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Cell Phone Cancer Warnings Pushed in San Francisco

Dec 28, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Officials in San Francisco are mulling possible mandatory cancer warnings on cell phones.  According to a recent New York Times report, Mayor Gavin Newsom is expected to propose such an ordinance next month.  If passed, San Francisco would become the first state to require such warnings.

According to The New York Times, San Francisco's environment commission will discuss eight recommendations related to radiation emitted by cell phones and local, state and federal policies regarding it.   The Associated Press is reporting that the San Francisco cell phone cancer warning would require manufacturers to display electromagnetic radiation absorption rate level next to each phone in print at least as big as the price.

As we reported previously, a lawmaker in the state of Maine has also proposed a cell phone cancer warning.  Rep. Andrea Boland, D-Sanford, wants manufacturers to  put labels on phones and packaging warning of the potential for brain cancer associated with electromagnetic radiation. Boland has persuaded Maine’s legislative leaders to allow her cell phone warning proposal to come up for discussion during the 2010 legislative session that begins in January.

Concerns over the possible health consequences of cell phone use are growing. Just this past October, we reported that a preliminary analysis of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) groundbreaking Interphone study found a “significantly increased risk” of some brain tumors “related to use of mobile phones for a period of 10 years or more.”

Last month, the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals  reversed a lower court decision that found that cell phone cancer lawsuits were preempted by federal law.   While the appeals court ruled that plaintiffs could not pursue claims that they were injured by phones which met the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) emissions standards, it ruled that personal injury claims were not pre-empted if they were based on phones that were either built before 1996, when the FCC purportedly began applying its radiation limits to cell phones, or failed to meet the commission’s requirements.  

The decision came in a case called Murray v. Motorola, and involves Verizon, Motorola, AT&T, Sprint, Nokia and other cell phone providers. The plaintiffs had claimed that they or their loved ones suffered illness, including brain cancer, as a result of the use of cell phones manufactured, sold or distributed by the defendants. They also alleged that defendants have long been aware of numerous studies revealing that radio frequency radiation from cell phones can cause tissue destruction, a precursor to cancer.




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