Bob Egelko, SF Gate, Mar 23, 2016
Picture caption: A man talks on his phone while walking past an AT&T store on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, Calif. on Saturday, July 12, 2014. An appeals court on Wednesday, March 23, 2016, allowed a Berkeley law requiring customers to be told of potential radiation dangers in carrying cell phones too close to the body.
A federal appeals court denied a request Wednesday by cell phone companies to halt enforcement of a Berkeley ordinance requiring retailers to tell customers that carrying switched-on phones next to their bodies might expose them to radiation levels above federal guidelines.
A federal judge had allowed the ordinance to take effect Jan. 25, rejecting arguments by CTIA-The Wireless Association that the city was violating retailers’ free-speech rights by requiring them to communicate a message they opposed.
CTIA asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco for a stay while it appealed the ruling, but a court panel refused Wednesday on a 2-1 vote.
The measure requires sellers to notify customers that the Federal Communications Commission sets radiation guidelines for cell phones and that a user may be exposed to levels that exceed those guidelines by carrying a phone in a pocket or tucked into a bra when the device is connected to a wireless network.
The ordinance originally also required the notice to state that “this potential risk is greater for children,” but the City Council removed that language after U.S. District Judge Edward Chen ruled in September that it was not based on the federal standards but was a matter of scientific debate.
His ruling blocked the entire ordinance from taking effect. But in January, Chen allowed the city to start enforcing the narrowed warning about carrying switched-on cell phones and said it was consistent with FCC research and guidelines.
He said Berkeley was not violating the free-speech rights of CTIA and its members, who remain free to criticize the message as long as they comply with the law.
In seeking a stay, the industry group told the appeals court that Berkeley’s customer warning was “deliberately misleading and inflammatory” and would “create needless public anxiety about a product that is a part of consumers’ everyday lives.”
Judges Milan Smith and Morgan Christen voted to keep the ordinance in effect during CTIA’s appeal. Judge Carlos Bea dissented.
Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @egelko
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Berkeley’s ‘Right to Know’ Cell Phone Radiation Warning Ordinance Now in Effect
Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., Director
Center for Family and Community Health
School of Public Health
University of California, Berkeley
Electromagnetic Radiation Safety