Monday, June 3, 2013

San Francisco: Cell Phone Safety Warnings

San Francisco updated its cell phone safety recommendations on the city’s web site following the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the CTIA—The Wireless Association that blocked implementation of the cell phone “right to know” law adopted by the city in 2010.

After a three-year battle, the city decided to disband with its cell phone law rather than continue to fight the CTIA and risk having to pay the industry’s legal fees. The case was settled “in exchange for a waiver of attorneys' fees” even though the city believes the “Ninth Circuit’s opinion is deeply flawed.” (1)

Meanwhile, the CTIA has been citing the Ninth Circuit’s opinion around the country in an effort to deter state and local policy makers from adopting cell phone “right to know” laws.

However, the city’s web site points out that because the court’s decision is unpublished, it only applies to San Francisco. Furthermore, the decision cannot serve as a precedent in any future litigation (1). Thus it is inappropriate for the industry to cite this case as a precedent for other jurisdictions.

The city reminds visitors to its web site that “the World Health Organization classified cell phone radiation as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B)’ based on increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use.” (1) 

In addition to increased risk for glioma, the World Health Organization included increased risk for acoustic neuroma, a tumor on the nerve from the ear to the brain, in its newly published monograph about cell phone radiation and cancer. (2)

San Francisco recommends on its web site the following strategies to reduce exposure to RF energy from cell phones. The goal is to increase the distance between your body and your cell phone whenever using and carrying the device.  (3)
  • “Limit cell phone use by children: Developing brains and thinner skulls lead to higher absorption in children.
  • Use a headset, speakerphone, or text instead: Exposure decreases rapidly with increasing distance from phone.
  • Use a belt clip or keep your phone in a knapsack, briefcase, or handbag to keep some distance between your phone and body: Do not carry your phone directly on your body or at least maintain the recommended safe distance specified in your phones’ user manual.
  • Avoid using your cell phone in areas with a weak signal (in elevators, on transit, or when indicated by your phone): Using a cell phone in areas of good reception decreases exposure by allowing the phone to transmit at reduced power.
  • Reduce the number and length of calls.
  • Turn off your cell phone when not in use.”  (3)


(1) SF Environment. Using Cell Phones Safely. URL:

(2) Non-ionizing radiation, Part II: Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields / IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans (2011: Lyon, France).  Vol. 102 (2013). URL:

(3) SF Environment. How can I reduce my exposure to radiofrequency-energy from cell phones? URL: