A San Francisco law that requires retailers to hand out radiation exposure warnings when they sell mobile phones has been challenged this week.
"There is no evidence cell phones actually cause harm," said Andrew McBride, representing a Washington, D.C.-based wireless association.
McBride argues that the warnings violate phone makers' free speech rights by "forcing them to give an allegedly misleading and controversial message they don't agree with."
The risks of brain cancer to users of cell phones has been argued since the ubiquitous devices were introduced commercially in 1983. With billions of cell phones now in use worldwide, numerous studies have been conducted, but the results have been inconclusive.
The World Health Organization says that "there could be some risk" of cancer from exposure, and recommends continuing research, especially for long-term, heavy users of cell phones.
Authors of a study looking at cancers related to brain tumors published in The International Journal of Epidemiology said "Overall, no increase in risk of glioma or meningioma was observed with use of mobile phones. There were suggestions of an increased risk of glioma at the highest exposure levels, but biases and error prevent a causal interpretation. The possible effects of long-term heavy use of mobile phones require further investigation."
If there is no conclusive link between cell phone use and cancer, and as "continuing research" is completed, does the City of San Francisco have the right to force cell phone manufacturers to issue a consumer warning?
San Francisco Deputy City Attorney Vince Chhabria counters the manufacturers' argument, saying the city's measure is merely a "consumer disclosure requirement" justified by public health concerns.
"What about the consequences if the risk bears out? We're talking about malignant brain cancer here," he told a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at a hearing in San Francisco.
Has San Francisco gone too far? Are the rights of cell phone manufacturers being violated? Or should all communities, or perhaps states, force manufacturers to issue a mandatory precautionary warning, at least until there is more research completed.
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