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Radio News: Wireless industry sues to stop Berkeley's EMF warning

Jun 08, 2015 11:16 pm
There aren't many places left with virtually no radio waves. In the United States, just near Green Bank, West Virginia in the "U.S. National Radio Quiet Zone," a 13,000–square-mile area where most types of electromagnetic radiation on the radio spectrum are banned to minimize disturbance around the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which holds the world’s largest steerable radio telescope. Everywhere else, humans are bombarded by radio and TV broadcasts, Wi-Fi networks, cell signals, baby monitors, NSA bugs, and other radio signals. In May nearly 200 scientists submitted an appeal to the United Nations requesting it to take action against the health risks of electromagnetic radiation. "Cell towers are blanketing our neighbourhoods with radiation. It's particularly frightening that radiation from our telecommunication and power line technology is damaging the DNA in our cells. It is clear to many biologists that this can account for the rising cancer rates," said Martin Blank, a retired special lecturer in the effects of electromagnetic radiation on cells at Columbia University Medical Center. Two days after that report, the Berkeley, California City Council approved an ordinance that would require a notice to cellphone buyers regarding exposure to electromagnetic waves when they carry the devices close to their bodies. "If you carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra when the phone is on and connected to a wireless network, you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure to RF (radio frequency) radiation," the notice reads in part. A copy of the notice must be given to anyone who buys or leases a cellphone, or be prominently displayed at the retail outlet. Now a month later on June 8, wireless carriers filed suit to kill the cellphone radiation notification plan in Berkeley. The wireless industry’s trade group, CTIA, said the notification plan, “contradicts the federal government’s determination … that cellphones approved for sale in the U.S. do not pose a public health risk.” In 2011, CTIA successfully fought a similar law in San Francisco that required phone sellers to disclose the emissions produced by each model. Now the CTIA says the proposed Berkeley ordinance, "will mislead consumers, and it is unlawful," according to Gerard Keegan, senior director for state legislative affairs for CTIA, an industry trade group. "The proposal is unlawful because it violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution." Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, speaking at a Berkeley city council meeting recently about the issue, said he is increasingly concerned that the First Amendment is being used by corporations to bully citizens into inaction.