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    Anti-Science Waves The White Flag In San Francisco Cell Phone Warning Label Lawsuit
    By Hank Campbell | May 8th 2013 10:56 AM | 12 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone...

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    Everyone should have a home where they feel comfortable. If you want to carry a six-shooter on the street, move to Kennesaw, Georgia, outside Atlanta - Gun Town, USA (bonus: only 4 gun murders in 30 years, so you will be safe)(1) and if you like to ban everything and hang out with anti-science crackpots, there's always San Francisco. 

    San Francisco has always been a little envious of other places - like New York City, and every city in Europe, really. So when Europe began adopting guidelines for warning labels on cell phones, San Francisco tried to do the same.(2) Since then, things have only gotten wackier. A court in Italy ruled that cell phones do cause cancer, taking a claim in Sweden as more reliable than every study done in the world - sort of like if a judge in France says Gilles-Eric Séralini is more "reliable" and "independent" about GMOs than everyone else.

    It was blocked in court but San Francisco must have felt confident about the appeals process. They had a judge in Europe who agreed with them. But the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association was not as in love with the Continent as Frisco residents and arguments from an advocate like that her husband got a brain tumor because he held his cell phone on that side of his head more often than the other were not all that convincing, scientifically.(3)

    So their law to require "possibly carcinogenic" warning labels on phones, the handiwork of Mayor Gavin Newsom, now the Lt. Governor who thinks he will become Governor riding a wave of fad science and health claims, was in limbo. You have to try and imagine that thought process: it starts with something like 'So what if the National Cancer Institute and the World Health Organization haven't found any reason for concern, we shouldn't rush to declare things safe just because they can't harm you'. 

    And when that doesn't work: 'BIG TOBACCO!'

    And really, that is the end of the reason part of the science discussion in San Francisco. These people banned goldfish and tried to ban golf. Rep. Nancy Pelosi thinks styrofoam causes cancer and got 86% of the vote in San Francisco.

    The Environmental Working Group, publishers of the annual 'Dirty Dozen' list of foods they target to promote the $29 billion organic food industry which sponsors them (along with the American Trial Lawyers Association, which paid them to 'create research' for asbestos litigation), was naturally in favor of this bit of anti-science nonsense also.  

    But San Francisco has now given up - the reason was because if they lost, they were going to be on the hook for $500,000 in court costs and they were almost certain to lose as long as science, and not the judgment of one court in Europe, were a factor. Apparently public health is only the most important factor to San Francisco until it will cost them some money and not simply penalize businesses that have done nothing wrong.

    I am not going to unfairly pick on San Francisco too much - it is just one city. Entire states also want to put warning labels on cell phones despite their being no evidence they cause any harm.  Oregon, Maine, I could find more but if you want to find anti-science hotspots, about health, energy, medicine or food, you don't need me to itemize them, just go to an electoral map and look for blue.(4)

    Notes: 

    (1) Certainly in California but also nationwide the trend is the same. As gun ownership went up, gun crime went down. You wouldn't know that because gun ban activists are getting some media attention. Obviously gun ownership is not the only factor. Everyone in Somalia owns a gun and that is not exactly safer. But banning guns there wouldn't make a bit of difference either.

    (2)  It's no surprise, an alarming number of San Francisco residents also think singer Sheryl Crow is a science expert and that organic food prevents cancer while cell phones cause it.

    (3) "We can do nothing and wait for the body count. That's what happened with smoking," Professor David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and Environment at the University of Albany (and the guy who said PCBs in fish were bad), warned Maine lawmakers. In other words, even though there is no evidence, he just knows there is. Save the children.

    (4) If you are a resident in a large city in a blue state, you may also be convinced cell phone use during pregnancy will cause your child to have ADD. It will not.

    Comments

    logicman
    But cellphones can cause harm! 

    Try the Galileo experiment with cellphones from a tall building in a crowded street.

    Alternatively you could stick one in your pocket plugged into a charger and see what happens.
    Caveat: do not try this in a family planning establishment - you may set a bad example!

    WARNING !

    This cellphone can harm you by
    a ..., 
    b ...,
    ...
    z ...

    If your cellphone has internet capability it may also harm your brain -
    if you listen to too much wicky wacky woo.
    Pretty smug article. Maybe you're too young to have had loved ones die from tobacco related ailments. The "science wasn't there" in the 50's though plenty of people experienced some of the cancer precursor effects. How many of your relatives will suffer before you decide maybe some kind of precautionary approach to cell phone usage makes sense??

    I hope cell phone dangers are fictional but right now the cost to society of avoiding heavy use comes nowhere near the possible benefits.

    Gerhard Adam
    Maybe you're too young to have had loved ones die from tobacco related ailments. The "science wasn't there" in the 50's though plenty of people experienced some of the cancer precursor effects.
    Well, I'm certainly old enough and I think that's nonsense.  Nobody needed science to recognize that smoking was not a healthy activity.  Similarly no one needs science to tell them to reduce their cell phone usage if that's what they choose to believe.

    However, the science doesn't exist so that people can use it as a bludgeon to try and control each other's behaviors.

    BTW .. for the record, I'm a smoker, and I don't buy the nonsense that people don't know it's bad for them.
    Mundus vult decipi
    logicman
    I'm a smoker, and I don't buy the nonsense that people don't know it's bad for them.
    Ditto.
    Hank
    Even in the 1950s there was a certain suspension of disbelief required.  There was no consensus it was harmless, they had doctors in ads precisely to market it to people who knew it was harmful. They had to pay for studies to find ways it wasn't harmful. Educated people knew it was harmful 300 years ago.

    What has happened since 1950s is the leap to the other side; everything is blamed on smoking, without any evidence. If I get throat cancer next week it will be because my parents smoked when I was a kid - and if I get brain cancer someone will claim it is because I used a cell phone.  But there is zero evidence for either.
    Do you want to be the lab rat to prove or disprove the hypothesis?
    You say that in the case of smoking, "educated people knew it was harmful" but I take it you feel there was really not enough data to prove the harm. Would you have smoked then if it were something you found pleasurable? I am a bit confused by your response.

    There are plenty of people who feel they are in an analogous situation with cell phone use.

    Here are some studies as well as "expert opinions"
    http://sagereports.com/smart-meter-rf/?page_id=282
    http://www.emractionday.org/science

    I think its a good idea to take other's scientific opinions into account in dealing with the risks in my life though I know I will not get out alive. I also allow for the fact that there are people who feel things to a greater extent than I might. Often sensitive or weakened people feel really nasty things at a much lower threshold than I

    Oh! Sorry I see you are a smoker. I just want to assure you, that you deserve to smoke and it wouldn't bother me if you blew second hand smoke my way. People shouldn't be controlled or bludgeoned into submission but let's not lie to them about safety or withhold science. Let's not fake studies either.

    Hank
    Not sure who you are replying to. I don't smoke. And who advocates faked studies?  

    Any time you have a culture war around a topic, the likelihood of shady methodology, stretched conclusions and data inconsistent with the null hypothesis goes way up - that's the case with smoking today, with nonsense like third-hand smoke and correlations to virtually every disease.

    When it comes to cell phones and cancer, there isn't even bad science. Claims are made about warning labels based on nothing.
    logicman
    Claims are made about warning labels based on nothing.



    MikeCrow
    Actually something more than half of throat cancers in men are due to HPV.
    Never is a long time.
    Hank
    We know that due to expensive marketing of HPV vaccines - you know when you can outspend the anti-smoking people, you have a lot of money. And Big Tobacco is relieved cultural health mullahs can now declare a war on oral sex.
    For people who still think cell phones cause brain cancer, this is easy. Tens of millions of people have been using them for the past 10 years in the US who weren't using them 20 years ago. There hasn't been any significant increase in brain cancer. If 10s of millions more people started smoking 10 years ago, you can be assured there would be an increase in lung cancer and other lung diseases. So stop comparing the two. IF (and that is a huge if) there is any increased rate of brain cancer for using cell phones, it is very tiny.