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05 March 2017

Cell Phone Safety Guidance from the California Public Health Department

Cell Phone Safety Guidance from the California Public Health Department
saferemr.com, 2 March 2017

This page will be updated periodically with further developments and links to media coverage. 

Last May we sued the California Department of Public Health for a cell phone safety guidance document under the California Public Records Act. The document was originally prepared in 2010 and has been updated several times but never released to the public.

Late this afternoon, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) emailed a cell phone guidance document, entitled "Cell Phones and Health," to Melody Gutierrez, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle who attended our court hearing.

This "fact sheet" summarizes research on cell phone radiation health risks and provides safety tips on how to reduce cell phone radiation exposure. The document highlights a potentially greater risk to "pregnant women, children, and teens." The safety recommendations are similar to those issued by the Connecticut Department of Public Health in May, 2015.

We are grateful to see CDPH’s cell phone guidance document after a long battle for it.

The CDPH document is marked "released pursuant to Moskowitz v. CDPH, Sac. Super. Ct. No. 34-2016-8000-2358" and "Draft and Not for Public Release."

Apparently, CDPH does not intend to appeal the merits of the court's ruling that the document must be disclosed. However, the manner of release is troubling. CDPH has not waited for the court to finalize its ruling and determine whether CDPH may indicate that the document does not (as it argued at the hearing) represent its current, official position. Rather, the agency has "jumped the gun" and stamped new lettering in huge dark letters across the face of the document so as to make it virtually illegible. Further, that lettering states that the document is “draft and not for public release” when the judge's tentative ruling stated exactly the opposite -- that the document was not a draft, and must be publicly released.

CDPH has essentially created a new document rather than produced the document as-is, in violation of the Public Records Act. To the extent that CDPH wanted merely to indicate that the document does not represent its official position in early 2017, the fact that the document is dated “April 2014” should make that plain.

An account of our attempts to obtain the document and the lawsuit filed by the UC Berkeley Environmental Law Clinic and the First Amendment Project on my behalf appears below. The judge's tentative ruling on our lawsuit is available (see link below).


Why has the California Department of Public Health  suppressed a cell phone radiation safety document since 2010?

In 2010, health professionals in the Environmental Health Investigations Branch of CDPH prepared a cell phone guidance document that summarized the science regarding the health risks from cell phone radiation and provided precautionary recommendations to the public for limiting personal exposure.

Why was this document never officially released to the public?

I learned about the existence of the document in late 2013. In January, 2014, I submitted a formal request for the document to the CDPH under the California Public Records Act (CPRA).

Dr. Richard Kreutzer, the Division Chief for Environmental and Occupational Disease Control in CDPH, contacted me three days later. He informed me that the document was recently revised and was under review by the State. He asked me to withdraw my request since the final approved version should be available within three weeks. When I asked how long the document had been under review, he responded that the review was "freshly re-started this year," and that the current draft is similar to a previous version "that stalled three years ago" while under review by the State. I opted not to withdraw my request.

In April, 2014, I spoke to the Deputy Director for Legislative and Governmental Affairs at CDPH. She informed me that the document was under review by a "state agency outside" of CDPH. She implied that the document had cleared CDPH's approval process and promised to provide me with periodic updates regarding its status.

In June, 2014, since no one contacted me and the document had not been released, I submitted a second request under the CPRA. The CDPH denied this request arguing that they are exempt from disclosing “preliminary drafts,” and that the public interest in nondisclosure exceeded the public interest in disclosure of this document.

In September, 2014, based upon my information an investigative reporter from the New York Times requested the document, but his request was also denied.

My final CPRA request was submitted in January, 2015. CDPH denied this request and provided a new rationale: “In light of the updated guidance issued by the CDC [federal Centers for Disease Prevention and Control] in June of 2014, CDPH has chosen not to issue a guidance document on radio frequency EMF and cell phones.”

After my final rejection, I interviewed several CDPH health professionals who were familiar with the cell phone guidance document. All thought the document should have been published by the Department. None could explain why the State suppressed the document or why the Department refused to release it to me.

Based upon this information, I decided to sue the CDPH for the cell phone guidance document. The environmental law clinic at the University of California, Berkeley Law School and the First Amendment Project are representing me pro bono. In May, 2016, we filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of the County of Sacramento. The case was assigned to Judge Shellyanne Chang.

CDPH asserted that “[t]he public’s health may be harmed” simply by release of the Document (Starr Decl., ¶ 19(a)) ... that the memo “will needlessly confuse, and possibly alarm, cell phone users” (id., ¶ 24; same); and even speculates that release of the Document will cause both those with and without cancer to flood physicians’ offices to ventilate hysterical fear of cell phones (Id. at ¶ 27).

In its opposition brief, CDPH confuses the public and private interests in withholding the document, suggesting that the public interest in receiving advice about safe cell phone use must be discounted “[because] a portion of the public, namely the wireless industry and cell phone manufacturers . . . likely have no interest in the dissemination of the cell phone guidance document" (p. 15).

Judge Chang held a hearing on February 24, 2017. Prior to the hearing, she issued a seven-page tentative ruling in which she over-ruled eight of the nine objections submitted by the Attorney General on behalf of the CDPH. The tentative ruling granted our petition and directed CDPH to release the Cellular Phone Use Guidance documentation.

The court documents are available online (case number: 2016 80002358) at
https://services.saccourt.ca.gov/PublicCaseAccess/Civil/SearchByCaseNumber

We are waiting for the judge's final ruling on the case.


Media Coverage (Updated March 4, 2017)

Long-overdue release of information about cell phone risks
Editorial, San Francisco Chronicle, Mar 3, 2017

California Health Officials release report on cell phone radiation
Nuala Sawyer, San Francisco Examiner, Mar 3, 2017

Cell Phone Cancer Debate Heats up With Document Release
Scott Budman, NBC Bay Area, Mar 3, 2017
Scott Budman, NBC Southern California, Mar 3, 2017

State health officials accused of keeping cell phone dangers secret
Vicki Gonzalez, KCRA (NBC Sacramento), Mar 3, 2017

Cell phones safe? Flap in California revives debate
Jeff Gillan, KSNV (NBC Las Vegas), Mar 3, 2017

CA Health Dept. releases report saying cellphone use may cause cancer
Lyanne Melendez, KGO-TV (ABC Bay Area), Mar 3, 2017

California Department of Public Health releases draft of document warning against cellphone radiation
Gabe Slate, KRON, Mar 3, 2017

Draft Fact Sheet From California Health Officials Links Cellphone Use, Cancer Risk
CBS Los Angeles, Mar 3, 2017
Inland News Today (Riverside, CA) , Mar 3, 2017

Is California Hiding the Risks of Cell Phone Use?
KABC Radio (Culver City, CA), Mar 3, 2017

Study Suggests Your Cell Phone is Actually Quite Dangerous
Scott Hendren, Newstalk 1290 (Wichita Falls, TX), Mar 3, 2017

State kept secret guidelines on cell phone use
"Warnings on cell phone use" (title of print version published on front page, Mar 3, 2017)
Melody Guttierrez, San Francisco Chronicle, Mar 2, 2017

Cellphone Radiation Exposure Fact Sheet Draft Released By California Health Officials
Hannah Albarazi, CBS San Francisco, Mar 2, 2017

Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer? A New Court Ruling Reignites the Debate
Reynard Loki, Alternet, Feb 28, 2017

Consumer Watch: State Continues To Refuse To Release Records On Cell Phone Radiation

Julie Watts, CBS San Francisco, Feb 26, 2017

Judge Orders California To Release Papers Discussing Risk Of Cell Phone Use

Julie Watts, CBS San Francisco, Feb 24, 2017

FAP Files Public Records Act Case with U.C. Berkeley School of Law
First Amendment Project, Jun 16, 2016


http://www.saferemr.com/2017/03/cell-phone-safety-guidance-from.html

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