back to article Radiation warning labels for deadly mobes!

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has passed an ordinance that will require warning labels on mobile phones, indicating their radiative output especially for the scientifically-illiterate and paranoid. The ordinance, which was passed with an overwhelming majority (10 to 1), will require anyone selling phones within the …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. BGrant

    san fran...

    what do you expect from a city that pushished it's comepentent IT admin for doing his job refusing to give out root passwords to unqualified elected idiots?

    perhaps we can get warning lables on bibles too?

  2. Dán


    ....utterly pathetic. <city name="San Francisco" education="none" />

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    The mobile phone is a health risk ?

    Well now, we have warning labels on cigarette packs that specifically say that smoking can kill you. Doesn't seem to have stopped smokers from puffing, now does it ?

    I wouldn't worry. This won't have the slightest effect on the mobile-addicted.

  4. Captain Underpants
    Thumb Down

    Here we go again...

    Oh yay, more "They couldn't possibly be bad for you in any way at all ever, because we haven't seen any way in which they've been bad for people yet over the last 15 years of development" thinking.

    Firstly, all this legislation will do is force vendors to make punters aware of information that is already provided by handset vendors. Having worked support for one such handset vendor in the past who had a policy of only providing SAR information verbally, and never in writing, I can get behind the idea of forcing them to make it available - because while the case for mobile phones being completely safe may well be convincing, the discussion is rare enough without falling into the usual polarised "SCIENCE SAYS ITS FINE YOU RETARD" and "ZOMG WILL PHONES MAKE MY HEAD EXPLODE?!?" sides. Both of which represent a failure to understand the actual scientific method that we should be using to address the question of mobile phone safety.

    Secondly - we don't feckin' *know* yet what will happen to someone who uses a mobile phone at length on a daily basis for the majority of their life, because the technology just hasn't been around that long. The indications are that nothing we're aware of causes any significant harmful effects, which is promising, but it's still technically an open question. Until we've got overwhelming data suggesting that mobile phones are more likely to cause death by choking if incorrectly ingested than through normal usage, I'd prefer to have people made aware that there may be dangers associated with it that we don't know yet, rather than assuming it must be fine because it hasn't yet been a problem. I mean it's not like that strategy backfired with cigarettes, is it?

    1. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

      Scientific method:

      1) Form reasoned hypothesis based upon observed facts or accepted theory.

      2) Use hypothesis to make predictions.

      3) Devise experiments to test said facts

      Unfortunately, the epidemiological studies on mobile phone radiation have jumped straight to number three on this list. There is no observed causative effect between mobile phones and cancer. There is also no theoretical basis that stands up to scrutiny that suggests that this is the case. Thus spending more and more money conducting larger and larger studies to try to find a non-existent effect is a waste of money.

      A number of studies have been conducted so far from tax revenue. In a time of economic recession, surely it is time to start focusing the now meagre amount of money available to science on something useful.

      If you don't agree with my logic as stated above, please feel free to fund my research into the possible effects of people watching the well-known internet dancing badgers on the incidence of bovine TB in wild badgers. I will be conducting an epidemiological study which will compare the number of hits on said website to the incidence of this disease. To do so, I will require £1,000,000. If I fail to find anything from this study, I will just have to conduct a larger one, at a cost of £10,000,000 to make sure, etc.

      1. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge


        Oops, that should be 'said predictions' , not 'said facts'

        1. Captain Underpants

          Contrary to what you might think, I agree with your list

          As per title, I agree with the list you've posited.

          However, consider the following:

          1. Observation - mobile phone usage has gone from extremely uncommon to ubiquitous over the last 15 years.

          2. Observation - the operation and usage of the devices involves the emission of radiation of certain frequences at a variety of power levels in close proximity to the skull.

          3. Observation - we don't really understand the operation of the brain, the development of malignant tumours, the nature of other degenerative brain diseases, and the impact on these of radiation exposure to a sufficient degree to be able to safely say whether long-term use is safe or not.

          4. Conclusion - next logical step is to commission fact-gathering research project to collect data and investigate whether there are any correlations between mobile phone usage and instances of tumour development or other degenerative brain diseases over significant time periods.

          The point about such research being that, as a fact-gathering study, the goal is not to "PROVE PHONES GIVE YOU CANCER" or any such bullshit notion. It's to get the raw data from which one can determine whether there's a correlation between something bad (tumour development, early-onset Alzheimers or whatever) and something perceived to be harmless (regular mobile phone use over time).

          A conclusion of "the data collected shows no correlations between ill effects and mobile phone usage, thus we conclude that there are no notable repercussions/side effects of long term mobile phone use" is still valid and worth pursuing. It's important to remember that there have been numerous instances throughout history where the harmful effects of given materials or products only became apparent significantly after their usage became widespread, cigarettes being just one example.

          1. MonkeyBot

            You're repeating yourself

            "2. Observation - the operation and usage of the devices involves the emission of radiation of certain frequences at a variety of power levels in close proximity to the skull."

            Ignoring the fact that this is possibly the vaguest statement you could possibly make, how does that cause brain cancer? You can't keep substituting hypothesis with "No-one knows the dangers!"

            "4. Conclusion - next logical step is to commission fact-gathering research project to collect data and investigate whether there are any correlations between mobile phone usage and instances of tumour development or other degenerative brain diseases over significant time periods."

            I'll think you'll find that we've already done that bit. That's why everyone's saying, "There's no evidence."

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            35 years, not 15. And if you remember back they were in widspread use in the mid 80s, so 25 years. Seems like a good amount of time to me.

            1. Anonymous Coward

              I disagree

              Yes, they were being used 35 years ago but by hardly anyone, and not as frequently as they are now.

              No, Mr Underpants is right.

              Yes, we don't see any significant effects at the moment, but is anyone really looking and would we see anything yet anyway?

              The point about cigarettes is well made although the asbestos issue is a better example. As recently as the 70s the vast majority of people smoked, and although some experts realised that smoking had harmful long-term side effects, the general population was not disposed to accept it. That is true to this day by some old die-hards.

              I don't say that there is definitely something in this radiation malarky, but too many people out there are quick to jump to one conclusion or another at each extreme with very flimsy evidence.

              It is not a sin to say we really don't know, but in the fullness of time, I guess we will find out.

    2. Captain Thyratron

      "allergic to wifi", &c.

      If this stuff is enough to worry you, then you should be utterly terrified of light bulbs. Why, a tiny amount of their radiation is actually ionizing, and their power output--all in wavelengths much shorter and generally more threatening than puny RF--simply puts a cell phone to shame.

      If radio or microwave fields are doing direct harm to living tissue, it is because they've been made strong enough to cook it. This will not happen without your knowing, I guarantee. However, I suspect you're not in the habit of removing the door from your microwave oven, bypassing the safety interlock, pushing the "popcorn" button, and staring into the thing from two inches away. Microwaves and RF waves cannot directly cause electronic transitions in molecules. At best, they can gradually heat up the molecues, because the best they can do is introduce vibrations; if those vibrations are strong enough to do anything substantial, you will be screaming. Any electronic transitions that happen will happen because the tissue in question has been left in the microwave until it was heated to the point of burning. A cell phone is not going to denature proteins or snap bonds or anything of the sort.

      It's an obvious conclusion that makes obvious physical sense, and a great body of research stands behind it. A few milliwatts of microwave power are not going to make you grow tumors. Now and then, some piece of cargo cult science starts with a desired conclusion and scrounges for dodgy data until the desired answer seems to be supported, but I hope you're not giving those too much credit*. If a warning label is necessary for a thing like that, then we'll damn well run out of paper to print the things if we're consistent about it and apply a warning label to everything else that is comparably hazardous (i.e. spoons).

      *i.e. "Hey, guys, let's find a bunch of Finnish people with brain tumors and see if they claim to have used cell phones a lot. Nobody's heard of recall bias anyway." or "Let's strap obnoxious heavy things to test subjects' heads for several hours at a time, see if they report discomfort, then try to suggest the radiation did it." or "Let's blast cells with microwaves from an eight hundred watt magnetron, then only mention that we used an eight hundred watt magnetron once in our paper and go on to talk about our results like they relate to cell phones." I wish I made any of that up. These are the things I find whenever I hear somebody say "There have been studies that show that..."; really, generally beware of the word 'study'. All the most weasly bad experiments call themselves that for some reason. In general, beware of any purported experiment that was designed not to verify a thing, but to "prove" it; the difference between the former and the latter is the difference between science and bullshit.

      1. Chemist

        Re : "allergic to wifi", &c.

        I suspect the risk of problems with cell phones and Wifi is very low.

        However the heating risks may not be the only way E.M. radiation may interact with living systems. For example living cells maintain an apparently low voltage across their membranes of the order of hundreds of millivolts. But the membrane is very thin (~5nm) so the effective field strength is very high at many thousands of volts/cm, further membrane proteins are gated by this field with ion channels etc. opening or closing as the voltage changes. So it seems at least possible that cell membranes might be capable of being influenced by E.M fields without heating effects. In particular neurons, which are extremely extended make particular use of this cell membrane voltage and it's changes.

        This is speculation - I've not had time to look at the literature for any investigations

        1. Captain Underpants

          Let's see what those conducting the research say...

          In anticipation of yet further downvotes, my final contribution to this discussion is going to be a reference to Danish research on the topic which thus far suggests there's no link between brain cancer and mobile phone use (, based on a sample group of about 60 thousand people. When the research team behind these findings states that they still think further investigation is needed, I think the statement carries more weight than when some random internet commentard (ie me, and probably quite a few other posters in this thread) weigh in with an opinion on this matter.

          Yes, I know researchers will always say further research is needed since that means they get more funding. But since the alternative to this is either no research or only private corporate research (ie dictated by anticipated profitable usage and unlikely to be published if results will have negative impact on profits, company image or both) it's the best option we've got.

          I don't imagine that further research will find much, if any, evidence of health risk from the things - but I'd prefer someone to be paying attention and look into it.

    3. peter 45
      Dead Vulture

      So dangerous it may kill you eventually...if you live that long

      "we don't feckin' *know* yet what will happen to someone who uses a mobile phone at length on a daily basis for the majority of their life"

      ...and if it takes the majority of my life for something (maybe) to happen, then the risk that something will happen is so utterly small then it is just not worth worrying about. Even if it does happen, i will be at the end of my life anyway.

  5. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    This will certainly lead to "macho dialing"

    ...get the phone with the highest numbers.

    Instant street cred.

  6. Red Bren


    Let the ignoramuses believe that mobiles can kill and leave the rest of us with more bandwidth!

  7. K. Adams

    Everything is known to the State of California...

    ... to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.

    Jacket, because mine's the one with a copy of California Proposition 65 (1986) and a Chemical Abstracts Service registry in the pocket...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I recommend the antiKryptonitophone

    Manufactured from a lump of solid lead and absolutely guaranteed impermeable to deadly radiation. Users may have some initial difficulties with connections but the supplied pair of tin cans and length of string should provide a useful alternate means of unlimited* communication with your favourite friend or family member

    *unlimited communication is strictly limited by string length and governed by a fair use policy

  9. Anonymous Coward

    What about Hairdryers?

    Shirley 1.2KW will heat up the users head a little more than the non-ionisation radiation discharged from a puny 2 Watt phone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's a mileage thing, innit...

      Depends on whether you get the same exposure to a hair dryer as you do a mobile phone. I've yet to meet a woman who admits to using a hair dryer for up to an hour a day every day, for instance...

      1. Diane Miller

        @AC re: mileage

        As may be, but if we assume straight linearity in the power, a 1.2kW hair dryer is 600 times worse than a 2W phone. I do spend 5 - 10 minutes a day with my hair dryer. 10 minutes with a hair dryer, then, is equivalent to about 100 hours with a phone. I don't know anyone who spends 100 hours a day on the phone, although I'm sure Mr. Gore can find someone.

      2. A J Stiles

        The maths

        Let's do the maths, shall we:

        Running a 1.2kW hair drier for 5 minutes = 1200 W * 300 sec = 360 000 J.

        A 3.6V, 2Ah battery contains 3.6 * 2 * 3600 = 25 920 J.

        In other words, if you use a mobile phone fitted with a high-capacity battery until it is totally spent, then you are still going to be putting less than a tenth of the amount of energy into your head than if you use a 1.2kW hair drier for 5 minutes.

        Mine's the one with the well-thumbed copy of "O-level physics" in the pocket.

        1. Chemist

          Re : The maths

          Whilst I don't think mobile phones pose a sig. risk the comparison with a hairdryer is a little dubious.

          Hairdryers put some of the heat onto the skin - probably much less than half the machines output, but electromagnetic radiation penetrates the skin and *could* cause effects deeper in the tissue.

  10. s. pam Silver badge

    Bring me the Anal Lube Boys....

    I guess they should put a warning on Bath Houses Doors in SF then (Sodom and Gomorrah By The Bay) about Anal Lube then...

    "Use of this product kills millions of living organisms in the Gulf of Mexico"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Lube

      If it is spermicidal, then it kills millions of organisms EACH time it is used, techincally, right in the "Bay".

      But then, that's what its designed for, eh?

  11. JohnG

    Microwave ovens?

    Are they going to insist on similar Specific Absorption Rate labelling for other devices, like microwave ovens? Unlike mobile phones, microwave ovens actually use a wavelength more suited to boiling your eyeballs and use substantially higher powers, so one would assume that these should be first on the list of stuff needing some seriously scary labelling.

    Then there's Bluetooth headsets, microwave motion detectors in security systems,.....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Microwave ovens?

      "Are they going to insist on similar Specific Absorption Rate labelling for other devices, like microwave ovens? "

      I'd suggest a far more appropriate label might be "warning, products designed for use in this device are usually of little nutritional value and should not be consumed"

      1. Tom Thomson

        @AC 16:08

        <quote>I'd suggest a far more appropriate label might be "warning, products designed for use in this device are usually of little nutritional value and should not be consumed"<etouq>

        Because this might reduce the frequency of simcards and batteries being eaten, or for some other reason?

  12. Eddy Ito

    Too true

    "... more information isn't always helpful."

    Yes, just hold the open end of the fire hose up to your mouth while I go and turn on the hydrant.

  13. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    I had to put radiation warning stickers on sources that have less activity than a bunch of bananas, why don't bananas have radiation warnings?

    Then the same scientifically literate parents could safely calculate the specific and effective absorbed dose of 3nCu/kg banana for their child

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Other Devices

    Does this mean that SF requires such labels being placed on anything that emits radiation? For example does this ruling apply to wireless networking kit, CB radios, dect phones or even lightbulbs? Of course not, and this is why it's such a stupid ruling.

    CB radios in particular emit more radiation than mobile phones and the fun part is that a lot of users drive round with the antenna almost directly over their heads.

    1. Chemist

      Re : Other Devices →

      "users drive round with the antenna almost directly over their heads"

      They'd be in a Faraday cage surely.

      Mind, if it's California they might actually be driving around with an antenna directly on their heads

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Useless bureaucracy

    Pointless, meaningless "data".

    It’s as useless as the ‘mandatory’ California labeling regarding items (e.g. coffee cups) that “might” contain hazardous materials. Do they, or don’t they? If they do, they shouldn’t be available for sale. If they don’t, no label required. Solved.

    But no, confuse the consumer by providing useless cellphone labeling. But, I suppose someone sees an “advantage” in feeding another pointless bureaucratic department somewhere. No wonder California has a $20 billion deficit.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    British Govmint not better

    ...they warn you not to give a mobile to your kids for unspecified and unscientific reasons they pulled out of thin air. "CAN SOMEBODY THHINCC ABOUT THE TSHILDREN ???"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I can think of a reason

      because kids use them to cause a fucking nuisance in schools, cinemas, on buses and trains, and generally everywhere where normal people are trying to learn, listen, or relax without shit rap music or inane chatter blasting their lug holes at 760 miles an hour.

      Also, kids with mobile phones have no class, not even with a K. But that's an academic point.

  17. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @Other Devices

    Worse than that, Ca requires you to put a notice on your door saying "this premises contains material known to the state of Ca to produce death/birth defects/voting democrat etc"

    But here is no exposure limit, so a nuclear waste dump and an office where somebody might have an older non-ROHS mp3 player with lead solder = same warning sign

  18. Captain Thyratron

    Rumours of humanity emerging from medieval ignorance have been greatly exaggerated.

    Thankfully, I stopped living in California before I was a month old. I don't regret having missed all the stupid new-agers and fashionable hypochondriacs. Let's not forget that it's a state where nearly any form of pseudoscientific nuttery or outright hocus-pocus is guaranteed a following of bored white-bread office workers and disenfranchised ex-hippies. The only other place I can think of that so regularly comes up with this kind of silliness is Santa Fe, but that's just a piece of California that metastasized.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like