back to article San Francisco caves over mobile radiation warnings

Residents of the Bay Area won't be bothered by how much radiation their mobile phones produce, now that San Francisco city authorities have backed down from mandatory labeling in the face of legal pressure. The controversial plan would have seen warning labels about the specific absorption rate (SAR) of radiation on phones, …


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  1. Herby

    Only in San Francisco!

    Maybe they got some sense pounded into them. Unfortunately it was probably the costs that drove home the argument.

    Now if they get rid of the plastic bag ordinance which bans them, I'll be a much happier camper!

    1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      Re: Only in San Francisco!

      The plastic bag idiots managed to get that passed in Seattle too. Now we are forced to either carry around or buy those stupid $4 re-usable bags (which some places won't accept if the aren't theirs)

      1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

        Re: Only in San Francisco!

        The ban on plastic bags actually makes sense from a purely functional "run the city" perspective: those sorts of bags are a recurring source of blockages on drains and the like, so the use of cheap plastic bags drives the cost of maintaining the city's services up.

        What DOESN'T make sense is the "pay 10c for a paper bag" thing that came in last year. That's the one that drives the reusable bag stuff, and is driven by philosophy, not practicality.

        I was (and am) quite happy with the plastic bag ban, since paper bags were basically just as functional most of the time. But mandatory charging for paper bags is irritating: why shouldn't a business give away or charge for packaging, at its discretion?

      2. MondoMan

        Re: $4 Seattle bags

        Dude, you must needs shop at Fred Meyer. Bags only $0.99.

        In fairness, I don't like being in line behind the guy carrying the bag that his cats have been peeing in.

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: $4 Seattle bags

          Then you really don't want to know about where the store bags have been. Many moons ago my first job was at a grocery store & we used to put all kinds of 'stuff' in the boxes the bags came in. Just because we though it was hilarious. I doubt anything has changed in that front.

        2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: $4 Seattle bags

          In fairness, I don't like being in line behind the guy carrying the bag that his cats have been peeing in.

          When I used to live in Belgium, you'd often see people wandering round the supermarkets carrying rats round in the supermarket's trolleys/baskets. Then you realised they weren't rats, but annoying little yappy dogs.

          These places used to sell bread and veg, unwrapped, which you were supposed to pop straight into your basket. Yummy.

          My cheese and dog hair sandwiches were to die for...

  2. Kevin 6

    And here I thought it was common sense that everything in existence is known to cause cancer in California so why would mobile phones be immune?

    Seriously I've seen the warning on a power extension cord even...

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Seriously I've seen the warning on a power extension cord even...

      Don't mock. These can be very dangerous if swallowed.

      Especially if still plugged in...

  3. tempemeaty
    Big Brother

    Dark side of this

    If the warning was right or wrong, it seems the people in America keep finding they don't control the Government(s) on any level, only the corporations run the Government(s) here now.

    Warning to the rest of the world, the Federal and local Gov(s) in America are all completely out of the peoples control.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Is a bailout of the auto industry The People's Will?

      You need to revise your basic assumption about the meaning of the word

      "the people"




      Frankly, I would be quite happy if the Government were out of "people's control" and only driven by economic interests and clueless retards like Madame Warren (frankly under control of "the people") were staying outside. But then the government needs to be very small to keep crony capitalism at bay.

  4. JeffyPooh

    SAR numbers are almost entirely random garbage

    There's vastly more random variation from a million real world variables than from one phone to the next.

    The whole concept of the SAR measuring industry is pseudo science and bordering on intellectual fraud. Their procedures, and understanding why they're so fantastically prescriptive to the nearest mm, makes for painful reading. Reading their SAR measuring procedures makes my face twist up in disgust so badly that I once won a gurning contest by accident. Somebody centered my head in a horse collar, and - bam - I'd won.

  5. peter 45

    "If the nation's experience with tobacco taught us anything, it is that it is dangerous to wait until there is scientific consensus about a potential health threat"

    Some history has been forgotten here. There is a huge difference between tobacco and mobile radiation. When the health warnings were introduced for tobacco, there were years of experiments and studies from around the world that showed direct, measurable and predictable health effects from smoking, and this showed up in the hospital wards.

    The scientists calling for a ban did not do so because they thought there may be a yet un-proven hypotheses for which there was no scientific explanation, with not a single study showing a causal link........unlike the 'death from mobiles' scare stories of today.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      I call that "dishonesty of the highest order."

      Which is disappointing when it comes from an organisation that claims to be interested in protecting public health. They sound less like the scientists who demonstrated the link between smoking and cancer, and more like the tobacco companies, when they bluster and claim they don't need science to support their scaremongering.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


    2. Tom 13

      @Peter 45

      Yep, even back in the 1770s they called them 'coffin nails' for a reason.

  6. ratfox Silver badge

    Free speech ground

    Not that I care much about that ordinance, but how can you fight such an ordinance on free speech ground? "It's our right to decide not to disclose information to consumers"?

    What's next, claiming that health warning on tobacco products violates the privacy of cigarettes? Or would reveal the "trade secret" that cigarettes contain tobacco and tar?

    1. Tom 13

      Re: Free speech ground

      If you're a rational person as opposed to a knee-jerk statist, it's pretty easy. Let's try this one on for size (deleting as is appropriate for your world view):

      All warmists/denialists be forced to put a disclaimer on their research that their research might be biased.

      Yeah, until you are on an ultra firm legal basis (like loosing a court case) it's dangerous to require certain kinds of speech on products sold.

  7. The Axe


    The city people must be stupid. Did they think that if they imposed such a rule that every phone manufacturer would kowtow to their demands. Did they not think that the manufacturers would just ignore their rules and just not sell phones in the city meaning a loss of jobs and businesses. A lot easier to do that than work out SAR levels. But city officials in any city in the world tend to be stupid. There is no requirement for them to know what they are doing, just to spout rubbish which a few gullible people believe and vote them in.

    1. Mako

      Re: Stupid

      "But city officials in any city in the world tend to be stupid."

      I'd like to take the liberty of adding a few adjectives; greedy, self-serving, corrupt, detached from reality, smug, arrogant...

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: Stupid

      They managed to pull it off with their Prop 65 law which requires disclosure if anything that contains lead. That got started in San Francisco & now anything in the U.S. you purchase that contains lead is labeled with a Prop 65 warning no matter where in the country you purchase it. So yes, if a major city (especially in California) makes a law in can have a big impact on the rest of the country because it is just cheaper to make one set of packaging than customized versions for every State.

    3. PhilBuk

      Re: Stupid

      This is the same city that tried to stop disk drive manufacturers fromm using the terms 'Master and Slave' in their product information and documentation.


  8. Chris Miller

    There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California. - Edward Abbey (1927-89)

  9. mfritz0

    Radiation sources

    lets see, in a person's daily life where do all the radiations sources one comes across come from?

    1. The sun.

    2. Cosmic rays from space.

    3. The burning of petroleum products and coal. (This is a big one nobody talks about).

    4. Radon gas emissions.

    5. Cigarette smoke (especially if the tobacco was grown in uranium rich soil)

    6. Airplane flights, especially high altitude jets.

    7. Electrical outlets and appliances inside the home.

    8. Heavy industrial electrical equipment (electric motors and generators, welders etc...)

    9. Medical X-rays and other medical methods.

    10. Cell phones, computer monitors, electric light bulbs... and the list goes on and on.

    As to how much cancer is caused by any of these sources is really dependent on the amount of exposure and how susceptible one is to the condition. I'm certain that living itself is carcinogenic... so where do you draw the line... Where do you force people to label their products as "carcinogenic"? I'm sure the money spent labeling these products if spent in the research for the cure for cancer could be better spent than trying to label all these products. The solution is obvious, and that is the education of people to the dangers involved in anything done in excess. As this is usually the root of anything that causes cancer and other conditions. It's the constant irritation the body's immune system undergoes that must cope with these irritants. Hopefully through time the human species will evolve an immunity (or create one) to the "cancer" condition, but even that may prove ro be carcinogenic. Cancer kills, find a cure for it, but learn to live with it until then.

    1. Stuart Van Onselen
      Thumb Up

      Re: Radiation sources

      Well put, sir, well put.

      I've read that about 1 in 4 people will die of cancer, a vastly increased proportion compared to previous generations. And statistics like this are what make alarmists proclaim that "our modern lifestyle is killing us!" and "all the pollution is giving us cancer!"

      The truth is, our "modern lifestyle" is helping us live longer than ever before, thus increasing our chances of getting cancer. Every single day we run a infinitesimal-but-real chance of contracting cancer, and the longer we live, the more times we roll the dice. Eventually they will come up snakes-eyes.

      Which is not to say that we shouldn't be concerned with the hazards of our current lifestyle (e.g. sedentary jobs, high stress with no outlet) , or that urban and rural pollution is non-existent. Just that we must keep it in perspective, and focus on the real dangers (e.g. cigarette smoke, carbon monoxide), not the bogey-men like "cell-phone radiation".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Radiation sources

      It's easier to just get a labeling gun and label the heck out of everything as "carcinogenic" than to cure cancer.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Radiation sources

        You do know that labels cause cancer.

        1. Tom 13

          Re: Radiation sources

          Don't joke about that!

          They might require us to put labels on the labeling devices.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Radiation sources

        I have been seeing road signs that read "Rough Road".

        The signs must be far cheaper than repairs.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: Cancer kills, find a cure for it,

      I have no data to support my hypothesis, but I long ago decided that there is no cure for cancer because there is no cause, or definable set of causes for it. I think cancer is just an error in the cell reproductive process. The body has mechanism to either repair or remove most of them, but even running at 16 nines of reliability, every so often something is going to slip through.

      The best you can do is reduce exposure to things we know that can increase the likelihood that the repair/removal mechanism is needed. So technically any increase in exposure to radioactivity is increases those chances. The rub is in figuring out which increases it is reasonable to avoid. For example, I think the reason we see increased lung cancers associated with cigarettes and asbestos (particularly short length fiber varieties) is that they cut lung material which requires repair and the repair itself is subject to that 1 in a trillion chance of failure. Increase the opportunities enough and you will get a failure. Exposure to either increases that damage exponentially, which is why we been able to statistically tie them to cancer. Genetics of course modifies that because some folks will have better repair/removal mechanisms. Which is why George Burns could live to such a ripe old age smoking cigars without getting cancer while the Marlboro Man didn't.

  10. Richard Wharram

    Nothing to do with pressure from down the road?

    Cupertino specifically?

    Don't get me wrong, it's a great result for common sense.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    no way they'e worried about a half mil in legal fees

    the City has spent a lot more than that defending asinine and illegal policies in the past.

    the trick, like always, is to follow the power. Who makes handsets and doesn't want the bother of such legislation, and is nearby enough to have significant juice to make the Powers That Be flinch?

  12. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Redundant and alarmist

    This law was redundant and alarmist. Redundant, because SAR ratings are in fact available for every phone, even in the store, and one can pick a lower SAR phone if they wish to. Alarmist, because the people wanting cigarette pack like warnings fail at science.

    1) They invariably call it "radiation" to make it sound like it's like you're holding a brick of enriched plutonium up to your head (or even worse, eating it.)

    2) They just don't understand the physics. If you lie your hand onto a hot stove, you'll be burned. If you lie your hand onto a 150 degree (fahrenheit) stove (66 celsius) you might be able to keep it on there but get blisters and damage (if it doesn't happen at 150, fine, let's say 160 or 170.) If it's 70 degrees in the room (21 celsius) and you lie your hand on an 80 degree stove (27 celsius), nothing will happen at all. That is simply direct exposure to various intensities of infrared; it's just the same with RF -- touch a ham antenna with 1000 watts running through it and you will get RF burn, and probably at lower power you'll get similar damage and not notice. But cell phones are well below the limit where I'm worried.

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