Berkeley City Council proposes ordinance to get warning labels on cellphones

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Berkeley councilmembers are proposing a new law that would require radiation warning labels put on cellphones.

Several years ago San Francisco tried to pass an ordinance requiring a warning label to be put on cellphones, but the ordinance was overturned in court. Now, some Berkeley councilmembers are proposing a similar law.

The cosponsors of the ordinance say the warning labels wouldn't include any new information. Instead, the label would highlight some of that fine print that is in those user manuals that no one reads.

Neal Joseph spends as many hours on his cellphone as some people spend at a full-time job. He's heard rumors about cellphone radiation and wears headphones to limit any possible health risk.

Councilmember Max Anderson is cosponsor on an ordinance that would require cellphones purchased in Berkeley stores to include a warning label. "We wanted to indicate to people what the radiation emissions are on the phone," he said.

The director of the Center for Family and Community Health at UC Berkeley says a warning of this kind is long overdue. "I think it's black and white that cellphones increase your risk for cancer," Joel Moskowitz, Ph.D., said.

But scientist and Berkeley Councilmember Gordon Wozniak says the research doesn't support cancer claims. "You can look at the data for brain cancer and for 30 years it's been constant in terms of the number per populus and yet the cellphone increase usage has increased by factors of thousands."

Wozniak views the cellphone sticker proposal as a made up controversy that was already decided in San Francisco and won't go anywhere in Berkeley.

"Why propose this ordinance when there's no compelling health reasons and two the federal courts have said there's no merit to it," Wozniak said.

The Berkeley City Council will discuss the ordinance in September. If it does pass, Berkeley will be the first city in the country with a cellphone warning.

"We relish the idea of Berkeley being first in the forefront of those efforts to protect the public from things that could harm them," Anderson said.

The Telecommunication Industry sent Berkeley's council a letter saying cellphones are safe and the proposal is unnecessary.
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