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As the debate rages on about the dangers of cell phone radiation, a new measure in San Francisco is causing a lot of static.

With its final approval June 22 by the city's Board of Supervisors, the landmark ordinance is on track to make San Francisco the first city in the nation to require retailers to display the specific absorption rate (SAR) of its products. (SAR measures the rate of energy absorbed by the body when exposed to radio frequency fields.) Mayor Gavin Newsom, who introduced the measure, is expected to sign it into law within 10 days, despite opposition from cell phone retailers and the inconclusive scientific support.

"The science on cell phones is all over the place," said Mark Westlund, communication/education program manager for San Francisco's Department of the Environment. "And it was the mayor's opinion that people have a right to know the levels of exposure. Since there was uncertainty, it is incumbent upon the government provide information to our citizens."

The legislation passed a preliminary vote by the Board of Supervisors last week, leading up to Tuesday's final vote. Once Newsom signs the proposal, the law will take effect in February 2011, and violators will face fines up to $500.

The city isn't the first to attempt such a measure, but it would be the first to succeed. Last year, a similar proposal never saw the light of day in the California Legislature after intense lobbying by the mobile phone industry. Earlier this year in Maine, lawmakers shot down a bill that would've required manufacturers to put warning labels on cell phones about the potential link between cell phone radiation and brain cancer.

Bad Reception

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Russell Nichols  |  Staff Writer