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"I'll be damned if I let those invisible EM waves get into my lead, cell tower!!" -- Random S.F. Cat  (Source: Google Images)

Clearly these young San Francisco residents are headed for an awful end if you believe their cell-phone fearing elders.  (Source: Image Barrel)
San Francisco residents frustrated by pesky science's interference, warn of vast conspiracy

San Francisco's cell phone fearing residents have cause to stock up on tin foil.  Legislation that would force cell phone sellers to display labels describing the amount of electromagnetic radiation their devices produce has stalled in the face of lawsuits and questions of the proposal's technical accuracy.  So that means that the Californians' brains will be bombarded by those dangerous cell phone signals for a bit longer, at least.

I. Radiation, What Radiation?

No peer-reviewed scientific research study has shown Wi-Fi or cell phone tower proximity to have an adverse effect on humans.  However, studies have suggested that electromagnetic radiation (such as cell phone signals) may have a negative effect on "naked" DNA or on certain animal fetuses.  While these results have questionable applicability to humans that hasn't stopped people from sounding the alarm on the "dangers" of cell phone towers and Wi-Fi signals.

Some have even claimed to have "Wi-Fi allergies" despite medical doctors saying that there's no evidence to support such an ailment.

Even more heated is the debate on cell phones themselves.  A handful of international studies have suggested that people may be at an increased risk of salivary gland and brain tumors on the side of the head the user holds their phone when talking on it.  Other studies, though have shown no correlation and even the studies that do show correlation fail to prove causation by the device.  In other words -- there's no current scientific consensus suggesting today's cellular devices pose a danger.

Not wanting to let the pesky old scientific process get in the way, a large number of citizens in San Francisco have been looking to take action against the evils of Wi-Fi, cell phones, and cell phone towers.  To their great joy, the city's government last year passed a bill which would demand that all phones sold in the region have attached labels informing how much (EM) radiation they emit.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission already evaluates all wireless devices and confirms with medical experts that they meet safety criteria.  But the San Francisco residents were convinced the new law would allow them to avoid phantom ailments that science is apparently incapable of currently describing -- or ailments which were being covered up by some sort of vast conspiracy executed by a consortium of academic institutions, medical practices, the federal government, and electronic manufacturers.

Former Mayor Gavin Newsom (who now is serving as Lieutenant Governor of California) was among the radiation-suspicious residents who sang the praises of the unusual legislation.  He stated that it was a "modest, commonsense measure" designed to inform shoppers.

This extraordinary bill was the first of its kind in the U.S.  And it came at a cost to cell phone companies, which faced spending extra money and hassle to try to come up with the new labels.

II. Cell Phone Companies Sue City

Upset about having to go through all that extra hassle to do business in San Francisco, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA), a trade group representing cell phone companies sued over the law (offer further fodder to local conspiracy theorists).

The lawsuit pointed out that the FCC was already checking devices for safety and it also informed the city that they would have to pay the trade group's legal fees if they lost.

Panicked, the city's lawyers reportedly met with the city council and officials in a series of closed door meetings.  They convinced them to bump the implementation from February to May 1 -- then to June 15.  And now they've shelved implementation of the new policy indefinitely.

III. What Exactly Are They Measuring?

The lawyers reportedly were not only concerned about the legal footing of the proposal, but also whether it even provides consumers with the information they're seeking.

Under the proposal customers would get the same specific absorption rate (SAR) information that the FCC evaluates.  The FCC requires all phones have a SAR level of 1.6 watts per kilogram of body tissue, or less.  Many cell phone models have SARs of around 0.2 watts per kg.

But medical professionals like Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at UC Berkeley say the SAR doesn't accurately represent how much electromagnetic radiation the device is emitting.  That's because the SAR only measures the peak radiation, not average radiation.

In an interview with the blog SFGate he says that using the SAR is akin to only measuring gas mileage of vehicles when climbing steep hills.  Such an approach might lead consumers to the illogical conclusion that hybrids -- which perform poorly on hills -- get worse gas mileage versus regular vehicles.  But in reality, on average the hybrids would, of course, actually get better overall mpg.  

He states, "You could buy a lower SAR phone, but on average it could produce more radiation than a higher SAR phone."

IV. Watered Down Legislation Will Likely Replace Current Bill

Given the problematic nature of the current bill, city Supervisor John Avalos say changes will be made to it before anything is implemented.  He states, "There will still be some information that's going to be shared (with buyers of cell phones), but it's going to be somewhat less."

It is thought that the final version will likely boil down to forcing cell phone retailers to hand out a tip sheet on ways to lessen radiation exposure, such as using hands-free devices and not keeping the phone close to your body.  Cell phone retailers wouldn't have to provide specific radiation metrics for their phones.

The city hopes the changes will convince the trade group to drop its lawsuit.  But the original bill's cell-phone fearing proponents aren't happy with the changes.

Renee Sharp, director of the California office of the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWP), says that not providing the SAR data is a big loss.  She accuses the industry trade group of conspiracy, stating, "[They are] bullying the city, and they have a lot of money and they have a lot of power."

She did opine, though, that the watered down version is better than nothing, stating, "We think the important thing is that San Francisco still wants to do something, and they're not letting CTIA totally win the day."

And of course, there is nothing stopping residents from outfitting themselves with the ultimate in a radiation blocking safety -- a nice tin foil helmet.

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By josh416 on 5/7/2011 3:12:57 AM , Rating: 0
Some have even claimed to have "Wi-Fi allergies" despite medical doctors saying that there's no evidence to support such an ailment.

Depends which medical doctors you ask. Unlike the uncited "medical doctors" mentioned here, the 3000+ doctors that signed the Freiburger Appeal would most definitely not agree with the above statement (

The extremely well-credentialed members of the International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety who signed the Venice Resolution (2008) would also likely take exception to many of the assertions made in this article.

If only pictures of utterly ridiculous and---I'll admit, pretty darn cute---cats wearing tinfoil hats could eliminate the toxic properties of wireless signals, we'd be all set.

For people who like pictures more than words, there's also this:

By Targon on 5/7/2011 8:37:59 AM , Rating: 2
Much of the concerns probably started back in the early early days of cellular phones that were HUGE with a big antenna. Now, we all know that early versions of ANY technology are not terribly power efficient, and in many cases did not have much in the way of shielding. From that perspective, then yes, those who used cell phones over a decade ago may have absorbed a bit of radiation, but those days are long gone.

It is like the level of radiation found on the west coast after the situation in Japan. Yes, there was some radiation found, but not even as much as you would absorb by taking a plane flight. So, you get more radiation upwards of 30,000 feet than you do on the, the airlines should now warn people not to fly because of radiation that isn't even enough to be dangerous?

This is the stupidity of many of these technophobe lawsuits, they are based on the idea that ANY degree of exposure to ANYTHING is going to be enough to cause them to become sick. Do they sue anyone who smokes next to them OUTSIDE just because of that brief contact? How about the whole "mercury in the fish" routine, do they also refuse to eat fish just because it MIGHT be dangerous(when they can't know)? These people really may need medication to help them deal with their fear of EVERYTHING.

By JasonMick (blog) on 5/7/2011 11:17:37 AM , Rating: 5
Depends which medical doctors you ask. Unlike the uncited "medical doctors" mentioned here, the 3000+ doctors that signed the Freiburger Appeal would most definitely not agree with the above statement (

Your link is broken...

The extremely well-credentialed members of the International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety who signed the Venice Resolution (2008) would also likely take exception to many of the assertions made in this article.

Did you even read the document you cited? It's a call for RESEARCH.

It's NOT expressing any opinion that non-ionizing radiation (cell-phones, wi-fi, etc.) has a legitimate negative impact on human health.

Of course there's a need to research the topic further, but your mistaking lack of knowledge regarding a certain phenomena for evidence that the phenomena is somehow harmful.

For people who like pictures more than words, there's also this:

Ahem, I don't believe that "documentary" (to stretch the meaning of the term) to be a legitimate scientific work and it should be not be treated as such.

What it appears is a cheap attempt at publicity and making a cheap buck off of paranoid, under-informed individuals.

By SilthDraeth on 5/7/2011 11:22:33 AM , Rating: 2
MY uncle bought one of the Casio mil spec cell phones at my behest, because he works in construction and has had quite a few die from hard use/ abuse...

So he told me his phone gave him a headache, I didn't believe him, but I used his phone for 5 minute call, and sure enough, got some sort of weird headache from that phone.

Never happened to me on any other phone, just that one. Same for him also.

By josh416 on 5/7/2011 2:12:37 PM , Rating: 1
Apologies for the broken link (it's apparently an issue with copying and pasting using this comment board). Here's the link:

Here are a couple of quotes from the ICEMS document:
"As an outcome, we are compelled to confirm the existence of non-thermal effects of electromagnetic fields on living matter, which seem to occur at every level of investigation from molecular to epidemiological."

It should be noted that the basis for current safety standards is that such effects do not exist.

“The non-ionizing radiation protection standards recommended by international standards organizations, and supported by the World Health Organization, are inadequate.”

Nuff said.

“We recognize the growing public health problem known as electrohypersensitivity; that this adverse health condition can be quite disabling; and, that this condition requires further urgent investigation and recognition. “

They take a cautious tone on this one. Note, however, that they don’t just dismiss electrosensitivity as a form of hypochondria (as is done in a great deal of the press coverage, including this article).

There’s also this, from a well-respected organization that does research on environmental health issues:

"Scientific research conducted over the past decade has associated cell phone radiation with increased risk of developing brain and salivary gland tumors, neurological symptoms such as migraine and vertigo, and neurodevelopmental effects observed as behavioral problems in young children (BioInitiative 2007; Divan 2008; Kundi 2009; Sadetzki 2008; Schuz 2009)."

Full report at:

A world-renown epidemiologist who shared the Nobel Prize for her work with the IPCC wrote a book about where the issue stands today, as well:

"We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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