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Lawsuit Puts Berkeley Law Requiring Cellphone Warnings On Hold Saying Radiation Risk Is False

BERKELEY (CBS SF) -- A group representing the wireless industry has filed a lawsuit to put Berkeley's cellphone ordinance on hold, saying it violates the First Amendment.

The ordinance, or so-called 'right to know measure,' requires cellphone providers to post an advisory about potential radiation danger posed by the devices. It would be the first of its kind in the nation. It would have gone into effect in August.

In the lawsuit, The Wireless Association (CTIA) charges the claims of health risks are "false."

"It is unconstitutional to force cellphone retailers to communicate false, misleading and inflammatory information about their products," CTIA said in a statement.

Berkeley's city council unanimously approved the measure last May. Cellphone retailers would have to give customers a notice about the minimum separation distance a cellphone should be held from the body.

The Federal Communication Commission recommends keeping cellphones 5 to 25 millimeters away, depending on the model, to limit radio frequency (RF) exposure to safe levels.

The safety notice would read: "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. This potential risk is greater for children. Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for information about how to use your phone safely."

The World Health Organization has classified cellphone radio frequency as "possibly carcinogenic to humans" but research, so far, has been contradictory. The National Cancer Institute states "there is currently no evidence that non-ionizing radiation [from cellphones] increases cancer risk."

The lawsuit charges Berkeley lawmakers with inciting "unfounded public anxiety and fear about a product that is so important to its citizens' everyday lives."

The case will be heard in a San Francisco court August 6.

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