Berkeley’s cellphone ordinance still stands. U.S. District Judge Edward Chen upheld the local law requiring cellphone sellers to provide warnings to customers that keeping their phones too close could be dangerous. All but one part of the original ordinance survived its day in court.
The Berkeley cellphone ordinance states that sellers must warn customers that they risk being exposed to potentially harmful radio-frequency radiation exceeding federally approved levels. The risk is present when cellphone users keep their phones turned on and connected to a wireless network while keeping the phones too close to their bodies. What’s too close? Tucking the phones into pants, shirt pockets and bras.
CTIA, the wireless association, had filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against the ordinance, claiming it was pre-empted by federal law and violated the industry’s First Amendment rights. Chen didn’t buy that plan.
“There is a reasonable scientific basis to believe that (radio-frequency) radiation at some levels can and do present health risks,” the judge said. He found that the ordinance, minus one part, is consistent with FCC statements and Berkeley’s legitimate government interests regarding consumer awareness and public safety.
However, Chen did put the law on hold until the city removed one line that he said was under scientific debate. The offending line is that the potential radiation risk is greater for children.
CTIA’s attorney, Theodore Olson said, “As the federal government has repeatedly recognized, the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence refutes Berkeley’s ill-informed and misleading mandatory warnings about cellphones.” Olson is pleased with the judge’s temporary block on enforcing the ordinance. He feels confident that the whole law will be done away with eventually.