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San Francisco caves over mobile radiation warnings

Controversial carcinogen labeling dropped

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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, after a 2010 ordinance was approved by voters. The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) had been fighting the ordinance on free speech grounds.

"I think the legal reality is that if we don't approve the settlement, we're talking about having to pay $500,000 in legal fees," City supervisor David Campos told Reuters.

The ordinance was introduced in 2010 after a vote by city authorities, and would have required mobile carriers to put warnings on phone packaging similar to those seen on packets of cigarettes. The SAR rate is already published by the Federal Communications Commission, which is currently reviewing its health guidance on mobile handsets that was first laid down in 1996.

Supporters of the ordinance said that the labeling was necessary to warn consumers. The labels would have included up-to-date data on the amount of radiation caused by handsets when in use and when they are simply being carried around in users' pockets.

"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 before providing consumers with information on how they can protect themselves," said Renee Sharp, research director for the Environmental Working Group, which supported the ordinance. ®

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