The law making it compulsory for mobile phone retailers in San Francisco to display SAR’s values has now been abandoned. The reason – ineffective and non-representative.
In 2010, San Francisco’s mayor Gavin Newsom put forward a law that would require mobile phone retailers to display SAR ratings (Specific Absorption Rates) for each telephone on sale to increase the public’s understanding of emissions so that they could make an informed decision about which phone to purchase. Consumers could nevertheless purchase any handset they liked, but at least they would know which devices could potentially impact their health more than others.
At the time of the announcement, industrial groups were up in arms about the idea – notably the CTIA - The Wireless Association lobby, who announced that they would boycott the city when organising their events and shows, while also complaining that the FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) technical measurements should be sufficient to confirm their mobile handsets were within safe ranges.
A year later, after numerous meetings between each side’s lawyers and Gavin Newsom stepping aside, the law seems to be dead and buried. It has already been delayed twice and no date as to when it will be applied has been set, at least in its proposed form.
A victory for the industrial lobby? While this should calm the lobbyists, it is also to do with what use is there is displaying the SAR information besides it being a potential health risk. The argument is that the value must not exceed the maximum authorised level (1.6 Watts per kilogram in the United States, 2 Watts per kilogram in Europe) but nothing is said about the average exposure time.
A mobile with a lower SAR reading than another device could on average send more mobile signals than one with a higher SAR reading. For non-governmental associations like the Environmental Working Group, the SAR indication nevertheless provides additional to consumers, which is better than nothing.
There is still a chance that the law will be applied in a lightened version. This is certainly what this association is hoping for, if for nothing else than to not allow the industrial lobby to win by throwing their money around.