Saturday, March 04, 2017

Court orders release of cell phone safety document

The document.

By Hannah Albarazi

After keeping it hidden for years, California’s Department of Public Health has released a draft document outlining health officials’ concerns about cellphone radiation exposure.

The previously unpublished document was released this week after a judge indicated she would order the documents be disclosed in the case Moskowitz v. CDPH.

Joel Moskowitz, Ph.D., who is the director of the Center for Family and Community Health at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, sued the state in 2016 under the California Public Records Act to get the document released.

The document is dated April 2014, but Moskowitz says the document was originally prepared seven years ago and updated several times, but never released to the public.

He previously told KPIX 5 why he decided to sue the state.

“I would like this document to see the light of day because it will inform the public that there is concern within the California Department of Public Health that cellphone radiation is a risk, and it will provide them with some information about how to reduce those risks,” Moskowitz.

The two-page document, which the Department of Public Health first emailed to the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday afternoon, looks like any other fact sheet released by the state, except that this one has, in big bold letters “Draft and Not for Public Release” stamped across the pages.

Among the information in the document, which is titled simply, Cell Phones and Health, are summaries of scientific studies that suggest long-term cellphone use may increase the risk of brain cancer, among other health problems.

The draft fact sheet states that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs), a type of radiation, are emitted from cellphones and that because they are “used frequently and kept close to the head and body, cellphone EMFs can affect nearby cells and tissues.”

In the draft fact sheet, state health officials list their recommendations for members of the public who wish to reduce their exposure to the radiation emitted from cellphones, but state that as more studies are done the recommendations on the fact sheet may change.

Health officials’ overall recommendation is to “increase the distance between you and your phone” by using a headset, the speaker phone function and text messaging. Health officials recommend not sleeping near your phone and not carry it in your pocket or directly on your body, unless it is off.

The fact sheet also states that “EMFs can pass deeper into a child’s brain than and adult’s” so suggests parents limit their child’s cellphone use to texting, important call and emergencies.

But there are also some in Silicon Valley who say the science doesn’t support the fact sheet. David Witkowski leads Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s Wireless Communications Initiative and says “it’s very weak on details, references to existing peer-reviewed journals and studies…”

Moskowitz, however, is not yet satisfied.

He said with the release of the document, the CDPH has violated the Public Records Act, saying it “stamped new lettering in huge dark letters across the face of the document,” essentially creating a new document rather than producing the document as-is.

Moskowitz says, “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.”

More by Moskowitz with links to the decision and other filings.

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Es very nice

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Nimbys, Yimbys, and Berkeley

2211 Harold Way is one of several tall building proposals in the pipeline that must offer "significant community benefits" under the Downtown Area Plan. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
2211 Harold Way

Zelda Bronstein in 48 Hills and The Marin Post:

...East Bay Forward has less to show for its efforts, but then, it’s barely a year old. According to [Gregory]Magofña, the group’s biggest success has been alerting Oakland planning commissioners to the perils of downzoning parts of the city. “A lot of elected officials know who we are,” and the do-ocracy approach has fostered East Bay Forward’s reputation for “being sane.” He also mentioned that they’d gotten “lots of people involved” in the repurposing of the Naval Weapons Station in Concord for new housing and parks (a Lennar project).

But Magofña also marked key reversals. One occurred on the municipal level. In 2014 voters approved Berkeley’s new Downtown Plan and its provisions for dense construction. In last November’s election, however, “Berkeley flipped in a very surprising way: it went completely NIMBY.”

The other setback was both political and personal. When Magofña was working as an aide to Tom Bates, his questionable backroom machinations were exposed by the editor of “a news rag”—he didn’t name the publication; clearly it was Becky O’Malley’s Berkeley Daily Planet—that, he said, “is supposed to be reputable” but “is now her opinion column.” The editor “associated me [with]the mayor, so I had to step away” from East Bay Forward.

When it came time for Q & A, I had my question—I knew I’d have a chance to ask only one—ready. I prefaced it with remarks to Magofña, stating that what he’d said about smart growth being popular in Berkeley (my town) was not true. 

The reason that all the candidates save one who’d been endorsed by Tom Bates, including incumbent Darrell Moore, lost badly last November was that voters opposed the new buildings going up in downtown, notably the eighteen-story, luxury tower at Harold Way (off Shattuck) that had been waved on by the Bates council. Magofña did not contest my claim.

I didn’t have to comment on his run-in with O’Malley. As he said, she did go after him in an April 2015 op-ed that opened with this memorable lede:

If it wasn’t such a cliché, I might say that you can’t make this stuff up. How could it be ethical for Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, who will eventually be reviewing variances sought by 2211 Harold Way in his quasi-judicial role, to lobby himself using the services of his taxpayer-funded aide, who seems to be organizing “a special Berkeley sub-group” of the now notorious SF BARF group which fronts for developers?

It appears that the Berkeley activities of the pro-development San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation are being coordinated out of the office of Berkeley Mayor Bates, or at least by one of his city-paid staffers. A reader who lurks on the San Francisco BARF list-serv forwarded this communication to us:

From: Gregory Magofna  
Subject: [sfbarentersfed] Berkeley Community Benefits/Housing Mitigation Fee
Date: April 7, 2015 PDT 

I know a special Berkeley sub-group was created upon my request, I will get to that with specific projects in the coming weeks. I just wanted to let the group know about something on tonight’s city council agenda: Significant community benefits for developments over 75 ft in Downtown Berkeley. 

The fight is over what else developers should be required to do and NIMBYs have been making outrageously impossible demands to meet to block the project. There is talk of another meeting coming up just on this so it’s not the end of the world if no one attends, but it does set the stage for the other 4 tall buildings in downtown. Please plan on coming to the special meeting in May. 

There was no need to defend the Planet against Magofña’s insinuation of disreputability. That indictment was undercut by his admission that in the wake of O’Malley’s piece, he had to temporarily abandon East Bay Forward...

See also Does Compact Development Make People Drive Less?

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