corrected based on facts and not wishful thinking.

Yours sincerely,

Lennart Hardell, MD, PhD               Michael Carlberg, MSc
Department of Oncology                  Department of Oncology
University Hospital                          University Hospital
SE-701 85 Örebro, Sweden             SE-701 85 Örebro, Sweden 

July 24, 2015

A version of the Times article appeared in print on July 24, 2015, on page A14 of the New York edition with the headline: "Berkeley Offers Safety Guidance on Carrying Phones."

July 22, 2015

The lead paragraph of the New York Times article published today, “Cellphone Ordinance Puts Berkeley at Forefront of Radiation Debate," reveals the paper’s bias:
“Leave it to Berkeley: This city, which has led the nation in passing all manner of laws favored by the left, has done it again. This time, the city passed a measure — not actually backed by science — requiring cellphone stores to warn customers that the products could be hazardous to their health, presumably by emitting dangerous levels of cancer-causing radiation.”
The article overlooks the fact that the Berkeley ordinance is simply a consumer disclosure law which brings to the consumer's attention safety information that the Federal Communications Commission requires cell phone manufacturers provide to consumers. Few consumers ever see these warnings because manufacturers hide them in the user manual or in some instances in the smart phone.

Despite the article’s allegation, Berkeley is not the first city to adopt a cell phone “right to know” law. The Berkeley ordinance is more conservative than the cell phone “right to know” ordinance that San Francisco adopted in 2010. 

The Berkeley ordinance was written by Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig and Yale Law Professor and Dean Robert Post to withstand legal challenges from the CTIA—The Wireless Association because this industry association threatened the City with a law suit even before the ordinance was drafted.

San Francisco adopted a more far-reaching ordinance in 2010. The San Francisco ordinance required cell phone retailers to issue a fact sheet that mentions potential cancer-causing radiation from exposure to cell phone radiation.  In contrast, the Berkeley safety notice does not mention cancer or any other health effects.

The San Francisco ordinance was adopted on a 10-1 vote by the Board of Supervisors.  Mayor Gavin Newsom, now the Lieutenant Governor of California, “called the vote a major victory for cell phone shoppers’ right to know.

When the CTIA-The Wireless Association sued challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance, Deputy City Attorney Vince Chhabria represented the City of San Francisco.  Mr. Chhabria, now a Federal District Judge, strongly believed that the ordinance was constitutional.  

The case was heard by Federal  District Judge William Alsup. Judge Alsup ruled that the ordinance was intrusive as it required cell phone retailers to label cell phones, post a warning in their stores, and provide consumers with a fact sheet.  However, the Judge decided it was legal to require cell phone retailers to provide customers with a fact sheet as long as the facts were not controversial.

Judge Alsup negotiated with lawyers from the CTIA and the City of San Francisco about the language for a revised fact sheet. Following is the language from the revised fact sheet which the Judge approved:

City and County of San Francisco notification language
"You can limit exposure to Radio-frequency (RF) Energy from your cell phone."
"Although all cell phones sold in the United States must comply with RF safety limits set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), no safety study has ever ruled out the possibility of human harm from RF exposure."
“RF Energy has been classified by the World Health Organization as a possible carcinogen rather than as a known carcinogen or a probable carcinogen) and studies continue to assess the potential health effects of cell phones. If you are concerned about potential health effects from cell phone RF Energy, the City of San Francisco recommends:
” limiting cell phone use by children ...”
“using a headset, speakerphone, or text ...”
“using belt clips and purses to keep distance between your phone and body ...”
“avoiding cell phones in areas with weak signals ...”
“reducing the number and length of calls ...”
Despite the apparent agreement about the notification language, the CTIA appealed the District Court's ruling. 

In 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed this ruling in an unpublished opinion. After a two-year legal battle, the City lost the political will to defend its law. Nonetheless, according to the San Francisco Department of the Environment, "San Francisco believes the Ninth Circuit's opinion is deeply flawed, but the City is bound by that opinion ...."  

In contrast to the San Francisco ordinance, the notification language for Berkeley's cell phone "right to know" law does not raise health issues. It reads simply as follows:

City of Berkeley notification language
A Cell phone retailer shall provide to each customer who buys or leases a Cell phone a notice containing the following language:
"The City of Berkeley requires that you be provided the following notice: 
To assure safety, the Federal Government requires that cell phones meet radio frequency (RF) exposure guidelines. 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."

Although the Berkeley ordinance does not address the science, more than 200 scientists recently signed a petition calling for precaution in using cell phones and other wireless devices and the need for stronger wireless radiation regulations.

In 1977, Berkeley adopted the nation’s first clean indoor air law. That ordinance set a precedent emulated by cities across the nation. As a result, today the majority of people in the U.S. are protected from secondhand smoke in work places and most public settings.  

The nation needs more cities like Berkeley and San Francisco willing to challenge the status quo to protect public health and promote the public interest.

For more information about the ordinance and links to media coverage see The text of the ordinance is available at

July 21, 2015

In my opinion, the story that the New York Times will publish tomorrow in its print edition about the Berkeley cell phone ordinance is a travesty if it reads like the online article it published today, "Cellphone Ordinance Puts Berkeley at Forefront of Radiation Debate."
Over the past six years, the New York Times has failed to cover many major news stories about cell phone radiation and health. If the Times considers the story below to be a balanced and objective analysis, then it would be better if the paper does not cover this topic at all.
On July 1, I was interviewed for this story by Carol Pogash, the author of this article. She said she had seen my ongoing blog about the Berkeley ordinance and had read the story in The Guardian. I explained to her why The Guardian covered the International EMF Scientist Appeal as part of the story about the Berkeley ordinance.

Ms. Pogash informed me that she was not interested in the science. I responded positively as the ordinance is really not about the science (although the CTIA wants to argue the science). The Berkeley cell phone "right to know" ordinance is simply a consumer disclosure law which brings to the consumer's attention the cell phone manufacturers' safety information that the FCC mandates manufacturers provide to consumers.

Throughout our conversation, Ms. Pogash requested several times that I not provide additional information as she could only write 1,000-1,200 words. I did share with her my concerns that the Times may publish a biased article. These concerns stemmed from the few pieces that the paper published on wireless radiation. I mentioned how the Times treated Nick Bilton's column in March ( "Wireless Technology Health Risks --The New York Times Fuels the Debate").

After our conversation I emailed Ms. Pogash several messages over the next week as I was concerned that she might change her mind and write about the science. I offered to discuss the science with her and sent her the following links which I thought were most relevant to the Berkeley cell phone ordinance:

International EMF Scientist Appeal
Effect of Mobile Phones on Sperm Quality: Summary of a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Doctors Caution Pregnant Women About Wireless Radiation Health Risks
Gandhi, Om. Yes the Children are more exposed to radio-frequency energy from mobile telephones than adults. IEEE Spectrum. PP(99):1. Jun 23, 2015.
"Captured agency: How the Federal Communications Commission is dominated by the industries it presumably regulates”
Update on Berkeley Cell Phone "Right to Know" Ordinance

Why did the New York Times publish such a biased review of the science today in the article that is linked to below? Is this just poor journalism or does the Times have conflicts of interest in covering this topic?
In the first quarter of 2015, the Times' total advertising revenue amounted to $150 million or 39% of its total revenue. How much of this was due to telecommunications advertising? 

Read the article below and decide for yourself whether this news story is consistent with the Times' motto, "All the News That's Fit to Print."  

Online version of the New York Times story:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Berkeley Cell Phone "Right to Know" Ordinance

Links to media coverage about this ordinance appear at the bottom of this post.

July 21, 2015

On July 20, the CTIA filed with the Court its reply to the City of Berkeley. The CTIA wants the Court to issue a preliminary injunction that would block implementation of the cell phone “right to know” ordinance until the lawsuit is resolved. 

The CTIA claims that the ordinance should be subjected to “heightened scrutiny” and does not achieve “any substantial or even legitimate government interest.” Other CTIA claims include the ordinance is “misleading, not purely factual,” and that it is “controversial, “unduly burdensome,” and unlike other consumer disclosures. The CTIA argues that the ordinance is preempted by Federal regulation, and that members of the CTIA will be “irreparably injured if the ordinance is enforced.” Finally, the CTIA claims that the“injunction will not harm the City,” and would serve the public interest.

July 16, 2015

A hearing on the CTIA's motion for a preliminary injunction to block implementation of the Berkeley cell phone "right to know" ordinance is scheduled for August 20 in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The hearing will be held in Courtroom 5 at 1:30 PM.  The Honorable Edward M. Chen is the presiding judge. 

The case number is 3:15-cv-02529. Legal filings are available from the U.S. Court ArchivePlainSiteand Law360.

On July 13, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) petitioned the Court for the right to file a "friend of the court" brief in opposition to the CTIA's motion for a preliminary injunction.

The NRDC is a nonprofit environmental and public health advocacy organization with more than 2 million members including 1,244 members who reside in Berkeley. The NRDC is "One of the nation's most powerful environmental groups" according to the New York Times.

The proposed brief makes the following arguments:
"Part of NRDC’s mission is to protect public health by minimizing human exposure to harmful substances. Regulations like Berkeley’s radiofrequency exposure right-to-know ordinance are important to advancing that goal: after all, an individual cannot choose whether to minimize her exposure if she does not know that it is occurring.
The logic of Plaintiff’s First Amendment claim, if accepted, would undermine not just the Berkeley right-to-know ordinance, but legions of risk-disclosure rules that apprise the public of exposures that they might not otherwise discover. Many rules that NRDC, on behalf of its members, has long supported and advanced could be swept away."   (1)

The NRDC further argues that the Court should not be put in the position of answering questions like "How safe is safe enough? and "How risky is too risky? This task falls within the institutional expertise of legislatures and regulators. Finally, the NRDC argues that "Mandatory disclosure of environmental and health risks is crucial to protecting the public's safety and individuals' autonomy."  (1)


(1) National Resources Defense Council. CTIA v City of Berkeley. "[Proposed] brief of amicus curiae National Resources Defense Council in opposition to plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction." US District Court for Northern District of California. Case No. C15-02529 EMC. July 13, 2015. 

July 6, 2015

The City of Berkeley filed its response to the CTIA's challenge of the City's cell phone "right to know" consumer disclosure ordinance. 

The City makes the following arguments why the Court should not grant the CTIA's request for an injunction that would block enforcement of the ordinance: 
  • the City has a substantial interest in providing the consumer disclosure to inform its residents about proper cell phone use; 
  • the mandated disclosure is accurate, factual and noncontroversial; 
  • the ordinance does not violate the First Amendment and is not preempted by Federal law;
  • the disclosure is not burdensome for cell phone retailers;
  • the CTIA's members will not be harmed if the ordinance is enforced; 
  • and interfering with the ordinance is not in the public interest.
The response was submitted by Berkeley City Attorney Zach Cowan, Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, Yale Law Professor and Dean Robert Post, and Yale Law Ph.D. candidate Amanda Shanor.  Declarations of support for the ordinance were filed by Anthony Miller, Om Gandhi, Tom Jensen, and Sandra Cortesi.

The introduction to the brief summarizes the City's position:
CTIA has launched a war based on a mistake. It labors hard to paint Berkeley’s “right to know” Ordinance as an attack on settled science. It objects with vigor to being “compelled,” as it puts it, to spread a view about cell phone safety that it claims is “scientifically baseless and alarmist,” And it links Berkeley’s motives, as it describes them, to the “unsupported proposition that cell phones are unsafe.”

 But Berkeley has no purpose to engage a scientific debate through political means. Its Ordinance simply reinforces a message that the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) itself already requires manufacturers to disseminate.
The FCC has since 2001 encouraged—and now requires—manufacturers to “include information in device manuals to make consumers aware of the need to maintain the body-worn distance —by using appropriate accessories if they want to ensure that their actual exposure does not exceed the [Specific Absorption Rate (“SAR”)] measurement obtained during testing.”
The Ordinance is a response to data demonstrating that Berkeley residents are unaware of the information that the FCC desires them to have. Berkeley residents do not understand that cell phones are tested at a “body-worn distance” and are not aware that carrying a phone against one’s body “might result” in “exposure in excess of [FCC] limits” … The Ordinance also responds to data that a significant proportion of Berkeley residents want this information (82%) and said that it would affect their behavior (80%). The Ordinance thus answers a desire of Berkeley residents to have the information about RF exposure limits that the FCC wants them to have.

Yet on the basis of a single paragraph in a single FCC Notice of Inquiry cited by Plaintiff more than a dozen times, CTIA insists that no government can have any legitimate purpose in making consumers aware of long established RF guidelines—the very instructions and mandates that CTIA’s members must meet and must disclose—because, in CTIA’s view, these precautions are too cautious.

Regardless of how cell phones are used, in CTIA’s view, cell phones must be deemed safe. And any effort to draw the public’s attention to the actual manner in which cell phones were tested to be safe in effect, Plaintiff maintains, slanders CTIA’s members. But a single paragraph in a single FCC Notice of Inquiry cannot establish such an extraordinary proposition. Neither was it meant to. The whole purpose of the FCC Notice  is to initiate an inquiry into whether the FCC should alter its limits for RF radiation, by either strengthening or weakening them. The FCC does not begin an inquiry by announcing its results. FCC mandates about cell phone RF limits and the disclosure of information about those limits are the law. So long as that is true, nothing in the First Amendment blocks Berkeley from requiring retailers to inform customers about those mandates as well. The Ordinance requires the disclosure only of uncontested statements of fact that refer to existing federal requirements ....
Important filings in the case are available on Scribd at

June 9, 2015

On June 8, 2015, CTIA—The Wireless Association filed a lawsuit and a motion for an injunction in the Federal District Court in Northern California against the City of Berkeley to block the city’s cell phone “right to know” ordinance. This model law which was drafted by two of nation's leading legal scholars was designed to withstand legal challenges from industry.

The CTIA’s lawsuit claims that the ordinance violates the First Amendment rights of cell phone retailers in the City of Berkeley:

“The Ordinance compels retailers of cell phones to issue to their customers a misleading, controversial, and government-crafted statement about the “safety” of cell phones. The statement conveys, by its terms and design, the City’s view that using cell phones in a certain way poses a risk to human health, particularly to children. That compelled speech is not only scientifically baseless and alarmist, but it also contradicts the federal government’s determination that cell phones approved for sale in the United States, however worn, are safe for everyone.”
“…the FCC—consulting with expert federal health and safety agencies and drawing from international standards-setting bodies—has carefully reviewed the scientific studies that have examined cell phones for possible adverse health effects, including health effects from the radio waves—a type of radiofrequency energy (“RF energy”)—that cell phones emit in order to function. The FCC has determined, consistent with the overwhelming consensus of scientific authority, that “[t]here is no scientific evidence that proves that wireless phone usage can lead to cancer or a variety of other problems, including headaches, dizziness or memory loss.” FCC, FAQs –Wireless Phones, available at
“…The FCC’s guidelines are highly conservative: they are set 50 times below the threshold level of RF energy that has been shown to cause potential adverse health effects in laboratory animals, and assume that a cell phone is operating at its maximum certified power setting (even though cell phones rarely use the full extent of their power) … As the FCC recently put it, ‘[t]his ‘safety’ factor can well accommodate a variety of variables such as different physical characteristics and individual sensitivities—and even the potential for exposures to occur in excess of our limits without posing a health hazard to humans.’ …
“Thus, according to the FCC, ‘exposure well above the specified [FCC’s] limit should not create an unsafe condition.’”
“By using words and phrases such as ‘assure safety,’ ‘radiation,’’potential risk,’ ‘children,’ and ‘how to use your phone safely,’ the City’s unsubstantiated compelled disclosure is designed to convey a particular message that will stoke fear in consumers about the dangers of cell phones: ‘Do not carry your cell phone in your pants or shirt pocket, or in your bra, when powered ON and connected to the wireless network, because by doing so, you may absorb more RF radiation than is safe, as determined by the Federal Government. The risk of exposure to unsafe levels of RF energy is greater for children.’”
“But CTIA’s members do not wish to convey that message, because it is not true. As explained above, the FCC has stated that even where the RF emissions limit is exceeded, there is ‘no evidence that this poses any significant health risk.’ It has also concluded that RF energy from FCC-approved cell phones poses no heightened risk to children. Berkeley’s compelled disclosure is misleading because it fails to explain that the FCC guidelines already take account of the fact that consumers may use cell phones in different ways, and that cell phones are used by people of different ages and different sizes. In short, when a cell phone is certified as compliant with the FCC’s guidelines, that phone is safe, however it is worn, even if a particular usage results in exposure ‘well above’ the limit.”
“The City, which concededly lacks any evidence that exposure to RF emissions from FCC-approved cell phones at levels in excess of the FCC’s guidelines presents a safety issue, cannot meet its heavy burden under the First Amendment to justify compelling CTIA’s members’ speech, under any applicable standard of review.”
“Moreover, if the Ordinance is allowed to stand, other local governments will soon follow the City’s lead, resulting in a crazy-quilt of tens of thousands of inconsistent ‘disclosure’ obligations across the country. The result will be more compelled speech (and very likely self-contradictory speech), as well as widespread and unwarranted consumer confusion and anxiety about the safety of cell phones.”
“For these reasons, and as more fully described below, Berkeley’s Ordinance violates the First Amendment because it will require CTIA’s members to convey a message to which they object, and which is factually inaccurate, misleading, and controversial.”
“Berkeley’s Ordinance is also preempted by federal law because it would stand as an obstacle to the careful balance that the FCC has devised between protecting consumer safety and supporting the growth of mobile wireless service.”
The CTIA also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to petition the Court to block implementation of the cell phone "right to know" law:
"... CTIA respectfully requests that this Court preliminarily enjoin all Defendants from enforcing or causing to be enforced Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 9.96 before the Ordinance goes into effect on June 25, 2015, pending final judgment."
The lead attorney for the CTIA is Theodore Olson, a former United States Solicitor General who is best known for representing presidential candidate George W. Bush in the Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore, which ended the recount of the contested 2000 Presidential election. He is currently working for Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

Lawrence Lessig, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and professor of law at Harvard Law School, drafted the cell phone “right to know” ordinance along with Robert Post, dean and professor of law at Yale Law School.  Professor Lessig presented the ordinance to the Berkeley City Council on May 11 and offered to defend it pro bono against any legal challenges. 

The CTIA lawsuit is available at

The Berkeley Cell Phone "Right to Know" ordinance is available at: 

The court filings for the lawsuit, "CTIA - The Wireless Association v. City of Berkeley et al." (Case Number 3:150-cv-02529), are available at Law 360.

June 4, 2015

The Berkeley cell phone "right to know" ordinance takes effect on June 25th, 30 days after its second reading.

May 26, 2015

The Berkeley City Council adopted the Cell Phone "Right to Know" Ordinance after a second reading this evening.
Requiring Notice Concerning Carrying of Cell Phones; Adding BMC Chapter 9.96
From: City Manager
Recommendation: Adopt second reading of Ordinance No. 7,404-N.S. requiring cell phone retailers to provide a notice with each sale or lease concerning the carrying of cell phones, and adding Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 9.96.
First Reading Vote: All Ayes.
Financial Implications: Staff time
Contact: Zach Cowan, City Attorney, 981-6950
Action: Adopted second reading of Ordinance No. 7,404-N.S.
Excerpt from the Ordinance:
A Cell phone retailer shall provide to each customer who buys or leases a Cell
phone a notice containing the following language:
"The City of Berkeley requires that you be provided the following notice:
To assure safety, the Federal Government requires that cell phones meet
radio frequency (RF) exposure guidelines. 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."

The entire text of the Ordinance is available at:


May 18, 2015

Berkeley's Cell Phone "Right to Know" Ordinance (video)

Kevin Kunze, director and writer of the award-winning film, "Mobilize: a Film about Cell Phone Radiation," prepared a a 6 minute video about the adoption of the nation's only cell phone "right to know" ordinance by the City of Berkeley on May 12, 2015.


May 16, 2015

City of Berkeley to require cellphone sellers to warn of possible radiation risks

Lawmakers vote to highlight the potential dangers of keeping devices close to the body as scientists raise raft of concerns, especially for children 

Anita Chabria, The Guardian (UK), May 16, 2015


The article in The Guardian refers to EMFscientist.orgOn Monday, May 11th, 190 scientists from 39 nations submitted an appeal to the United Nations, the UN member states, and the World Health Organization (WHO) requesting they adopt more protective exposure guidelines for electromagnetic fields (EMF) and wireless technology in the face of increasing evidence of risk.*  

These exposures are a rapidly growing form of environmental pollution worldwide. 

 As of today the petition has been signed by 200 EMF scientists from 40 nations. Seventy non-governmental organizations (i.e. non-profits) have endorsed the Appeal.

*(e.g., power lines, cell phones, cordless phones, Wi-Fi, wireless devices, cell towers, wireless utility meters).


May 12, 2015 

Berkeley Adopts Cell Phone "Right to Know" Ordinance on Unanimous Vote

This evening the Berkeley City Council adopted the cell phone "right to know" ordinance on a unanimous vote of 9-0.  Berkeley is the first city in the nation to pass a cell phone radiation ordinance since San Francisco disbanded its ordinance after a two-year court battle with the CTIA

Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig helped draft the ordinance and presented it to the Council on behalf of city staff.

The only opposition to the ordinance came from the CTIA--The Wireless Association. The CTIA claims that consumers would be scared if they were directed to read the information that the FCC requires they provide to consumers.  

May 5, 2015

Berkeley residents want, deserve cellphone ‘right to know’

Ellen Marks, Berkeleyside, 

Ellen Marks is Executive Director of the California Brain Tumor Association.



May 1, 2015

Berkeley City Council: May 12, 2015 Meeting Agenda Item on Cell Phones

Action Calendar -- New Business

From: City Manager
Recommendation: Adopt first reading of an Ordinance requiring cell phone retailers to provide a notice with each sale or lease concerning the carrying of cell phones, and adding Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 9.96.
Financial Implications: Staff time


Excerpt from Proposed Cell Phone Ordinance



Section 9.96.030 Required notice

A. A Cell phone retailer shall provide to each customer who buys or leases a Cell phone a notice containing the following language:

The City of Berkeley requires that you be provided the following notice: To assure safety, the Federal Government requires that cell phones meet radio frequency (RF) exposure guidelines. 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.

B. The notice required by this Section shall either be provided to each customer who buys or leases a Cell phone or shall be prominently displayed at any point of sale where Cell phones are purchased or leased. If provided to the customer, the notice shall include the City’s logo, shall be printed on paper that is no less than 5 inches by 8 inches in size, and shall be printed in no smaller than a 18-point font. The paper on which the notice is printed may contain other information in the discretion of the Cell phone retailer, as long as that information is distinct from the notice language required by subdivision (A) of this Section. If prominently displayed at a point of sale, the notice shall include the City’s logo, be printed on a poster no less than 8 ½ by 11 inches in size, and shall be printed in no small than a 28-point font. The City shall make its logo available to be incorporated in such notices.

C. A Cell phone retailer that believes the notice language required by subdivision (A) of this Section is not factually applicable to a Cell phone model that retailer offers for sale or lease may request permission to not provide the notice required by this Section in connection with sales or leases of that model of Cell phone. Such permission shall not be unreasonably withheld.


April 30, 2015


​​Survey of Berkeley Residents Affirms Need for City to Adopt Cell Phone “Right to Know” Ordinance on May 12

Berkeley, Calif. April 30, 2015. Eighty-two percent (82%) of adults in Berkeley, California reported in a recent survey that they want to be informed when they purchase a cell phone about the manufacturer’s recommended minimum distance that the phone should be kept from the user’s body.

On May 12, the survey results will be officially presented to the Berkeley City Council when the Council votes on a Cell Phone “Right to Know” ordinance.

The proposed Cell Phone Right to Know legislation requires cell phone retailers to provide a city-prepared handout to each consumer at the point of sale that advises them of their phone’s manufacturers’ own directive to never wear or use a cell phone against their body when on (as in a shirt or pants pocket or tucked into a bra). This manufacturer’s separation distance use advisory which is required by the Federal Communications Commission is currently located in the legal fine print of user manuals or on the phone in text menus which are difficult to find. 

If the Council adopts the ordinance, Berkeley will become the only city in the U.S. to require retailers to provide consumers with this important safety information.

Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig who helped draft the ordinance will present it to the Council on behalf of City staff. Professor Lessig has offered to defend the ordinance
pro bono should the CTIA—The Wireless Association file a lawsuit against the City.

Other key survey findings:

  • Fully, 70% of Berkeley adults were unaware that the government’s radiation tests to assure the safety of cell phones assume that the phone would not be carried against the user’s body, but instead would be held at least 1 to 15 millimeters from the user’s body.
  • Two out of three (66%) were unaware that cell phone manufacturers recommend that their cell phones be carried away from the body, or used with hands-free devices.
  • Fewer than one in six (15%) have seen the recommendations by cell phone manufacturers about how to best protect against overexposure to cell phone radiation.
  • Almost three out of four (74%) reported that they or their children carry a cell phone against their body—tucked in a shirt or pants pocket while the phone is switched on.

Lisa Bailey, M.D., past president of the California Division of the American Cancer Society and a breast cancer surgeon at Alta Bates Medical Center, strongly supports the ordinance:

“We have had some anecdotal cases in which the woman’s breast cancer develops directly below the area where her cell phone was carried. I believe that the public has the right to know that there may be potential risks and to use their phone in a way to reduce potential harm. I urge the Berkeley City Council to provide such information to their constituents.”

Recent peer-reviewed research has found that cell phone radiation causes sperm damage. The authors of a systematic review and meta-analysis of ten studies on the effects of mobile phone radiation on human sperm quality concluded that, "Our analyses indicate negative associations between mobile phone exposure on sperm viability and motility.” (Adams et al., 2014).

Several peer-reviewed papers have recommended that cell phones should not be carried or used directly against the body as in a pants pocket. For example:
  • “Keeping the cell phone in a trouser pocket in talk mode may negatively affect spermatozoa and impair male fertility” (Agarwal et al. 2009).
  • “Overall, these findings raise a number of related health policy and patient management issues that deserve our immediate attention. Specifically, we recommend that men of reproductive age who engage in high levels of mobile phone use do not keep their phones in receiving mode below waist level” (De Iuliis et al., 2009).

The City Council meeting will be held 7:00 PM on May 12 in the City Council Chambers at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley. Supporters of the ordinance will hold a rally in front of the building at 6:00 PM.

The survey of Berkeley residents was conducted by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, North Carolina from March 6-8, 2015. The survey was funded by the ​California Brain Tumor Association.
Ellen Marks, Executive Director, California Brain Tumor Association


April 28, 2015

On Tuesday, May 12, the Berkeley City Council will vote on becoming the first city in the nation to enact legislation to give consumers information at the point of sale as to the recommended distance information which is currently hidden in the cell phone or in the manual. Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig helped draft the ordinance and will be at the meeting to present it to the Council.

Advocates for the ordinance will hold a rally in front of City Hall at 6 PM.

For more information see Berkeleyside Events Calendar.


March 27, 2015

NBC Bay Area aired a four minute news story on the 11:00 news, "Documentary 'Mobilize' Examines Cell Phone Dangers," about the Berkeley cell phone ordinance and the feature-length documentary, "Mobilize: A Film about Cell Phone Radiation."


March 10, 2015

The cell phone "right to know" ordinance will be on the agenda of the Berkeley City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 12. 


November 21, 2014

On November 18, the Berkeley City Council adopted a referral to the City Manager on a 7-2 vote. The referral asks the City Manager to draft a cell phone “right to know” ordinance. 

Once this ordinance is enacted, Berkeley will become the first city in the nation to require cell phone retailers to provide those who purchase a new phone an informational fact sheet. Retailers will be required to provide the fact sheet to those who purchase a cell phone which informs them to read the user manual to learn the cell phone’s minimum separation distance from the body.

The FCC requires manufacturers to provide this information to ensure that the consumers’ cell phone radiation exposure does not exceed the amount when the cell phone was tested. Few consumers are currently aware of this safety information because it is buried in their user manual or within their smart phone. Knowledge of this information is an important step in increasing awareness that cell phones should not be used next to the body.

Councilman Max Anderson who sponsored the referral grilled the CTIA representative, Gerard Keegan, about why the industry does not want consumers to see the safety information that the FCC mandates. The CTIA position is that this is between the FCC and the industry, and the FCC is in the process of deciding whether this information is necessary so the City should not act on this issue.

The referral directs the City Manager to ask City Attorney Zach Cowan and Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig to draft the ordinance.

A video of the meeting is now available for streaming (see 01:44:50 - 03:36:25).

Summaries of the meeting have been published by The Daily Californian and the Contra Costa Times.


November 10, 2014

The Berkeley City Council postponed discussion of the cell phone "right to know" ordinance until Tuesday, November 18, 2014.
City Manager Referral: Cell Phone Ordinance Referral to City Manager (Continued from October 28, 2014)
From: Councilmember Anderson
Recommendation: Refer to City Manager for the creation of an ordinance to have cell phone retailers give to consumers who purchase a phone, a factual, informational handout referring the user to their cell phone manufacturers' disclosure regarding the recommended separation distance for use against the body.
Financial Implications: See report
Contact: Max Anderson, Councilmember, District 3, 981-7130


October 15, 2014

Press Release: Berkeley's Proposed Cell Phone "Right to Know" Ordinance


October 10, 2014

This cell phone "right to know" ordinance is on the consent calendar for the Berkeley City Council meeting to be held on Tuesday, October 28, 2014. The referral and briefing document are available at

City Manager Referral: Cell Phone Ordinance Referral to City Manager
From: Councilmember Anderson; Councilmember Worthington
Recommendation: Refer to City Manager for the creation of an ordinance to have cell phone retailers give to consumers who purchase a phone, a factual, informational handout referring the user to their cell phone manufacturers' disclosure regarding the recommended separation distance for use against the body.
Financial Implications: See report
Contact: Max Anderson, Councilmember, District 3, 981-7130
The advisory will be in the form of an informational handout to be handed to consumers by the retailer at the time of purchasing a cell phone. The proposed wording is as follows:  
"The Federal Government requires that cell phones meet radio frequency (RF) exposure guidelines. Don't carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra when the phone is turned ON and connected to a wireless network. This will prevent exposure to RF levels that may exceed the federal guidelines."
"Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for the recommended separation distance."


Precaution or Paranoia? Berkeley May Require Cancer Warning Stickers for Cell Phones

Sabin Russell, California Magazine, August 19, 2014

[An indepth article about the science and  politics underlying the proposed Berkeley cell phone ordinance--research on cancer risk and fetal effects on neurological development is discussed.]

Just as the world supply of mobile phones is reaching one unit for every human being on Earth, here comes Berkeley, with a warning: These things could be hazardous to your health ...
Stakes in this argument are extraordinarily high. Cell phones are radio transmitters that are not only ubiquitous, they are close at hand: We press them against our ears. We store them in our pants pockets. Women slip them into their bras. Teens sleep with them under their pillows. With the adult market nearly saturated, the big growth opportunity for mobile devices is children.
“In our so­ci­ety, the pre­cau­tion­ary prin­ciple does not res­on­ate well. We want to see a body count first.” 
The CTIA statement builds a case that the “scientific consensus” is firmly in their camp. In fact, the two-word term appears 28 times in their filing. They quote numerous federal agencies asserting a lack of evidence that cell phone radiation can cause harm. Among them is the FCC itself, the FDA, and most notably, the National Cancer Institute, which states on its web site that “there is no evidence from studies of cells, animals, or humans that radiofrequency energy can cause cancer.
Moskowitz dismisses the endorsements. “Industry and government agencies seem to be in denial, and have been in that frame of mind for decades,’’ he says.
... Cell-phone makers in their fine print do advise keeping these devices about a half-inch away from your body, although there is no mention of it in an industry-written parents’ guide to cell phone safety.
And meanwhile, let’s face it: We just love these little appliances. They are changing the way we live. If they are changing the way we die, we’ll find out, eventually.

Also see:
Eric Schultz. Killer App: A Berkeley researcher weighs in on cell phones and cancer. California Magazine. Winter 2010.


Berkeley pushes for cancer warning stickers on cell phones

Carolyn Jones, SFGate, Jul 15, 2014 (updated)

Print version: "CELL PHONE ORDINANCE: Berkeley will fight for cancer warnings," San Francisco Chronicle, Jul 15, 2014, pg. A - 1

Berkeley, undaunted by abandoned efforts in San Francisco, is attempting to become the first city in the nation to require retailers to put stickers on cell phone packaging warning people that the devices may emit cancer-causing radiation ...
Joel Moskowitz, head of UC Berkeley's Center for Family and Community Health, has no such indecision. He's been studying the issue since 2009, and has concluded that cell phones are "one of the top emerging public health risks." 
Studies cited by the cell phone industry are outdated, he said. Newer and more complex wireless technology, coupled with people spending increasing amounts of time on their phones, is almost certain to lead to an uptick in brain cancer, he said.
"It's just a matter of time," he said. "The evidence is a lot more compelling than it has been."
Radiation from cell phones penetrates the skin and skull and absorbs into the brain tissue, having an adverse affect on cells, he said. Phone radiation can also affect sperm count among men who carry phones in their pockets, he said.
Consumers should wear headsets, use the speaker feature and otherwise keep phones away from their bodies, he said.
"With cell phones, distance is your friend," he said.
Pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable, he said.
A warning sticker should advise consumers that some studies link cell phones to rare but serious cancers, and they should take precautions, he said ...


Media coverage about the ordinance

ABC 7 TV News (San Francisco) (Jul 15, 2014)
Ars Technica (Jun 9, 2015)
Associated Press (Jun 11, 2015) - reprinted on more than 100 news sites nationwide including NY Times, Washington Post, ABC News & in the UK, Daily Mail
Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (Nov 13, 2014) (in Mandarin) (July 14, 2014)
Berkeley High Jacket (Dec 20, 2014)
Berkeleyside  Op-Ed  (Oct 17, 2014)
Berkeleyside (Nov 18, 2014)
Berkeleyside (Nov 26, 2014)
Berkeleyside Op-Ed (May 5, 2015)
Berkeleyside (May 13, 2015)
Berkeleyside (Jun 8, 2015)
Bloomberg News Radio (mp3: 0:06:55 - 0:08:35) (Jul 15, 2014)
Bloomberg Politics (Nov 26, 2014)
Breitbart News (Jul 15, 2014)
Breitbart News (Jun 10, 2015)
Business Insider (Jul 15, 2014)
Business Insider Australia (Jul 16, 2014)
Business Insider India (Jul 15, 2014)
California City News (Dec 1, 2014)
California Healthline (Jul 16, 2014)
California Magazine (Aug 19, 2014)
CBS News (May 12, 2015)
CBS News (May 13, 2015)
CBS News (Jun 8, 2015)
CBS SF Bay Area (Aug 22, 2014)
CBS SF Bay Area (Jul 16, 2014)
CBS SF Bay Area (May 13, 2015)
CBS SF Bay Area (May 20, 2015)
CBS SF Bay Area (Jun 8, 2015)
CBS SF Bay Area (Jul 27, 2015)
CBS This Morning (Jul 27, 2015)
Chico Enterprise-Record (Nov 21, 2014)
CIO India (Jun 9, 2015)
Computerworld (Jun 8, 2015)
Computerworld Australia (Jun 8, 2015)
Computerworld New Zealand (Jun 8, 2015)
Contra Costa Times (Nov 21, 2014) (Oakland Tribune, Nov 24, 2014)
Courthouse News Service (Jun 9, 2015)
CTV News video (Canada) (May 17, 2015)
CTV News story (Canada) May 17, 2015)
The Daily Beast (May 13, 2015)
The Daily Californian  (Jul 16, 2014)
The Daily Californian (Nov 19, 2014)
The Daily Californian (Jun 9, 2015)
The Davis Enterprise  (Jul 22, 2014)
Delfi Sveikata (Lithuania) (May 21, 2015)
Discovery News (May 20, 2015)
East Bay Express (Jul 15, 2014)
ECN Magazine (Jun 10, 2015)
Ecosalon (Jul 18, 2014)
Epoch Times (May 12, 2015)
Fierce Wireless Daily Newsletter (Jun 9, 2015)
GSMA (wireless industry assn.) (Nov 24, 2014)
GSMA (May 25, 2015)
GSMA (Jul 13, 2015)
The Guardian (London, UK) May 15, 2015)
Headlines and Global News (Jul 17, 2014)
Healthcare Global (Dec 1, 2014)
The Hill (Jun 5, 2015)
Huffington Post (Paul Brodeur), (Jul 27, 2015)
International Business Times UK (Jun 10, 2015)
KALW  Crosscurrents   (audio - Sep 24, 2014)
KGO 810  Radio News (San Francisco) (Jul 15, 2014)
KIMT (Iowa, Minnesota) (May 18, 2015)
The Kirk Show
KKSF AM Talk 919 (San Francisco) (audio) (Jul 15, 2014)
KPAX (Missoula, MT, CBS News8) (May 12, 2015)
KPFA Radio (May 13, 2015)
KQED Forum (Lawrence Lessig interview: 48:00 - 50:00) (Jan 8, 2015)
KQED Forum (Joel Moskowitz & Allan Balmain, 9:30 - 10 AM) (May 18, 2015)
KTVU (Fox News) (May 13, 2015)
Law 360 (Jun 9, 2015)
Los Angeles Times (Jun 9, 2015)
Mother Jones (May 11, 2015)
Mother Jones (May 13, 2015)
NBC Bay Area (Mar 28, 2015)
NBC Bay Area (May 12, 2015)
NBC Bay Area (Jun 8, 2015)
Newser (Jun 10, 2015)
News Inferno (Jul 16, 2014)
New York Times (Jun 11, 2015) - AP article
New York Times (Jul 21, 2015) (my comments on NYT article) 
PAN Swiss Newsroom
PC Advisor (UK) (Jun 8, 2015)
PC World (Jun 8, 2015)
PC World (Jul 10, 2015)
Public Health Watchdog (Jul 17, 2014)
RCR Wireless News (Jun 9, 2015)
RCR Wireless News (Jun 11, 2015)
The Recorder (Jun 8, 2015)
RT (May 12, 2015)
RYOT News (May 14, 2015)
San Jose Mercury News (May 13, 2015)
San Jose Mercury News (Jun 9, 2015)
San Francisco Chronicle  (Jul 15, 2014)
Science Times (May 13, 2015)
Seattle Times (Jul 14, 2014)
SF Gate (Jun 8, 2015) (Beijing; in Mandarin)  (Jul 15, 2014)
Sputnik News (May 17, 2015)
ThinkProgress (Jul 22, 2015)
TIME Magazine (May 12, 2015)
UK Progressive Magazine (May 19, 2015)
Voice of America (Jun 5, 2015)
WCTV News (CBS2, Tallahassee, FL) (May 12, 2015)
WCVB News (ABC5, Boston)  (Jul 15, 2014)
WDTV News (CBS5, West Virginia) (May 12, 2015)
WFMY News (CBS2, Greensboro, NC) (May 12, 2015)
WIVB News (CBS4, Buffalo, NY) (May 13, 2015)
WKBN News (Youngstown, OH) (May 12, 2015)
WREQ News (CBS3 Memphis,TN) (May 12, 2015)
WTSP News (CBS10, Tampa Bay, FL) (May 12, 2015)
Yahoo! News (CBS) (Jul 16, 2014)
Yahoo! News (CBS) (May 12, 2015)  (Jul 17, 2014)