cell phone cell phone Photo: Lavalle PDX Creative Commons 2.0 Generic

On the heels of San Francisco's historic yet contentious law requiring cell phone retailers to post radiation information, two small California towns are considering similar disclosure laws.

The cities -- Arcata and Burlingame -- quickly took note of San Francisco's recently signed "Cell Phone Right-to-Know" law and are moving to research how such requirements would play out locally. But the cell phone industry isn't pleased with the San Francisco law -- thought to be the first of its kind in the nation -- and contends the ordinance is based on speculation.

"It's probably only natural for some other areas to look at this because of the nature of the action," said John Walls, a spokesman for CTIA-The Wireless Association. "But at the same time, we would hope that anyone who looks at this issue -- whether a consumer or policymaker -- would look at science and facts and base a decision on that."

The Washington, D.C.-based CTIA, which represents the cell phone industry, maintains that mobile devices are safe for consumers, as their radiation levels are regulated by the FCC. Retailers, under San Francisco's law, must post information next to phones in at least 11-point type, listing their specific absorption rate (SAR) -- which measures the rate at which radio waves from a cell phone are absorbed by a user's body. The FCC capped these rates at no more than 1.6 watts per kilogram -- and rates vary from phone to phone.

Arcata and Burlingame officials who are pushing for SAR disclosure laws say they are trying to protect the public.

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Karen Wilkinson  | 

Karen is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.