How Berkeley, California addresses the moral debate around EMR
In the 1950s, smoking was considered fashionable. None ever bothered about the health effects of smoking. A few dissenting and discerning voices were stifled. Like every multi-billion $ industry, even the smoking industry had a lobby. Besides the governments were making monies from the tobacco industry. It took science 2 decades to establish the link between smoking and cancer. We are doing an encore again with radiation (EMR).
Chances are you haven’t heard of Berkeley. However, a new legislation that has been implemented in this sea side city of Berkeley in California, US which could be the sign of things to come. Berkeley has passed an ordinance, requiring cellphones stores to warn customers that the cellphones could be injurious to health by the way of dangerous Electro Magnetic Radiation (EMR). Berkeley’s decision in this regard was unanimous 9-0 in terms of city council voting. This is akin to the cigarette packet caveats which now are commonplace.
It may take its time to be legislated in US and longer to find its way to India – but this is a proactive step.
1. It signals that the decision makers are not just concerned about the monies made from the tobacco industry – but they are also willing to accept the fact that this is a health hazard and therefore pronounce it clearly thru a caveat.
2. It shows that the governments are more concerned about public health rather than waiting their while for solid evidence to come through. It shows a progressive step – of valuing human life more than “firm” scientific evidence to come through.
3. By putting this on the cell phone box pack – there is a possibility that a higher number of people will resort to higher precaution than the current scenario. Acceptance and Awareness are the first steps to higher precaution.
Will people talk less because of this action? Possibly No! – but this act of warning buyers of the risks of EMR underlines the fact that we as a people and society are more sensitive to put human lives at higher value rather than wait for a scientific paper to come through 20 years down to substantiate this.
Lack of evidence or denial of evidence should not be mistaken as zero risk. A part of the industry and governing bodies seem to be acting on this premise. Even if the science isn’t firm, if there’s a risk concerning humans and animal life, we should proceed with caution. Interestingly enough, only Blackberry carried these warnings in their user manuals earlier. However, we don’t see manufacturers alluding to any risks associated with cell phones these days. Apple iPhone for instance carries the warning which is only accessible after 5 clicks. (Follow the path on your iPhone: General> About> Legal> RF Exposure. Apple advises 5 mm distance between your body and the iPhone)Manufacturers these days are required to state the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR Value) of a cell phone – but that is too technical for the user to really understand.
That is why the Berkeley example is key and critical as it sets an important precedent – hopeful followed by all – the sooner the better.
(BrightSandz is an EMR consultancy that is focused on bringing clarity in this space – and provide actionable and solutions there off.)
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