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Will radiation warnings curb cell phone use?

“Cell phones cause cancer.” “No they don’t!” “Yes they do.” “No they don’t!“

Back and forth it goes, like the world’s slowest game of tennis. One study spends 6 months proving that cell phones turn you into a giant walking tumor, and another pops up showing that cell phones cause nothing but an increased need to tell people what you’re doing…

Whatever the case, the City of San Francisco seems to be done waiting for a conclusive answer. After a long legal battle, SF’s Supervisors have unanimously approved legislation requiring cell phone shops to warn customers of potential radiation hazards.

“Hey, didn’t something like this pass last year?” Yep. Well, almost. The Board Of Supervisors approved an ordinance requiring each cell phone’s radiation absorption level (or “SAR”) to be posted on the outside of its box, but that law was stifled after the CTIA Wireless Association filed a lawsuit against the city. These ratings being posted everywhere, they suggested, would just confuse consumers into thinking that certain phones were proven to be more dangerous than others.

This second swing at the new law is a bit more lax: gone are the specific radiation details posted on each box, instead replaced by general warnings that cell phone shops will need to have at hand. Shop owners will be expected to post information regarding potential radiation risks (though it doesn’t look like they have to mention “cancer” specifically), and inform folks of ways to lower just how much radiation gets blasted into their body.

No word yet on if CTIA plans to drop another lawsuit bomb on this one. This ordinance will be voted upon once more on July 26th, at which point Mayor Ed Lee will need to sign off on it within 10 days to make it a law.

I’m all for this. I was for the first proposal, too. Sure, we’re all stupid and easily confused by scary numbers — but this is something that we don’t quite understand yet. A few “So, uh, cell phone radiation might be bad for you, we’re still investigating” signs are the least we can do.