California Upholds “Right to Know” Warning Consumers of Cancer-Causing Cell Phone Radiation

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California is known for progressive laws regarding consumer awareness.

An ordinance in Berkeley requires cell phone retailers to warn consumers of the harmful effects of radiation emitted by electronic devices. Passed in May of 2015 by the Berkeley City Council, the “Right to Know” ordinance warns consumers against carrying cell phones in their pants, shirt pocket or tucked into a bra. Such habits will cause a consumer to “exceed the federal guidelines for exposure” to radio frequency radiation. Additionally, the warning states “The potential risk is greater for children.” Although the law has been argued in court extensively for violating the First Amendment, California judges have finally ruled to uphold the ordinance. 

The warnings were written to reflect similar advisories that are already present in the fine print of cell phone manuals. Supporters of “Right to Know” acknowledge that there is no explicit scientific evidence between cell phones and cancer. Of course, it is difficult to firmly establish the connection, given that it may take years for the effects of radiation to manifest.

Berkeley’s “Right to Know” is recognizant of California’s progressive Proposition 65, which requires warnings be posted on products, in workplaces, apartment buildings, public places, or anywhere toxins are present that may cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm. The law increases accountability for businesses and allows Californians to make informed decisions about their health and safety.

Ellie Marks, the founder of the California Brain Tumor Association, brought her case to Berkeley because of the city’s history of taking progressive action. Marks is convinced that her late husband, Alan, developed brain cancer at age 56 from frequently using his cell phone. The Association recommends keeping phones away from the head and reproductive parts, switching devices off at night, avoiding second-hand exposure and waiting to use the phone until the signal is strong.

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