Monday, May 22, 2017

Cell Phone Safety Guidance from the California Public Health Department

CDPH fact sheet with draft watermark
This page will be updated periodically with further developments 
and links to media coverage.




California Department of Public Health Releases
Secret Cell Phone Safety Guidance


The San Francisco Chronicle published this news story online May 19, 2017.


The California Attorney General’s Office released 27 versions of a cell phone radiation safety fact sheet prepared by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) initially in 2009 and revised multiple times through January, 2015.

The State has never adopted this fact sheet nor released it to the public due to suppression by “political appointees” according to my sources.

The recommendations in the final version of the fact sheet are sound. CDPH should adopt and disseminate the fact sheet now. The public has a right to know the information that the Department’s health professionals have been trying to share with them since 2009. I further recommend that the fact sheet be updated annually consistent with the latest research.

The fact sheet is based upon reviews of the research conducted by the CDPH Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control between 2009 and 2014.

The original document reflected a consensus of the Division (Document 25, file date: 6/17/2009; pp.104-109). The fact sheet summarized research on the health effects associated with exposure to cell phone and cordless phone radiation. It provided recommendations to the California Department of General Services, the “business manager” for the State, regarding cell phone purchases. The fact sheet also included safety tips for state employees and the general public, especially children, about safe use of phones to minimize exposure to wireless radiation.

The final version of the fact sheet omits recommendations to the Department of General Services and does not discuss cordless phones (Document 1, file date 1/26/2015; pp. 6-8).

In 2014, I submitted three requests to the CDPH under the California Public Records Act for this information. All three requests were denied.

In 2016, the UC Berkeley School of Law Environmental Law Clinic and the First Amendment Project filed a lawsuit on my behalf in the Sacramento Superior Court. 

On May 12 of this year, the Attorney General’s office mailed us 27 documents to comply with the March 13 court ruling.

The case is Dr. Joel Moskowitz v. California Department of Public Health (#34-2016-80002358).

Supplemental materials

Substantive changes to fact sheet: http://bit.ly/CDPHchanges

Table of contents for 27 versions of fact sheet: http://bit.ly/CDPHToC

Contents of 27 versions of fact sheet (8 MB file): http://bit.ly/AGCDPHdocs



March 15, 2017

Court orders California Public Health Dept. to Release 
Cellphone Radiation Safety Document


The Sacramento Superior Court has ordered the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to release the Department's cell phone use guidance document without superimposed markings.

This cell phone radiation safety document, originally prepared in 2010 by health professionals in the CDPH Environmental Health Investigations Branch, has been suppressed by political appointees over the years.

On March 13, Judge Shelleyanne Chang re-issued the tentative ruling she made prior to the hearing:


And she appended the following section to the Court's final ruling:


On March 2, prior to the judge's ruling, CDPH emailed a version of the cell phone use guidance document, entitled "Cell Phones and Health," to a San Francisco Chronicle reporter who attended the court hearing. CDPH had defaced this version with large markings indicating "Draft and Not for Public Release."

The judge did not consider the document a "preliminary draft" because the document was maintained by CDPH staff since 2010, and the substance of the document changed little over time despite multiple updates by staff.

The court order, dated March 13, 2017, is labeled "Ruling on Submitted Matter and Order: Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint for Declarative Relief." 

The ruling can be downloaded from http://bit.ly/MvCDPHfinal.

The unaltered cell phone use guidance document will be available here when the CDPH complies with the Court order.


March 4, 2017

"Warnings on Cell Phone Use"
aka "State kept secret guidelines on cell phone use"

Photos from the San Francisco Chronicle front page and the Editorial appear below along with links to news coverage of this story.

March 2, 2017 (Updated 10:10 PM)


Last May we sued the California Department of Public Health for a cell phone safety guidance document under the California Public Records Act. The document was originally prepared in 2010 and has been updated several times but never released to the public.

Late this afternoon, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) emailed a cell phone guidance document, entitled "Cell Phones and Health," to Melody Gutierrez, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle who attended our court hearing. 

This "fact sheet" summarizes research on cell phone radiation health risks and provides safety tips on how to reduce cell phone radiation exposure. The document highlights a potentially greater risk to "pregnant women, children, and teens." The safety recommendations are similar to those issued by the Connecticut Department of Public Health in May, 2015.

We are grateful to see CDPH’s cell phone guidance document after a long battle for it. 

The CDPH document is marked "released pursuant to Moskowitz v. CDPH, Sac. Super. Ct. No. 34-2016-8000-2358" and "Draft and Not for Public Release."

Apparently, CDPH does not intend to appeal the merits of the court's ruling that the document must be disclosed. However, the manner of release is troubling. CDPH has not waited for the court to finalize its ruling and determine whether CDPH may indicate that the document does not (as it argued at the hearing) represent its current, official position.  Rather, the agency has "jumped the gun" and stamped new lettering in huge dark letters across the face of the document so as to make it virtually illegible. Further, that lettering states that the document is “draft and not for public release” when the judge's tentative ruling stated exactly the opposite --   that the document was not a draft, and must be publicly released. 

CDPH has essentially created a new document rather than produced the document as-is, in violation of the Public Records Act. To the extent that CDPH wanted merely to indicate that the document does not represent its official position in early 2017, the fact that the document is dated “April 2014” should make that plain.

An account of our attempts to obtain the document and the lawsuit filed by the UC Berkeley Environmental Law Clinic and the First Amendment Project on my behalf appears below. The judge's tentative ruling on our lawsuit is available (see link below). 


Excerpt from the tentative ruling.

Why has the California Department of Public Health 
suppressed a cell phone radiation safety document since 2010?

In 2010, health professionals in the Environmental Health Investigations Branch of CDPH prepared a cell phone guidance document that summarized the science regarding the health risks from cell phone radiation and provided precautionary recommendations to the public for limiting personal exposure. 

Why was this document never officially released to the public?

I learned about the existence of the document in late 2013. In January, 2014, I submitted a formal request for the document to the CDPH under the California Public Records Act (CPRA).

Dr. Richard Kreutzer, the Division Chief for Environmental and Occupational Disease Control in CDPH, contacted me three days later. He informed me that the document was recently revised and was under review by the State. He asked me to withdraw my request since the final approved version should be available within three weeks. When I asked how long the document had been under review, he responded that the review was "freshly re-started this year," and that the current draft is similar to a previous version "that stalled three years ago" while under review by the State. I opted not to withdraw my request.

In April, 2014, I spoke to the Deputy Director for Legislative and Governmental Affairs at CDPH. She informed me that the document was under review by a "state agency outside" of CDPH. She implied that the document had cleared CDPH's approval process and promised to provide me with periodic updates regarding its status.

In June, 2014, since no one contacted me and the document had not been released, I submitted a second request under the CPRA. The CDPH denied this request arguing that they are exempt from disclosing “preliminary drafts,” and that the public interest in nondisclosure exceeded the public interest in disclosure of this document. 

In September, 2014, based upon my information an investigative reporter from the New York Times requested the document, but his request was also denied.  

My final CPRA request was submitted in January, 2015. CDPH denied this request and provided a new rationale: “In light of the updated guidance issued by the CDC [federal Centers for Disease Prevention and Control] in June of 2014, CDPH has chosen not to issue a guidance document on radio frequency EMF and cell phones.”

After my final rejection, I interviewed several CDPH health professionals who were familiar with the cell phone guidance document. All thought the document should have been published by the Department. None could explain why the State suppressed the document or why the Department refused to release it to me.

Based upon this information, I decided to sue the CDPH for the cell phone guidance document.  The environmental law clinic at the University of California, Berkeley Law School and the First Amendment Project are representing me pro bono. In May, 2016, we filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of the County of Sacramento. 
The case was assigned to Judge Shellyanne Chang.

CDPH asserted that “[t]he public’s health may be harmed” simply by release of the Document (Starr Decl., ¶ 19(a)) ... that the memo “will needlessly confuse, and possibly alarm, cell phone users” (id., ¶ 24; same); and even speculates that release of the Document will cause both those with and without cancer to flood physicians’ offices to ventilate hysterical fear of cell phones (Id. at ¶ 27). 

In its opposition brief, CDPH confuses the public and private interests in withholding the document, suggesting that the public interest in receiving advice about safe cell phone use must be discounted “[because] a portion of the public, namely the wireless industry and cell phone manufacturers . . . likely have no interest in the dissemination of the cell phone guidance document" (p. 15). 

Judge Chang held a hearing on February 24, 2017. Prior to the hearing, she issued a seven-page tentative ruling in which she over-ruled eight of the nine objections submitted by the Attorney General on behalf of the CDPH. The tentative ruling granted our petition and directed CDPH to release the Cellular Phone Use Guidance documentation.

The court documents are available online (case number: 2016 80002358) at
https://services.saccourt.ca.gov/PublicCaseAccess/Civil/SearchByCaseNumber

We are waiting for the judge's final ruling on the case.




News Coverage in the U.S. (Updated May 22, 2017)


New records show how state reworked secret cell phone warnings
"State kept warnings on cell phones secret" (print version, pg. C-1, May 21, 2017)
Melody Gutierrez, San Francisco Chronicle, published online May 19, 2017

Judge orders CDPH cell phone guidance document released
Cal-OSHA Reporter, 44(15):00-11745, Apr 21, 2017

Sammy Caiola, Sacramento Bee, Apr 6, 2017

Long-overdue release of information about cell phone risks
Editorial, San Francisco Chronicle, Mar 3, 2017

California Health Officials release report on cell phone radiation
Nuala Sawyer, San Francisco Examiner, Mar 3, 2017

Scott Budman, NBC Bay Area, Mar 3, 2017
Scott Budman, NBC Southern California, Mar 3, 2017

Vicki Gonzalez, KCRA (NBC Sacramento), Mar 3, 2017

Jeff Gillan, KSNV (NBC Las Vegas), Mar 3, 2017

Lyanne Melendez, KGO-TV (ABC Bay Area), Mar 3, 2017

Inland News Today (Riverside, CA) , Mar 3, 2017

Is California Hiding the Risks of Cell Phone Use?
KABC Radio (Culver City, CA), Mar 3, 2017

Study Suggests Your Cell Phone is Actually Quite Dangerous
Scott Hendren, Newstalk 1290 (Wichita Falls, TX), Mar 3, 2017


State kept secret guidelines on cell phone use
"Warnings on cell phone use" (print version, front page, Mar 3, 2017)
Melody Gutierrez, San Francisco Chronicle, Mar 2, 2017

Cellphone Radiation Exposure Fact Sheet Draft Released By California Health Officials
Hannah Albarazi, CBS San Francisco, Mar 2, 2017

Reynard Loki, Alternet, Feb 28, 2017

Consumer Watch: State Continues To Refuse To Release Records On Cell Phone Radiation
Julie Watts, CBS San Francisco, Feb 26, 2017 

Judge Orders California To Release Papers Discussing Risk Of Cell Phone Use 
Julie Watts, CBS San Francisco, Feb 24, 2017

FAP Files Public Records Act Case with U.C. Berkeley School of Law
First Amendment Project, Jun 16, 2016

The following radio stations reported news about this story: KABC (Culver City), KATD (Sacramento), KCBS (San Francisco), KIQI (San Francisco), KPFA (Berkeley), and KWFS (Wichita Falls, TX).


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