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San Francisco board approves cell phone radiation ordinance

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors [official website] on Tuesday voted to approve an ordinance [transcript] that would require retailers who sell cellular phones to display the varying amounts of radiation emitted by the different cell phone models. The ordinance passed by a vote of 10-1 and Mayor Gavin Newsom [official website], who helped sponsor the legislation, is expected to sign the ordinance into law after a 10 day comment period and final vote by the Board of Supervisors. Supporters of the legislation contend that it will help consumers make informed choices [LAT report] when purchasing cellular phones, while members of the cellular phone industry say the legislation will mislead the retail public into believing one product is safer than another. The safety of cellular phone radiation levels has been a topic of debate, and while San Francisco is the first to pass legislation on the issue, similar legislation has been considered by Maine and California [materials]. If the ordinance receives final approval as expected, it will go into effect early next year.

While cellular phone radiation emission levels have caused some concern, more legislative attention has been focused on banning cellular phone use while driving. Last month, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] called for a global ban on cell phone use [JURIST report] while driving. In October, Ontario enacted a law banning the use of handheld devices [JURIST report] while driving, joining other jurisdictions in Canada and the US to pass similar bans including Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, California, and New York. Earlier this October, US President Barack Obama signed [JURIST report] an executive order [text] making it illegal for federal employees or government contractors to use text messaging while driving.

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