A wireless communications industry group filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] Friday challenging a San Francisco ordinance requiring disclosure of cellular phone radiation emission levels. The complaint, filed by CTIA [official website] in the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website], argues that the ordinance unlawfully interferes with the exclusive authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] to regulate radio frequency (RF) emissions from mobile devices like cell phones. The complaint claims that the ordinance is preempted based on the Supremacy Clause for three basic reasons: first, it interferes with the federal government's authority to set standards for RF emissions; second, it disrupts Congress' ability to set uniform nationwide standards for "safe" cell phones; and third, it is expressly preempted by Section 332(c)(3)(A) of the Communications Act [text], which prohibits state imposed limits on "entry" into the wireless market through things like labeling requirements. CTIA argues [press release] that the FCC set Standard Absorption Rate (SAR) limits for RF emissions and that all cell phones sold legally in the US are "safe":
The problem with the San Francisco ordinance is not the disclosure of wireless phone SAR values - that information is already publicly available. Consumers can learn a device's SAR value from a number of public sources, and the value is often included in user manuals and listed on the websites of manufacturers and the FCC. CTIA's objection to the ordinance is that displaying a phone's SAR value at the point-of-sale suggests to the consumer that there is a meaningful safety distinction between FCC-compliant devices with different SAR levels.Supporters of the ordinance claim that it will make consumers more informed when purchasing a cell phone.
Last month, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors [official website] voted 10-1 to approve [JURIST report] the ordinance, which is expected to take effect early next year. The safety of cell phone radiation levels has been a topic of debate, and, while San Francisco is the first to pass legislation on the issue, similar legislation has been considered by Maine and California [materials]. Recently, more legislative concern has been focused on the danger of texting while driving. Earlier this year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] called for a global ban on cell phone use [JURIST report] while driving. In October, Ontario enacted a law banning the use of handheld devices [JURIST report] while driving, joining other jurisdictions in Canada and the US to pass similar bans including Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, California and New York.