Thursday, September 27, 2018

Hybrid & Electric Cars: Electromagnetic Radiation Risks

Hybrid and electric cars may be cancer-causing as they emit extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic fields (EMF). Recent studies of the EMF emitted by these automobiles have claimed either that they pose a cancer risk for the vehicles' occupants or that they are safe.

Unfortunately, much of the research conducted on this issue has been industry-funded by companies with vested interests on one side of the issue or the other which makes it difficult to know which studies are trustworthy. 

Meanwhile, numerous peer-reviewed laboratory studies conducted over several decades have found biologic effects from limited exposures to ELF EMF. These studies suggest that the EMF guidelines established by the self-appointed, International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) are inadequate to protect our health. Based upon the research, more than 230 EMF experts have signed the International EMF Scientist Appeal which calls on the World Health Organization to establish stronger guidelines for ELF and radio frequency EMF. Thus, even if EMF measurements comply with the ICNIRP guidelines, occupants of hybrid and electric cars may still be at increased risk for cancer and other health problems. 

Given that magnetic fields have been considered "possibly carcinogenic" in humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization since 2001, the precautionary principle dictates that we should design consumer products to minimize consumers’ exposure to ELF EMF. This especially applies to hybrid and electric automobiles as drivers and passengers spend considerable amounts of time in these vehicles, and health risks increase with the duration of exposure.

In January, 2014, SINTEF, the largest independent research organization in Scandinavia, proposed manufacturing design guidelines that could reduce the magnetic fields in electric vehicles (see below).  All automobile manufacturers should follow these guidelines to ensure their customers' safety. 

The public should demand that governments adequately fund high-quality research on the health effects of electromagnetic radiation that is independent of industry to eliminate any potential conflicts of interest. In the U.S., a major national research and education initiative could be funded with as little as a 5 cents a month fee on mobile phone subscribers.

Following are summaries and links to recent studies and news articles on this topic. 


Radiofrequencies in cars: A public health threat

According to Theodore P. Metsis, Ph.D., an electrical, mechanical, and environmental engineer from Athens, Greece, modern conventional gas- and diesel-powered automobiles incorporate many EMF-emitting devices.
"EMFs in a car in motion with brakes applied + ABS activation may well exceed 100 mG. Adding RF radiation from blue tooth, Wi Fi, the cell phones of the passengers, the 4G antennas laid out all along the major roads plus the radars of cars already equipped with, located behind, left or right of a vehicle, the total EMF and EMR fields will exceed any limits humans can tolerate over a long period of time."

PDF of Dr. Metsis' graphics (2 pages):


Mobile Phone Antenna’s EM Exposure Study on a Human Model Inside the Car

Nozadze T, Jeladze V, Tabatadze V, Petoev I, Zaidze R. Mobile phone antenna’s EM exposure study on a homogeneous human model inside the car. 2018 XXIIIrd International Seminar/Workshop on Direct and Inverse Problems of Electromagnetic and Acoustic Wave Theory (DIPED). Tlibisi, Georgia. Sep 24-27, 2019. DOI:  10.1109/DIPED.2018.8543310


Mobile phones’ radiation influence on a homogenous human model located inside a car is studied in this research. One of the novelty of proposed research is earth surface influence consideration under the car on EM field formation inside it. The inner field and its amplification by the car’s walls that in some cases act like a resonator are studied. The problem was solved numerically using the Method of Auxiliary Sources. Numerical simulations were carried out at the 450, 900, 1800 [MHz] standard communication frequencies. Obtained results showed the presence of resonant phenomena inside the car.


On Fig. 9 are presented point SAR peak values at the considered non-resonant and resonant frequencies. As it seen, point SAR peak values for resonant frequencies are approximately 5–8 times higher than non-resonant frequencies.

Based on the analysis of the obtained results we can conclude that at some frequencies car’s walls acts as the resonator and amplifies the field radiated from the mobile phones; which is cause of high point SAR values inside the human body. For the low frequency the EM field energy deeply penetrates into the human body, while for the high frequencies is mostly absorbed in the skin.


The mobile phone’s EM exposure problem for a homogenous human model inside the car is studied using the MAS. MAS were used to simulate earth reflective surface. The obtained results, conducted with the MAS based program package, showed the presence of resonance and reactive fields inside the car, that causes high SAR in human tissues. The reason of this is that at the considered frequencies car’s metallic surface acts as the resonator. So, it isn’t desirable speak on phones for a long time inside the car, that can be hazardous for the cell phone users located in it.


Electric cars and EMI with cardiac implantable electronic devices: 
A cross-sectional evaluation

Lennerz C, O'Connor M, Horlbeck L, Michel J, Weigand S, Grebmer C, Blazek P, Brkic A, Semmler V, Haller B, Reents T, Hessling G, Deisenhofer I, Whittaker P, Lienkamp M, Kolb C. Letter: Electric cars and electromagnetic interference with cardiac implantable electronic devices: A cross-sectional evaluation. Annals of Internal Medicine. Apr 24, 2018.

No Abstract
Cardiac implantable electronic devices (CIEDs) are considered standard care for bradycardia, tachycardia, and heart failure. Electromagnetic interference (EMI) can disrupt normal function … Electric cars represent a potential source of EMI. However, data are insufficient to determine their safety or whether their use should be restricted in patients with CIEDs.
Objective: To assess whether electric cars cause EMI and subsequent CIED dysfunction.
Methods and Findings: We approached 150 consecutive patients with CIEDs seen in our electrophysiology clinic … 40 patients declined to participate, and 2 withdrew consent … Participants were assigned to 1 of 4 electric cars with the largest European market share…we excluded hybrid vehicles.
Participants sat in the front seat while cars ran on a roller test bench … Participants then charged the same car in which they had sat. Finally, investigators drove the cars on public roads.
Field strength was generally highest during charging (30.1 to 116.5 µT) and increased as the charging current increased. Exposure during charging was at least an order of magnitude greater than that measured within 5 cm of the CIED in the front seat (2.0 to 3.6 µT). Field strength did not differ between the front and back seats. Peak field strength measured outside the cars ranged between the values measured during charging and those measured within the cars during testing … Field strength measured inside the cars during road driving was similar to that measured during test bench studies.
We found no evidence of EMI with CIEDs ...The electrocardiographic recorder did observe EMI, but CIED function and programming were unaffected.
Our sample was too small to detect rare events ... Nevertheless, other evidence supports a lack of EMI with CIEDs. Magnetic fields are generated in gasoline-powered vehicles if the vehicles' steel-belted tires are magnetized (3); average fields of approximately 20 µT were reported in the back seat of 12 models, and those as high as 97 µT were reported close to the tires (4). Similar values were reported in electric trains and trams (5). The lack of anecdotal reports of CIED malfunction associated with such transportation is consistent with our findings.
Electric cars seem safe for patients with CIEDs, and restrictions do not appear to be required. However, we recommend vigilance to monitor for rare events, especially those associated with charging and proposed “supercharging” technology.


Evaluating ELF magnetic fields 
in the rear seats of electric vehicles

Lin J, Lu M, Wu T, Yang L, Wu T. Evaluating extremely low frequency magnetic fields in the rear seats of the electric vehicles. Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2018 Mar 23. doi: 10.1093/rpd/ncy048.

In the electric vehicles (EVs), children can sit on a safety seat installed in the rear seats. Owing to their smaller physical dimensions, their heads, generally, are closer to the underfloor electrical systems where the magnetic field (MF) exposure is the greatest. In this study, the magnetic flux density (B) was measured in the rear seats of 10 different EVs, for different driving sessions. We used the measurement results from different heights corresponding to the locations of the heads of an adult and an infant to calculate the induced electric field (E-field) strength using anatomical human models. The results revealed that measured B fields in the rear seats were far below the reference levels by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. Although small children may be exposed to higher MF strength, induced E-field strengths were much lower than that of adults due to their particular physical dimensions. 
Small children and infants sitting in a safety seat at the rear part of the vehicle is a common occurrence. Children have smaller physical dimensions and, thus, their heads are generally much closer to the car floor, where the MF strength has been reported to be higher due to tire magnetization and the operation of the underfloor electrical systems (6, 7). The matter of children being potentially subject to greater magnetic field exposure may be relevant as leukemia is the most common type of childhood cancer (8). In particular, Ahlbom et al. (9) and Greenland et al. (10) indicated that the exposure to 50 and 60 Hz MF exceeding 0.3–0.4 μT may result in an increased risk for childhood leukemia although a satisfactory causal relationship has not yet been reliably demonstrated. Also, it was reported that a combination of weak, steady and alternating MF could modify the radical concentration, which had the potential to lead to biologically significant changes (11).
... the B field values measured at location #4 (floor in from of rear seat) were the highest, followed by values from location #3 (rear seat cushion), #2 (child’s head position) and #1 (adult’s head position) (p < 0.012, α = 0.05/3 = 0.017). There was a significant difference between the driving scenarios (F(3, 117) = 3.72, p = 0.013). The acceleration and deceleration scenarios generated higher B fields compared with the stationary and the 40 km/h driving scenarios (p < 0.01, α = 0.05/3 = 0.017) while no difference was identified between acceleration and deceleration (p = 0.16).
... The results demonstrate that the induced E-field strength was lower for the infant model compared with that of the adult in terms of both the head and body as a whole.
The infant was reported to have higher electrical conductivity (29) but there was no database dedicated to the infant. Furthermore, below 1 MHz, the database was hard to be measured and the uncertainty was large (30). Therefore, we would not include the issue in the study.

Although several SCs (spectral components) on higher frequencies have been observed (can spread to 1.24 kHz), the spectral analysis revealed that the SCs concentrated on bands below 1000 Hz. The EVs under test used aluminum alloy wheel rims, which have low magnetic permeability. However, the steel wire in the reinforcing belts of radial tires pick up magnetic fields from the terrestrial MF. When the tires spin, the magnetized steel wire in the reinforcing belts generates ELF MF usually below 20 Hz, that can exceed 2.0 μT at seat level in the passenger compartment (6). The measurement did not identify the ELF MF by different sources because the purpose of the study was to investigate the realistic exposure scenario for the occupants. To note, degaussing the tires or using the fiberglass belted tires can eliminate this effect and provide the MF results solely introduced by the operation of the electrified system.

ICNIRP proposed guidelines to evaluate the compliance of the non-sinusoidal signal exposure(3). The measurements rendered the maximal B field at the level of one-tenth to several μT, far below the reference level of the guidelines (e.g. 200 μT for 20–400 Hz). The similar non-sinusoidal MF signal magnitudes can only account for 6–10% of the reference levels according to the previous reports(32). However, as noted in the Introduction, ‘… 50 and 60 Hz MF exceeding 0.3–0.4 μT may result in an increased risk for childhood leukemia’. Therefore, it is necessary to measure the MF in the EVs to limit the exposure and for the purpose of epidemiological studies.
In this study, we measured ELF MF in the rear seats of ten types of EVs. The measurements were performed for four different driving scenarios. The measurement results were analyzed to determine the worst-case scenario and those values were used for simulations. We made numerical simulations to compare the induced E-field strength due to the physical difference between children and adults using detailed anatomical models. The results support the contention that the MF in the EVs that we tested was far below the reference levels of the ICNIRP guidelines. Furthermore, our findings show that children would not be more highly exposed compared to adults when taking into consideration of their physical differences. However, the measurement results indicated that further studies should be performed to elucidate the concerns on the incidence of the childhood leukemia for infant and child occupants.

Evaluation of electromagnetic exposure during 85 kHz wireless power transfer 
for electric vehicles

SangWook Park. Evaluation of Electromagnetic Exposure During 85 kHz Wireless Power Transfer for Electric Vehicles. IEEE Transactions on Magnetics. Volume: PP, Issue: 99. Sep 1, 2017. 10.1109/TMAG.2017.2748498

The external fields in the proximity of electric vehicle (EV) wireless power transfer (WPT) systems requiring high power may exceed the limits of international safety guidelines. This study presents dosimetric results of an 85 kHz WPT system for electric vehicles. A WPT system for charging EVs is designed and dosimetry for the system is evaluated for various exposure scenarios: a human body in front of the WPT system without shielding, with shielding, with alignment and misalignment between transmitter and receiver, and with a metal plate on the system for vehicle mimic floor pan. The minimum accessible distances in compliance are investigated for various transmitting powers. The maximum allowable transmitting power are also investigated with the limits of international safety guidelines and the dosimetric results.

Electric and magnetic fields <100 KHz in electric and gasoline-powered vehicles

Tell RA, Kavet R. Electric and magnetic fields <100 KHz in electric and gasoline-powered vehicles. Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2016 Dec;172(4):541-546.
Measurements were conducted to investigate electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) from 120 Hz to 10 kHz and 1.2 to 100 kHz in 9 electric or hybrid vehicles and 4 gasoline vehicles, all while being driven. The range of fields in the electric vehicles enclosed the range observed in the gasoline vehicles. Mean magnetic fields ranged from nominally 0.6 to 3.5 µT for electric/hybrids depending on the measurement band compared with nominally 0.4 to 0.6 µT for gasoline vehicles. Mean values of electric fields ranged from nominally 2 to 3 V m-1 for electric/hybrid vehicles depending on the band, compared with 0.9 to 3 V m-1 for gasoline vehicles. In all cases, the fields were well within published exposure limits for the general population. The measurements were performed with Narda model EHP-50C/EHP-50D EMF analysers that revealed the presence of spurious signals in the EHP-50C unit, which were resolved with the EHP-50D model.

Passenger exposure to magnetic fields due to the batteries of an electric vehicle

Pablo Moreno-Torres Concha; Pablo Velez; Marcos Lafoz; Jaime R. Arribas. Passenger Exposure to Magnetic Fields due to the Batteries of an Electric Vehicle. IEEE Transactions on Vehicular Technology. 65(6):4564-4571. Jun 2016.
In electric vehicles, passengers sit very close to an electric system of significant power. The high currents achieved in these vehicles mean that the passengers could be exposed to significant magnetic fields (MFs). One of the electric devices present in the power train are the batteries. In this paper, a methodology to evaluate the MF created by these batteries is presented. First, the MF generated by a single battery is analyzed using finite-elements simulations. Results are compared with laboratory measurements, which are taken from a real battery, to validate the model. After this, the MF created by a complete battery pack is estimated, and results are discussed.
Passengers inside an EV could be exposed to MFs of considerable strength when compared with conventional vehicles or to other daily exposures (at home, in the office, in the street, etc.). In this paper, the MF created by the batteries of a particular electric car is evaluated from the human health point of view by means of finite-elements simulations, measurements, and a simple analytical approximation, obtaining an upper bound for the estimated MF generated by a given battery pack. These results have been compared with ICNIRP's recommendations concerning exposure limitation to low-frequency MFs, finding that the field generated by this particular battery pack should be below ICNIRP's field reference levels, and conclusions concerning the influence of the switching frequency have been drawn. Finally, some discussion regarding other field sources within the vehicle and different vehicles designs has been presented. Due to the wide variety of both available EVs and battery stacks configurations, it is recommended that each vehicle model should be individually assessed regarding MF exposure.


Magnetic field exposure assessment in electric vehicles

Vassilev A et al. Magnetic Field Exposure Assessment in Electric Vehicles. IEEE Transactions on Electromagnetic Compatibility. 57(1):35-43. Feb 2015.
This article describes a study of magnetic field exposure in electric vehicles (EVs). The magnetic field inside eight different EVs (including battery, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell types) with different motor technologies (brushed direct current, permanent magnet synchronous, and induction) were measured at frequencies up to 10 MHz. Three vehicles with conventional powertrains were also investigated for comparison. The measurement protocol and the results of the measurement campaign are described, and various magnetic field sources are identified. As the measurements show a complex broadband frequency spectrum, an exposure calculation was performed using the ICNIRP “weighted peak” approach. Results for the measured EVs showed that the exposure reached 20% of the ICNIRP 2010 reference levels for general public exposure near to the battery and in the vicinity of the feet during vehicle start-up, but was less than 2% at head height for the front passenger position. Maximum exposures of the order of 10% of the ICNIRP 2010 reference levels were obtained for the cars with conventional powertrains.

Characterization of ELF magnetic fields from diesel, gasoline and hybrid 
cars under controlled conditions

Hareuveny R, Sudan M, Halgamuge MN, Yaffe Y, Tzabari Y, Namir D, Kheifets L. Characterization of Extremely Low Frequency Magnetic Fields from Diesel, Gasoline and Hybrid Cars under Controlled Conditions. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015 Jan 30;12(2):1651-1666.

This study characterizes extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic field (MF) levels in 10 car models.
Extensive measurements were conducted in three diesel, four gasoline, and three hybrid cars, under similar controlled conditions and negligible background fields.

Averaged over all four seats under various driving scenarios the fields were lowest in diesel cars (0.02 μT), higher for gasoline (0.04-0.05 μT) and highest in hybrids (0.06-0.09 μT), but all were in-line with daily exposures from other sources. Hybrid cars had the highest mean and 95th percentile MF levels, and an especially large percentage of measurements above 0.2 μT. These parameters were also higher for moving conditions compared to standing while idling or revving at 2500 RPM and higher still at 80 km/h compared to 40 km/h. Fields in non-hybrid cars were higher at the front seats, while in hybrid cars they were higher at the back seats, particularly the back right seat where 16%-69% of measurements were greater than 0.2 μT.

As our results do not include low frequency fields (below 30 Hz) that might be generated by tire rotation, we suggest that net currents flowing through the cars' metallic chassis may be a possible source of MF. Larger surveys in standardized and well-described settings should be conducted with different types of vehicles and with spectral analysis of fields including lower frequencies due to magnetization of tires.
Previous work suggests that major sources of MF in cars include the tires and electric currents [4,5]. The level of MF exposure depends on the position within the vehicle (e.g., proximity to the MF sources) and can vary with different operating conditions, as changes to engine load can induce MFs through changes in electric currents. Scientific investigations of the levels of MF in cars are sparse: only one study evaluated fields only in non-hybrid cars [6], two studies of hybrid cars have been carried out [4,7], and few studies have systematically compared exposures in both hybrid and non-hybrid cars [8,9,10,11,12], some based on a very small number of cars 
In hybrid cars, the battery is generally located in the rear of the car and the engine is located in the front. Electric current flows between these two points through cables that run underneath the passenger cabin of the car. This cable is located on the left for right-hand driving cars and on the right for left-hand driving cars. Although in principle the system uses direct current (DC), current from the alternator that is not fully rectified as well as changes to the engine load, and therefore the current level, can produce MFs which are most likely in the ELF range. While most non-hybrid cars have batteries that are located in the front, batteries in some of them are located in the rear of the car, with cables running to the front of the car for the electrical appliances on the dashboard. In this study, all gasoline and diesel cars had batteries located in the front of the car.
...the percent of time above 0.2 µT was the most sensitive parameter of the exposure. Overall, the diesel cars measured in this study had the lowest MF readings (geometric mean less than 0.02 μT), while the hybrid cars had the highest MF readings (geometric mean 0.05 μT). Hybrid cars had also the most unstable results, even after excluding outliers beyond the 5th and 95th percentiles. With regard to seat position, after adjusting for the specific car model, gasoline and diesel cars produced higher average MF readings in the front seats, while hybrid cars produced the highest MF readings in the back right seat (presumably due to the location of the battery). Comparing the different operating conditions, the highest average fields were found at 80 km/h, and the differences between operating conditions were most pronounced in the back right seat in hybrid cars. Whether during typical city or highway driving, we found lowest average fields for diesel cars and highest fields for hybrid cars.
Previous works suggest that the magnetization of rotating tires is the primary source of ELF MFs in non-hybrid cars [5,15]. However, the relatively strong fields (on the order of a few μT within the car) originating from the rotating tires are typically at 5–15 Hz frequencies, which are filtered by the EMDEX II meters. ....
Overall, the average MF levels measured in the cars’ seats were in the range of 0.04–0.09 μT (AM) and 0.02–0.05 μT (GM). These fields are well below the ICNIRP [17] guidelines for maximum general public exposure (which range from 200 μT for 40 Hz to 100 μT for 800 Hz), but given the complex environments in the cars, simultaneous exposure to non-sinusoidal fields at multiple frequencies must be carefully taken into account. Nevertheless, exposures in the cars are in the range of every day exposure from other sources. Moreover, given the short amount of time that most adults and children spend in cars (about 30 minutes per day based on a survey of children in Israel (unpublished data), the relative contribution of this source to the ELF exposure of the general public is small. However, these fields are in addition to other exposure sources. Our results might explain trends seen in other daily exposures: slightly higher average fields observed while travelling (GM = 0.096 μT) relative to in bed (GM = 0.052 μT) and home not in bed (GM = 0.080 μT) [1]. Similarly, the survey of children in Israel found higher exposure from transportation (GM = 0.092 µT) compared to mean daily exposures (GM = 0.059 µT). Occupationally, the GM of time-weighted average for motor vehicle drivers is 0.12 μT [18].
Open access paper:

Design guidelines to reduce the magnetic field in electric vehicles

SINTEF, Jan 6, 2014

Based on the measurements and on extensive simulation work the project arrived on the following design guidelines to, if necessary, minimize the magnetic field in electric vehicles.

  • For any DC cable carrying significant amount of current, it should be made in the form of a twisted pair so that the currents in the pair always flow in the opposite directions. This will minimise its EMF emission.
  • For three-phase AC cables, three wires should be twisted and made as close as possible so as to minimise its EMF emission.
  • All power cables should be positioned as far away as possible from the passenger seat area, and their layout should not form a loop. If cable distance is less than 200mm away from the passenger seats, some forms of shielding should be adopted.
  • A thin layer of ferromagnetic shield is recommended as this is cost-effective solution for the reduction of EMF emission as well EMI emission.
  • Where possible, power cables should be laid such a way that they are separated from the passenger seat area by a steel sheet, e.g., under a steel metallic chassis, or inside a steel trunk.
  • Where possible, the motor should be installed farther away from the passenger seat area, and its rotation axis should not point to the seat region.
  • If weight permits, the motor housing should be made of steel, rather than aluminium, as the former has a much better shielding effect.
  • If the distance of the motor and passenger seat area is less than 500mm, some forms of shielding should be employed. For example, a steel plate could be placed between the motor and the passenger seat region
  • Motor housing should be electrically well connected to the vehicle metallic chassis to minimise any electrical potential.
  • Inverter and motor should be mounted as close as possible to each other to minimise the cable length between the two.
  • Since batteries are distributed, the currents in the batteries and in the interconnectors may become a significant source for EMF emission, they should be place as far away as possible from the passenger seat areas. If the distance between the battery and passenger seat area is less than 200mm, steel shields should be used to separate the batteries and the seating area.
  • The cables connecting battery cells should not form a loop, and where possible, the interconnectors for the positive polarity should be as close as possible to those of the negative polarity.

Magnetic fields in electric cars won't kill you

Jeremy Hsu, IEEE Spectrum, May 5, 2014
“The study, led by SINTEF, an independent research organization headquartered in Trondheim, Norway, measured the electromagnetic radiation—in the lab and during road tests—of seven different electric cars, one hydrogen-powered car, two gasoline-fueled cars and one diesel-fueled car. Results from all conditions showed that the exposure was less than 20 percent of the limit recommended by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).”
“Measurements taken inside the vehicles—using a test dummy with sensors located in the head, chest and feet—showed exposure at less than 2 percent of the non-ionizing radiation limit at head-height. The highest electromagnetic field readings—still less than 20 percent of the limit—were found near the floor of the electric cars, close to the battery. Sensors picked up a burst of radiation that same level, when the cars were started.”

ELF magnetic fields in electric and gasoline-powered vehicles

Tell RA, Sias G, Smith J, Sahl J, Kavet R. ELF magnetic fields in electric and gasoline-powered vehicles. Bioelectromagnetics. 2013 Feb;34(2):156-61. doi: 10.1002/bem.21730.

We conducted a pilot study to assess magnetic field levels in electric compared to gasoline-powered vehicles, and established a methodology that would provide valid data for further assessments. The sample consisted of 14 vehicles, all manufactured between January 2000 and April 2009; 6 were gasoline-powered vehicles and 8 were electric vehicles of various types. Of the eight models available, three were represented by a gasoline-powered vehicle and at least one electric vehicle, enabling intra-model comparisons. Vehicles were driven over a 16.3 km test route. Each vehicle was equipped with six EMDEX Lite broadband meters with a 40-1,000 Hz bandwidth programmed to sample every 4 s. Standard statistical testing was based on the fact that the autocorrelation statistic damped quickly with time. For seven electric cars, the geometric mean (GM) of all measurements (N = 18,318) was 0.095 µT with a geometric standard deviation (GSD) of 2.66, compared to 0.051 µT (N = 9,301; GSD = 2.11) for four gasoline-powered cars (P < 0.0001). Using the data from a previous exposure assessment of residential exposure in eight geographic regions in the United States as a basis for comparison (N = 218), the broadband magnetic fields in electric vehicles covered the same range as personal exposure levels recorded in that study. All fields measured in all vehicles were much less than the exposure limits published by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Future studies should include larger sample sizes representative of a greater cross-section of electric-type vehicles.
Mythbuster: EMF levels in hybrids

Consumer Reports News: August 4, 2010


“Some concern has been raised about the possible health effects of electromagnetic field radiation, known as EMF, for people who drive in hybrid cars. While all electrical devices, from table lamps to copy machines, emit EMF radiation, the fear is that hybrid cars, with their big batteries and powerful electric motors, can subject occupants to unhealthy doses. The problem is that there is no established threshold standard that says what an unhealthy dose might be, and no concrete, scientific proof that the sort of EMF produced by electric motors harms people

“We found the highest EMF levels in the Chevrolet Cobalt, a conventional non-hybrid small sedan.”

[The peak EMF readings at the driver’s feet ranged from 0.5 mG (milligauss) in the 2008 Toyota Highlander to 30 mG in the Chevrolet Cobalt. The hybrids tested at 2-4 mG. Here are some highlights from the tests. EMF readings were highest in the driver’s foot well and second-highest at the waist, much lower higher up, where human organs might be more susceptible to EMF.

“To get a sense of scale, though, note that users of personal computers are subject to EMF exposure in the range of 2 to 20 mG, electric blankets 5 to 30 mG, and a hair dryer 10 to 70 mG, according to an Australian government compilation. In this country, several states limit EMF emissions from power lines to 200 mG. However, there are no U.S. standards specifically governing EMF in cars.”

“In this series of tests, we found no evidence that hybrids expose drivers to significantly more EMF than do conventional cars. Consider this myth, busted.”

Israel preps world’s first hybrid car radiation scale

Tal Bronfer, the truth about cars, March 1, 2010

“The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) recommends a limit of 1,000 mG (milligauss) for a 24 hour exposure period. While other guidelines pose similar limits, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) deemed extended exposure to electromagnetic fields stronger than 2 mG to be a “possible cause” for cancer. Israel’s Ministry of Health recommends a maximum of 4 mG.”
“Last year, Israeli automotive website Walla! Cars conducted a series of tests on the previous generation Toyota Prius, Honda Insight and Honda Civic Hybrid, and recorded radiation figures of up to 100 mG during acceleration. Measurements also peaked when the batteries were either full (and in use) or empty (and being charged from the engine), while normal driving at constant speeds yielded 14 to 30 mG on the Prius, depending on the area of the cabin.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection is expected to publish the results of the study this week. The study will group hybrids sold in Israel into three different radiation groups, reports Israel’s Calcalist. It’s expected that the current-gen Prius will be deemed ‘safe’, while the Honda Insight and Civic Hybrid (as well as the prev-gen Prius) will be listed as emitting ‘excessive’ radiation.”


Fear, but few facts, on hybrid risk

Jim Motavalli, New York Times, Apr 27, 2008

“... concern is not without merit; agencies including the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute acknowledge the potential hazards of long-term exposure to a strong electromagnetic field, or E.M.F., and have done studies on the association of cancer risks with living near high-voltage utility lines.

While Americans live with E.M.F.’s all around — produced by everything from cellphones to electric blankets — there is no broad agreement over what level of exposure constitutes a health hazard, and there is no federal standard that sets allowable exposure levels. Government safety tests do not measure the strength of the fields in vehicles — though Honda and Toyota, the dominant hybrid makers, say their internal checks assure that their cars pose no added risk to occupants.”

“A spokesman for Honda, Chris Martin, points to the lack of a federally mandated standard for E.M.F.’s in cars. Despite this, he said, Honda takes the matter seriously. “All our tests had results that were well below the commission’s standard,” Mr. Martin said, referring to the European guidelines. And he cautions about the use of hand-held test equipment. “People have a valid concern, but they’re measuring radiation using the wrong devices,” he said.”
“Donald B. Karner, president of Electric Transportation Applications in Phoenix, who tested E.M.F. levels in battery-electric cars for the Energy Department in the 1990s, said it was hard to evaluate readings without knowing how the testing was done. He also said it was a problem to determine a danger level for low-frequency radiation, in part because dosage is determined not only by proximity to the source, but by duration of exposure. “We’re exposed to radio waves from the time we’re born, but there’s a general belief that there’s so little energy in them that they’re not dangerous,” he said.”

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Berkeley Cell Phone "Right to Know" Ordinance

To see media coverage about the Berkeley cell phone "right to know" ordinance 
and the CTIA's lawsuit: 


Sep 22, 2018

Berkeley City Council Re-Affirms City's Commitment to Defend its 
Landmark Cell Phone "Right to Know" Law against CTIA's Lawsuit

The Berkeley City Council held a closed session meeting on September 20 to discuss with their lawyers the status of ongoing litigation pertaining to the cell phone "right to know" law (CTIA v Berkeley) and another legal case.

Prior to the closed session, the council heard public comments from about eight speakers in support of the cell phone ordinance. The speakers included Max Anderson, a former council member who sponsored the ordinance in 2015, and Ellen Marks, founder of the California Brain Tumor Association.

The speakers made the following points:
  • This landmark ordinance is sound from a policy and legal perspective.
  • The law has received substantial local and national media coverage which has helped spread an important public health message throughout the country.
  • The city has prevailed at every level in the federal judicial system in defending the ordinance against the CTIA's lawsuit.
At the conclusion of the public hearing, the council discussed the case with the City Attorney and Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, the lead attorney who is working on this case pro bono.

When the council re-convened in open session, they re-affirmed the city's commitment to defend the law against the CTIA's lawsuit.

News coverage of this meeting: Daily Californian and CBS San Francisco.

June 28, 2018  (Updated July 2)

Supreme Court Issues Ruling on Berkeley Cell Phone "Right to Know" Ordinance

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in CTIA  v. Berkeley today. The CTIA had petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling made by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court had ruled against the CTIA's request for a preliminary injunction that would block the city's cell phone "right to know" ordinance pending resolution of the case. The ordinance was adopted in May, 2015 and has been in effect since March, 2016.

Instead of hearing the case, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the appeals court for further consideration. The Supreme Court wants the appeals court to review CTIA v. Berkeley in light of a new ruling in another case. 

In NIFLA v. Becerra, the Supreme Court invalidated a California law that requires "pregnancy crisis centers" to provide information to patients about the availability of abortion services. Since these centers try to stop women from having abortions, they are opposed to providing their patients with such information.

The Supreme Court clarified the limits of their ruling in NIFLA v. Becerra. This limitation should help Berkeley defend its ordinance in subsequent legal proceedings:

"... we do not question the legality of health and safety warnings long considered permissible, or purely factual and uncontroversial disclosures about commercial products." (National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, Opinion of the Court, pp. 16-17)

Berkeley provided the lower court with empirical evidence that most residents are unaware of the safety information that cell phone manufacturers provide. Yet, the Federal Communications Commission requires manufacturers to disclose the cell phone's minimum body separation distance and recommend to consumers the use of an approved holder that complies with this separation distance.

The city's cell phone "right to know" ordinance requires cell phone retailers either to post a notice or provide consumers with the following safety information:

“To assure safety, the Federal Government requires that cell phones meet radiofrequency (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. Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for information about how to use your phone safely.”

The city requires cell phone retailers to display the above factual notice. The notice does not make any claims about health risks from cell phone use. Since the ordinance has been in effect for more than two years without creating any controversy among consumers or disruption to cell phone retail businesses in the city, it is uncontroversial.

The Berkeley cell phone "right to know" ordinance requires cell phone retailers to provide consumers with "purely factual and uncontroversial disclosures about commercial products." Hence, the ordinance will likely withstand legal challenges from the CTIA and its corporate allies.

SCOTUSblog has a summary of the issues, chronology of the filings, and links to all briefs submitted to the Supreme Court.

June 15, 2018

The CTIA and the City of Berkeley filed a joint brief today with the federal district court in northern California to place a hold on their case until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to hear the CTIA's case against the city's cell phone "right to know" ordinance.

Although the Supreme Court held a meeting about the case on May 10, 2018 to consider the CTIA's petition, the court has yet to issue a decision.

January 13, 2018

The CTIA -The Wireless Association has petitioned the United States Supreme Court to hear their case against the City of Berkeley’s cell phone “right to know” ordinance.

The CTIA argues that the ordinance forces cell-phone retailers to deliver a misleading and controversial message to customers. The city asserts that the message is “literally true”; moreover, the city has a legitimate interest in protecting the health of its residents.

Berkeley’s ordinance which was adopted in May, 2015, has been in effect since March, 2016. The law requires cellphone retailers to provide consumers with the following notification:
“To assure safety, the Federal Government requires that cell phones meet radiofrequency (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. Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for information about how to use your phone safely.”
The appeals court ruled that government may compel commercial speech, absent any alleged false or deceptive communication, as long as the mandated message is “reasonably related to” any “more than trivial” governmental interest and is “literally true.” 

The city prevailed in the federal district court and in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In October of last year, the appeal courts denied the CTIA’s request for a hearing before the full court.

The case, “CTIA - The Wireless Association, Petitioner v. City of Berkeley, California, et al.,” was filed on the Supreme Court docket on January 9, 2018 as No. 17-976.

The CTIA is represented by Theodore Olson, a former U.S. Solicitor General, from the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP.  

The city is represented by Harvard constitutional law professor Lawrence Lessig, Amanda Shanor, a Ph.D. candidate at Yale Law School, and Farimah Brown and Savith Iyengar of the Berkeley city attorney’s office.

The CTIA’s petition and appendix can be downloaded from the Supreme Court’s web site.

October 18, 2017

Yesterday the CTIA submitted a statement to the federal district court regarding future management of the case. The CTIA indicated that it may petition the Supreme Court for a hearing even though the appeals court denied an en banc hearing.

According to the statement, both parties to the case have agreed that discovery and a trial is unnecessary, and neither party is willing to settle the case. The CTIA has until January 9, 2018 to petition the Supreme Court for a hearing.

October 11, 2017 (updated Oct 12, 2017)

The city of Berkeley won a decision in the federal appeals court today. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider its April decision to uphold a Berkeley ordinance that requires cell phone retailers to warn customers about possible radiation exposure. 

The court rejected arguments made by the CTIA--The Wireless Association which argued for an en banc hearing of the case by a panel of eleven appeals court judges.

The majority opinion stated that upholding the court’s prior decision is consistent with four other circuit courts that have held government's right to compel “purely factual” commercial speech to serve a compelling government interest, 
even in the absence of consumer deception.

The minority opinion argued that because the Federal Communications Commission already requires radiation disclosures in new cellphone user manuals, Berkeley’s “misleading” disclosure is “completely unnecessary.”

“The decision of the district court was correct — twice. The decision of the court of appeals was correct — now twice,” Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig, who argued for the city in the case, said in an email to The Recorder. “We are hopeful that this will bring an end to this case, and the City of Berkeley will again be free to govern its citizens as its citizens demand.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council submitted a brief to support the City of Berkeley. The Association of National Advertisers, the American Beverage Association, and the Chamber of Commerce submitted briefs in support of the CTIA.

The court's ruling can be downloaded at

April 24, 2017

Today Reuters summarized the federal appeals court ruling on the Berkeley cell phone radiation case in an article entitled, "When the government can make businesses talk." 

For other news accounts, see

April 21, 2017

Today the city of Berkeley won a major decision in a federal appeals court. The court denied a request by the CTIA--The Wireless Association to block Berkeley’s landmark cell phone “right to know” ordinance.

Berkeley’s ordinance which has been in effect since March 21 of last year requires cellphone retailers in the city to provide consumers with the following notification:

“To assure safety, the Federal Government requires that cell phones meet radiofrequency (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. Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for information about how to use your phone safely.”

The three judges who heard the case on September 13, 2016 for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s denial of the industry association’s request for a preliminary injunction. The panel determined that “there was no irreparable harm based on the First Amendment or preemption, that the balance of equities tipped in Berkeley’s favor, that the ordinance was in the public interest, and that an injunction would harm that interest.”

Although the federal appeals court hearing only addresses the industry's request for a preliminary injunction, the ruling bodes well for the City because the industry’s argument in the overall case for killing the ordinance is based upon the First Amendment and federal preemption. The court rejected those arguments stating that that the ordinance is in the public interest as it complements and reinforces existing Federal law and policy.

More information about the ordinance and the lawsuit appears below. For links to media coverage see: Berkeley Cell Phone "Right to Know" Ordinance: Media Coverage.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit can be downloaded from

A summary of the ruling follows:

“The panel affirmed the district court’s order denying a request for a preliminary injunction seeking to stay enforcement of a City of Berkeley ordinance requiring cell phone retailers to inform prospective cell phone purchasers that carrying a cell phone in certain ways may cause them to exceed Federal Communications Commission guidelines for exposure to radio-frequency radiation ….

… the panel held that the City’s compelled disclosure of commercial speech complied with the First Amendment because the information in the disclosure was reasonably related to a substantial governmental interest and was purely factual. Accordingly, the panel concluded that plaintiff had little likelihood of success on its First Amendment claim that the disclosure compelled by the Berkeley ordinance was unconstitutional.

The panel determined that there was little likelihood of success on plaintiff’s contention that the Berkeley ordinance was preempted. The panel held that Berkeley’s compelled disclosure did no more than alert consumers to the safety disclosures that the Federal Communication Commission requires, and to direct consumers to federally compelled instructions in their user manuals providing specific information about how to avoid excessive exposure. The panel held that far from conflicting with federal law and policy, the Berkeley ordinance complements and reinforces it.

In affirming the denial of a preliminary injunction, the panel further determined that there was no irreparable harm based on the First Amendment or preemption, that the balance of equities tipped in Berkeley’s favor, that the ordinance was in the public interest, and that an injunction would harm that interest.

Dissenting in part, Judge Friedland stated that Berkeley’s ordinance likely violates the First Amendment and therefore should have been preliminarily enjoined. She stated that taken as a whole, the most natural reading of the Berkeley disclosure warns that carrying a cell phone in one’s pocket is unsafe. Yet Berkeley had not attempted to argue, let alone to prove, that message was true.”

Feb 19, 2017

Although it has been five months since the federal appeals court hearing, the three-judge panel has yet to rule on the request by the CTIA to block enforcement of the Berkeley cell phone "right to know" ordinance until the CTIA's lawsuit against the city is adjudicated. In the meantime the law is in effect.

Judge Edward M. Chen has scheduled a case management conference in federal district court on March 23rd.
3:15-cv-02529-EMC - CTIA - The Wireless Association v. City of Berkeley et al Case Mgmt Conference (10:30 AM, March 23, 2017)

Sep 14, 2016

Video: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hearing: CTIA v. Berkeley

9/13/2016 (41 minutes)

CTIA - The Wireless Association appeals from the order dissolving a preliminary injunction in its suit challenging a Berkeley ordinance that requires cell phone retailers to provide a certain notice regarding radiofrequency energy emissions.

Sep 13, 2016

Audio: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hearing: CTIA v. Berkeley (case no.16-15141) 

9/13/2016 (41 minutes; 28 MB file)

Sep 12, 2016

To listen to the live audio feed from the courtroom tomorrow go to and click on the link listed at "Live Streaming Oral Arguments CR1."  Due to media interest in this case, the hearing has been scheduled for 9:30 A.M. Pacific time.

Sep 1, 2016

On September 13, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hold a hearing to consider whether to overturn the district court's decision that denied the CTIA's request for a preliminary injunction to block implementation of Berkeley’s cellphone ordinance until the case was decided. 

Berkeley's law has been in effect since March after the Circuit Court decided to uphold the federal district court's decision to deny the CTIA's request for a preliminary injunction.

This landmark cellphone "right to know" law requires cellphone retailers in Berkeley to post a cellphone safety notification or provide a copy to customers. The notification reminds the consumer to read the manufacturer’s safety information in the cellphone’s user manual.

The case before the federal Court of Appeals is CTIA-The Wireless Association v. City of Berkeley et al., case number 16-15141. The CTIA is represented by former Solicitor General Theodore Olson, and the City is represented by Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig. The hearing will be held in the U.S. Courthouse in San Francisco at 9:30 A.M. (95 Seventh Street, Courtroom 1, 3rd Floor, Rm 338).

Following is a recap of key legal developments since March.

In March, the CTIA appealed the Court's ruling that denied the CTIA's motion for a preliminary injunction and allowed the City of Berkeley to implement its cellphone “right to know” ordinance.

In April, the City submitted a brief to the Court which argued that the CTIA’s misinterpretation of the First Amendment would severely limit government’s regulatory powers, and if the Court were to support the CTIA’s arguments, numerous federal, state, and municipal laws would be ruled unconstitutional (“Berkeley Defends Cellphone Warning Ordinance At 9th Circ.,” Law 360, Apr 5, 2016;

California Attorney General Kamala Harris and the Natural Resources Defense Council submitted amicus briefs in support of Berkeley’s position. Both the Attorney General and the NRDC warned the Court against holding governments to a higher level of First Amendment free speech protection scrutiny when they are simply mandating disclosures. The Attorney General argued, “If the approach advocated by CTIA were adopted by this Court, an array of consumer protection laws, long recognized as a constitutional exercise of the state’s police powers under the authority cited above, could be called into question.” (“Calif. AG Tells 9th Circ. Phone Warning Rule Merits Leeway,” Law360, Apr 26, 2016;

In May, the CTIA submitted a brief to the Appeals Court which argued that the FCC does not require radio frequency disclosures. The City pointed out in its response that the CTIA had previously agreed that the FCC required these disclosures, and that the Appeals Court should not consider new arguments. Moreover, the City claimed that the CTIA’s current assertion was false (“Berkeley Rips Group's FCC Radiation Rule Claims At 9th Circ.,” Law360, May 13, 2016;

In August, the Appeals Court ruled that it would consider the CTIA’s new argument and asked the City to submit its rebuttal (“City Can't Block FCC Radiation Rule Arguments, 9th Circ. Says,” Law360, Aug 12, 2016;

On August 25, the City of Berkeley submitted to the Court a rebuttal to the CTIA’s new claim. The CTIA argues that it is not mandatory for cellphone manufacturers to report SAR values and the minimum separation distance in user manuals. Their argument is based on two Knowledge Database (KDB) publications that the FCC issued in October, 2015: KDB 212821 and KDB 447498.

KDB documents, however, are issued by FCC staff to clarify existing FCC rules, not to alter them. Such documents are not subject to public review and do not have the force of law. Hence, the Court is unlikely to consider the CTIA’s new argument to be valid. (“Berkeley Slams CTIA's Flip-Flop In Cellphone Warning Row,” Law360, Aug 29, 2016;

The FCC’s website indicates that provisions made in KDB documents do not “constitute rules”:

“the KDB is intended to assist the public in following Commission requirements and does not constitute rules. Accordingly, the guidance is not binding on the Commission and will not prevent the Commission from making a different decision in any matter that comes to its attention for resolution.”

According to the City’s latest brief:

“The FCC’s stated policy is that manufacturers ‘must’ provide manual disclosures. And CTIA cannot reasonably assert that its members could ignore the FCC’s disclosure regime as ‘merely suggestive’.”

Mar 23, 2016

Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request by the CTIA--The Wireless Association to halt enforcement of Berkeley's cell phone "right to know" ordinance according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The CTIA appealed to the Circuit Court because Judge Edward Chen of the Federal District Court allowed the ordinance to take effect while the case is being litigated. Judge Chen rejected the industry's arguments that the city was violating retailers’ free speech rights by requiring them to communicate a message they opposed.

The Circuit Court vote was 2-1 with Judges Milan Smith and Morgan Christen voting to keep the ordinance in effect during CTIA’s appeal whereas Judge Carlos Bea dissented.

Mar 21, 2016

Since the Berkeley cell phone ordinance took effect today, I conducted a small observational study around 4:30 PM to see which downtown cell phone stores were in compliance.

The ordinance allows retailers to choose between posting the official Berkeley cell phone notice or providing customers with a handout containing the same information.

I visited six cellphone stores in downtown Berkeley. At each store I asked to see the  posted notice or the handout. Four of the six stores were in compliance. 

The four major cell phone retailers, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, were all in compliance. All four posted the official notice on the counter or on a wall (Sprint). None opted to provide handouts to consumers.  

The two authorized cellphone resellers were not in compliance. The sales clerks were unaware of the new law. In one store after I described the ordinance, the clerk volunteered that the law was a good idea and asked me how to get a copy of the official notice.

Max Anderson, the Council member who sponsored this ordinance stated to NBC News, "The people selling these products are not selling them for your good, They're selling them for profit. They play fast and loose with regulations."  The goal is to get people thinking about keeping phones away from their body.

Mar 8, 2016

The Association of National Advertisers filed a brief in support of the CTIA which sued the city of Berkeley over its cell phone "right to know" ordinance (Tom Lochner. "Advertisers group weighs in against Berkeley cellphone hazards disclosure requirement."  Contra Costa Times, Mar 8, 2016).  

The advertisers association argues, "While the city is entitled to hold or express its own opinions about cellphone safety, it may not require others to mouth its words or be its microphone."  The advertisers recommend that the City buy advertising if it wishes to inform consumers to read the cellphone manufacturers' safety instructions.

Last year the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC),nonprofit environmental and public health advocacy organization with more than 2 million members including 1,244 members who reside in Berkeley filed a brief in support of the City,

Last September, Consumer Reports published an article entitled, "Does Cell-Phone Radiation Cause Cancer?" The article highlights the importance of the Berkeley cell phone ordinance and calls on manufacturers to prominently display advice on steps that cell-phone users can take to reduce exposure to cell-phone radiation. 

Mar 2, 2016

Because the Federal Court refused to block implementation of Berkeley's landmark cell phone "right to know" ordinance, the CTIA has asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to issue a preliminary injunction to stop the law from going into effect.

The CTIA claims that cell phone retailers would be harmed by delivering a message they don't believe, and that the ordinance is likely to be eventually overturned by the courts. (Patrick Boyle. "CTIA urges 9th Circ. to halt Berkeley's cellphone warning law." Law 360. March 2, 2016.

According to the Berkeley City Attorney's office, the law will go into effect on March 21.

Feb 1, 2016

On January 27, the Federal Court (Judge Chen) lifted the ban on the Berkeley cell phone ordinance. The city is now allowed to enforce the amended cell phone law which requires cell phone retailers to notify their customers about the safety warnings in their cell phone or cell phone manual. 

The judge affirmed Berkeley's right to warn its citizens about potential health risks based on federal safety standards.  In his ruling, the judge rejected the CTIA's argument that the city's mandated disclosure is controversial and therefore bound by a stricter constitutional analysis.  

According to the ruling, "CTIA's beef should be with the FCC ... If CTIA believes that the safety margin is too generous because there is no real safety concern at that level, it should take that matter up with the FCC administratively."

See Courthouse News Service for a summary of the January 21 hearing and the subsequent ruling.

Dec 23, 2015

A hearing on the CTIA's motion to sustain the court's preliminary injunction is scheduled for January 21, 2016 in Courtroom 5 in the federal district court in San Francisco. Judge Chen will hear the motion. 

Oct 29, 2015

On October 27, the second reading of the amended cell phone ordinance which appeared on the consent calendar was unanimously adopted by the Council.

Next the city will submit a motion to the court to dissolve the injunction. This would enable the revised law to take effect.

Oct 7, 2015

Last night the Berkeley City Council adopted a minor amendment to the city's cell phone ordinance. The Council deleted from the 82-word official notification the 7-word sentence regarding children's risk of exposure due to Judge Chen ruling that because the FCC failed to recognize that children's exposure to cell phone radiation is greater than adults, this sentence was "controversial." The peer-reviewed research which demonstrates that this is factual apparently is irrelevant to the court.

Since there were no objections to the modified language, the item was moved to the consent calendar.  A second reading of the ordinance will occur on October 27. 

Sep 25, 2015 (updated Oct 2, 2015)

On October 6 the Berkeley City Council will consider a minor amendment to the city's cell phone "right to know" ordinance at its regular meeting.  

The amendment will make the ordinance consistent with the order issued by the U.S. District Court in CTIA v City of Berkeley (USDC ND CA C-14-2529). Seven words pertaining to children's safety will be deleted from the city's consumer safety notification: "This potential risk is greater for children."

The revised ordinance will retain the remainder of the 82-word official consumer safety notification:

“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. Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for information about how to use your phone safely.”

Assuming the revised ordinance is adopted by the Council, the City will ask the court to dissolve the injunction.

The Interim City Manager's memo to Council members which includes the U.S. District Court ruling is available at
Amending Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 9.96 Regarding Point of Sale Cell Phone Warnings in Response to District Court Order 
From: City Manager
Recommendation: Adopt first reading of an Ordinance amending Section 9.96.030.A consistent with the order issued by the U.S. District Court in CTIA v. City of Berkeley (USDC ND CA C-15-2529 EMC).
Financial Implications: None
Contact: Zach Cowan, City Attorney, 981-6950

Sep 21, 2015

On September 21, Federal District Court Judge Edward Chen gave the City of Berkeley a green light to implement the City’s landmark cell phone “right to know” law after deleting one sentence from the safety notification. Cell phone vendors in the City will soon be required to provide customers with a safety warning either by giving the customer a handout or or by posting the following notice in the store:

“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. Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for information about how to use your phone safely.”

Judge Chen denied the CTIA's request for a preliminary injunction that would have completely blocked enforcement of the ordinance until the case was fully resolved.

The Court required the City to strike the following seven words from the 82-word safety warning: “This potential risk is greater for children.”  The judge ruled that although this sentence may be factual, it can be argued that it is controversial because the FCC does not acknowledge that children's exposure to cell phone radiation is greater than adults. For the facts supporting this assertion, see "Children are more exposed to cell phone radio-frequency radiation than adults."

Kriss Worthington, the Berkeley City Council Member who co-sponsored the ordinance,  issued the following statement today via email:
"I am pleased to report that in spite of massive attacks by the corporations they were unable to persuade the judge from taking away the consumer’s right to know in a drastic injunction. Instead the judge requested one simple sentence to be modified. The City is moving rapidly to vote on October 6th on that one sentence modification. Thank you all for your incredible efforts on behalf of the consumer’s right to know."
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates declared victory in an interview with SFGate. He called the warning about children, a “relatively small problem” that the City Council will remedy:
“Judge Chen’s order upholding the main part of our cell phone ordinance confirms that the cell phone industry’s claims were ill founded,” Bates said.
Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, the attorney representing the City of Berkeley on this case, told Ars Technica he was pleased with the ruling: 
"The rest of the ordinance survived First Amendment review, which was a very important victory and I couldn't find a single sentence in Judge Chen's opinion that I disagreed with, so I'm quite happy," he said. 
Lessig posted the following comment in his blog about the case:
"Judge Chen has issued a very careful and well crafted opinion upholding almost every part of the Berkeley “right to know” ordinance. (The one part he found preempted was the part that said that the risk of overexposure was greater for children.) Importantly, the Court rejected the First Amendment claims made by CTIA. Really happy to have had a chance to participate in getting this corner of the law right."
The Court's ruling on the injunction stipulates:
“ … the Court grants in part and denies in part CTIA’s motion for a preliminary injunction. The motion is granted to the extent the Court finds a likely successful preemption claim with respect to the sentence in the City notice regarding children’s safety. The motion is denied to the extent the Court finds that a First Amendment claim and preemption claim are not likely to succeed on the remainder of the City notice language.”
“’A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must establish that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest.’” 
“ … the thrust of CTIA’s complaint is twofold: (1) the Berkeley ordinance is preempted by federal law and (2) the ordinance violates the First Amendment.” 
“This disclosure, for the most part, simply refers consumers to the fact that there are FCC standards on RF energy exposure – standards which assume a minimum spacing of the cell phone away from the body – and advises consumers to refer to their manuals regarding maintenance of such spacing. The disclosure mandated by the Berkeley ordinance is consistent with the FCC’s statements and testing procedures regarding spacing … the ordinance does not ban something the FCC authorizes or mandates. And CTIA has failed to point to any FCC pronouncement suggesting that the agency has any objection to warning consumers about maintaining spacing between the body and a cell phone. Moreover, the City ordinance, because it is consistent with FCC pronouncements and directives, does not threaten national uniformity.” 
“There is, however, one portion of the notice required by the City ordinance that is subject to obstacle preemption – namely, the sentence ’This potential risk is greater for children.’ Notably, this sentence does not say that the potential risk may be greater for children; rather, the sentence states that the potential risk is greater. But whether the potential risk is, in fact, greater for children is a matter of scientific debate … the FCC has never made any pronouncement that there is a greater potential risk for children, and, certainly, the FCC has not imposed different RF energy exposure limits that are applicable to children specifically … Thus, the content of the sentence – that the potential risk is indeed greater for children compared to adults – threatens to upset the balance struck by the FCC between encouraging commercial development of all phones and public safety, because the Berkeley warning as worded could materially deter sales on an assumption about safety risks which the FCC has refused to adopt or endorse.” 
“ … CTIA completely ignores the fact that the speech rights at issue here are its members’ commercial speech rights …. CTIA’s members are being compelled to communicate a message, but the message being communicated is clearly the City’s message, and not that of the cell phone retailers… (providing that the notice shall state 'The City of Berkeley requires that you be provided the following notice” and that “the notice shall include the City’s logo'). In other words, while CTIA’s members are being compelled to provide a mandated disclosure of Berkeley’s speech, no one could reasonably mistake that speech as emanating from a cell phone retailer itself. Where a law requires a commercial entity engaged in commercial speech merely to permit a disclosure by the government, rather than compelling speech out of the mouth of the speaker, the First Amendment interests are less obvious. Notably, at the hearing, CTIA conceded that there would be no First Amendment violation if the City handed out flyers or had a poster board immediately outside a cell phone retailer’s store."
“While CTIA has argued that being forced to engage in counter-speech (i.e., speech in response to the City notice) is, in and of itself, a First Amendment burden … that is not necessarily true where commercial speech is at issue.”

A case management conference has been scheduled for October 1 in the Federal District Court.

Federal District Court ruling on CTIA request for a preliminary injunction (9/21/2015):

August 21, 2015

On August 20, the U.S. District Court in San Francisco held a hearing on the CTIA's motion for a preliminary injunction to block implementation of the Berkeley cell phone "right to know" ordinance. The CTIA was represented by former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, and the City of Berkeley was represented by Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig. 

The presiding judge is Edward M. Chen.  Of the 240-plus federal district judges appointed in the U.S. in the past five years, Judge Chen is considered one of the "rising stars," because he is the fourth most-cited judge. Judge Chen is likely to issue a decision about the CTIA's injunction within the next few weeks.

I took six pages of notes at the hearing. In my opinion the following news stories provide the most accurate summary of the hearing:

Bob Egelko, SF Gate, Aug 20, 2015  (This article appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Aug 21, 2015.)
Jessica Aguirre, NBC Bay Area, Aug 20, 2015 
Lance Knobel, Berkeleyside, Aug 21, 2015 

For links to other media coverage about the hearing and the ordinance see

August 18, 2015

Should the City of Berkeley have the right to require 
cell phone retailers to provide the following safety notice to their customers? 
Why is the CTIA trying to suppress this 82-word notice?

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 Natural 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.

Contact: 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 ...