San Francisco finally kills cell phone radiation law

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors ends its 3-year battle with the wireless industry by agreeing to a permanent injunction against the "Right to Know" ordinance.

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
2 min read

As expected, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a settlement with the wireless industry over a controversial law that would have required city retailers to inform customers about the possible dangers of cell phone radiation.

By a 10-to-1 vote, the Board agreed to a permanent injunction against the "Right to Know" ordinance and promised that it will refrain from further litigation. In return, the CTIA, the wireless industry's trade association, will waive any claims to attorney's fees. Supervisor John Avalos was the lone dissenting vote.

Ellie Marks, the director of the California Brain Tumor Association and a strong supporter of the original law, called the vote "a terrible blow" to public health for the whole country. "The dynamics have changed in the chambers of City Hall," she wrote in an e-mailed statement to CNET. "Many other states and cities wanted to follow San Francisco's lead."

Indeed, yesterday's vote was a quiet end to a piece of legislation that public health advocates like Marks hoped would repeat in city halls and statehouses across the country. Originally passed in June 2010, the "Right to Know Ordinance" was the first of its kind in the country.

Yet, the ordinance quickly caught the ire of the CTIA, which argued that the law was unconstitutional, misleading to consumers, and that it infringed on the First Amendment rights of retailers. Though the Board watered the down the legislation a year later and delayed its implementation several times, a federal appeals court blocked implementation of the ordinance last September after the CTIA continued to press its case.

In a statement, John Walls, the CTIA's vice president, said he supports the settlement. "The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco has found that the FCC has established limits of radiofrequency energy exposure, within which it has concluded using cell phones is safe," he said. "The ordinance would have compelled retailers to make statements to consumers that the federal courts found were misleading."