Should Radiation Information Be Required for Greening Gadgets?

Should Radiation Information Be Required for Greening Gadgets?

The news that the city of San Francisco will likely require cellphone makers to disclose their products' radiation emissions could portend a new front in the growth of green IT.

Last week, the city's board of supervisors voted 10-1 to require cellphone retailers to show how much radiation their phones emit. Mayor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign it, making it the first such law in the nation.

In response, the wireless industry's trade association, the CTIA, has cancelled its annual, SF-based trade show after the already planned event for fall 2010 in the city because of the move.

"Rather than inform, the ordinance will potentially mislead consumers with point of sale requirements suggesting that some phones are 'safer' than others based on radiofrequency (RF) emissions," Walls said in a statement. "We are disappointed to announce that the 2010 CTIA Enterprise and Applications show in October will be the last one we have in San Francisco for the foreseeable future."

Sidestepping the question of how big an impact the CTIA's move will have on the San Francisco economy, and how much impact S.F.'s bill will have on the industry as a whole, this notion of the hidden impacts of technology seems to be one that is steadily moving to the forefront.

Fears about cellphone radiation are enduring and widespread, and despite any number of studies of varying depth and range showing "inconclusive" impacts on human health from cell phone radiation, there's a pervasive belief in the dangers of cell phones, and a search for the safest possible phones.

And there are signs that these kinds of concerns could expand beyond cell phones: There is currently a movement afoot that is questioning the safety of smart meters for their radiation emissions, and other gadgets in our increasingly wireless world could certainly come under scrutiny.

It's certainly a conceptual stretch at this point, if concerns about radiation from electronics takes root, I could envision a concerned citizen measuring the levels in your average data center and raising red flags about impacts on IT workers and employees in tech-heavy buildings.

All of which is simply to say: Could measuring and reducing radiation from electronics gadgets be a new facet of green IT?

Although in the U.S. the health and human-rights legs of the three-legged stool of sustainability are often much shorter than the environmental leg, it seems that addressing radiation concerns could be a competitive advantage and market differentiator for the first firm to get their hands around what their gadgets are emitting.

Cell phone tower photo CC-licensed by Flickr user rust.bucket.