Higher Cancer Rates In Under-18 Cell Phone Users (The Philadelphia Bulletin)
Tuesday September 8th, 2009
The great cell phone cover-up may be coming to an end. A new report may finally wake the public up to the brain-cancer risks of cell phones and force necessary preventive measures.
A new report, endorsed by a prestigious group of international scientists, finds that there is a risk of brain tumors from cell phone use, that industry studies underestimate this risk, and that children have much greater risks than adults. The report, therefore, sends a message to four billion users worldwide and to the $4 billion cell phone industry that they may be facing the same kind of bad news that first burst on the scene for the tobacco industry.
This cancer threat of cell phone use has been recognized by some scientists and critics for decades, but has, essentially, been covered up by the cell phone industry and by much of the mainstream media. I asked the primary author of the new report, Lloyd Morgan, a member of the Bioelectromagnetics Society, whether he would describe what’s been going on for so many years as a cover-up. Mr. Morgan told me he would describe it as a spin that amounts to a cover-up.
Cell phones emit electromagnetic radiation - more specifically, radio frequency electromagnetic radiation, which may cause damage to the DNA and may lead to cancer or other medical problems. The study focused on cell phones, but electromagnetic radiation is also produced by many other sources including cordless (or portable) phones, walkie-talkies, ham radio transmitters, and baby monitors. And, there’s also the laptop computer, which, according to Mr. Slesin, should not be kept on your lap. In fact, four years ago, he wrote an article entitled “Keep That Laptop off Your Lap.” He adds any radio frequency (RF) transmitter away from your body.
The report, entitled “Cell phones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern; Science, Spin and the Truth Behind Interphone,” was produced by a group called the International EMF (Electromagnetic Field) Collaborative. The endorsements of the report to date are listed in the report and will be updated on five web sites including that of the Radiation Research Trust, www.radiationresearch.org.
The primary author of the report, Mr. Morgan, put the issue into perspective: “Exposure to cell phone radiation is the largest human health experiment ever undertaken, without informed consent, and has some 4 billion participants enrolled. Science has shown increased risk of brain tumors caused by the use of cell phones, as well as increased risk of eye cancer, salivary gland tumors, testicular cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia. The public must be informed.”
Another noteworthy statement appears in the report from Chris Woolams, editor of Integrated Cancer and Oncology News: “In a world where a drug cannot be launched without proof that it is safe, where the use of herbs and natural compounds available to all since early Egyptian times are now questioned, their safety subjected to the deepest scrutiny…the idea that we can use mobile telephony, including masts, and introduce WiFi and mobile phones without restrictions around our 5 year olds is double-standards gone mad. I speak, not just as an editor and scientist that has looked in depth at all the research, but as a father that lost his beloved daughter to a brain tumor.”
How does the cell phone industry respond to this report? I thought it would have a detailed rebuttal of the report on “Cell phones and Brain Tumors.” Instead, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), which represents 275 member companies, sent me an e-mail which contained only general statements on cell phone safety from various government agencies and international organizations. I called CTIA back and left a message that I would like to discuss the specifics of the report and the rebuttal, if any. I have not heard from CTIA as of this writing.
I have been following the issue of cell phone safety for about 20 years with the help of Louis Slesin, the editor of Microwave News, which has been publishing since 1981. It now appears on the web at www.microwavenews.org. I always found Slesin to be a reliable source and he is certainly one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject. He has devoted his life to the study of cell phones and has to be considered one of the foremost heroes in the battle for product safety. He maintains his web site as a public service and relies on voluntary donations to support that work.
He convinced me that we should not discount the possibility that cell phones pose a significant risk and a high priority should be given to efforts to eliminate, control, and minimize the risk. In about 20 years of covering the story, I also got the impression that the industry was not forthcoming about the safety issues and their spokesmen and pronouncements always left me with an uneasy feeling that they were not telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. To this day, I am struck by the responsibility of the critics of cell phone safety and by the irresponsibility of the cell phone industry and the regulatory agencies that are supposed to protect us, such as the FDA.
Mr. Slesin has a perfect summary of the cell phone controversy. He told me we couldn’t be certain that cell phones pose a brain tumor risk, but there is enough evidence that we should take immediate action. He says no one is trying to take away anyone’s cell phone, but it would be easy and virtually cost-free to take precautions. Slesin says the special problem with cell phones is that they are held against the brain. This is magnified by heavy use of cell phones, sometimes hours at a time. And, the risk is greatest for children, who are more vulnerable to damage by cell phones. Slesin recommends they not even be used by children under perhaps 15 years of age. And, this problem is being compounded by the practice of many phone users to drop landline phones, that is, wired phones and rely exclusively on cell phones.
This report being reviewed provides more evidence that the industry is simply not leveling with the public and that many of the industry-financed studies reach suspect results. As to the industry’s not leveling with the public, consider the Interphone study that it is sponsoring. It was promised to be completed four years ago, but is still not done. The European Parliament found the delay was “deplorable.” The design of the study is fundamentally flawed, as well-documented by “Cell Phones and Brain Tumor.” For example, users of cordless phones only were treated as unexposed. But, two independent studies found users of cordless phones had an increased risk of brain tumors. So, excluding such users underestimates the risk of brain tumors. This flaw suggests either ignorance or dishonesty on the part of the researchers running the Interphone Study. Then, there’s the suspicious finding from some parts of the Interphone Study which concluded the use of a cell phone for less than ten years lowers your risk of brain tumors. This suggests the bias was so strong it eliminated enough tumor risk to show decreased incidence. The Interphone studies did find more brain tumor risk after more than ten years of cell phone use. The report notes that the risk was so great it could not be camouflaged even by the bias of the study.
The report lists eight simple steps to substantially reduce your or your children’s exposure to cell phone radiation. They include:
• “When on a call, use a wired headset - not a wireless headset such as Bluetooth - or use in speaker-phone mode, or send text messages.”
• “Keep the cell phone away from your body - particularly pant/trouser or shirt pockets - or use a belt holster designed to shield the body from cell phone radiation, when not in use (stand-by mode).”
• “Avoid use in a moving car, train, bus, or in rural areas at some distance from a cell tower (AKA mast or base station) as any of these uses will increase the power of the cell phone’s radiation.”
• “Use the cell phone like an answering machine. Keep it off until you want to see who has called. Then, return calls, if necessary, using a wired headset or a corded land-line phone, whenever possible.”
• “Avoid use of cell phones inside of buildings, particularly with steel structures.”
• “Do not allow your children to sleep with a cell phone beneath their pillow or at the bedside.”
• “Do not allow your children under 18 to use a cell phone except in emergencies.”
I checked daily newspapers the day after the report came out. I could not find one, according to a Google search, that even mentioned this report and not one that put it on the front-page - other than The Bulletin.
Herb Denenberg has served as the Loman Professor of Insurance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner, and a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commissioner. He was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and co-authored major legislation including the Social Protection Act of Puerto Rico and much of the insurance code of Nevada and Wisconsin.