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Judge Rejects San Francisco's Cell-Phone Warning Requirement

A U.S. district court judge has blocked provisions of a San Francisco ordinance that required retailers to post warning notices about cellular phone use.

Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said the requirement violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Among other provisions, San Francisco's "Cell Phone Right to Know" ordinance required cell phone retailers to affix warning notices on store displays and hang posters warning posters that stated, "Studies continue to assess potential health effects of mobile phone use."

The requirement followed warnings earlier this year by a group of World Health Organization researchers that cell phone use may possibly be cancer-causing.

Siding with the industry in his ruling, Alsup said that although it would be legal for the city to require retailers to provide information on the possible risks associated with cell phone use, the required warnings mislead consumers that mobile phones pose definite health dangers.

CTIA, a national trade group representing the wireless industry, sued to block the ordinance, passed by the Board of Supervisors in July 2010. CTIA alleged that federal law preempted the ordinance.

"The City is not simply mandating the disclosure of uncontroversial factual information. Quite the opposite," CTIA argued in court papers. "The City's conclusion that FCC-compliant cell phones are dangerous is well outside the scientific mainstream, highly controversial, and in conflict with the statements and orders of the federal government."

The San Francisco ordinance originally sought to require retailers, at the point of sale, to disclose the cell phones' SAR value, a measurement of the maximum amount of radiation a phone is capable of emitting.

In response to a CTIA legal challenge, the Board of Supervisors revised the ordinance in July to require the city Department of the Environment to create materials that retailers must provide consumers on the possible dangers of cell phone use.

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