Right to Know

<--Return to Right to Know

The Cell Phone Industry: Big Tobacco 2.0?
by Molly Wood, senior editor,
May, 2005


    So, there's this incredibly popular product that has widespread consumer use and a massive marketing presence. Nearly everyone uses it, and it has very high social acceptance, even though some people find it annoying when it's used in public. It's highly habit-forming; people who use the product on a regular basis find it almost impossible to live without.


    Unfortunately, studies start to appear showing that the product might be harmful to its users--even cancer-causing. The product's manufacturers deny the presence of any danger and even spend millions of dollars trying to discredit the research that points to problems. Then, an insider emerges, seemingly with proof that the product could be dangerous. The industry agrees to publish warning data about the product, but continues to maintain that the product itself is safe for use.

        Lawsuits against the product's manufacturers are filed, but all are dismissed. Industry analysts know that any case that does succeed could start a domino effect of future lawsuits, which keeps the industry determined to maintain that the product is harmless, despite increasing evidence to the contrary.

   Sound familiar?
Well, put down your lighter, I'm talking about cell phones. I've already maintained that I don't like the cell phone industry's iron-clad control over phone releases and pricing, its ever-lengthening contracts, and the annoying habit it has of crippling Bluetooth phones so that I can't use them the way I want to. But it takes only a few minutes of looking into the cell phone radiation quagmire before I start to think, man, these guys have Big Tobacco 2.0 written all over them. Actually, I'm not the first to think of it, but a recent article in the University of Washington alumni magazine indicates that the behaviors aren't going away, even as the potentially damning research continues to mount.


    OK, I know the obvious differences: I'm sure cell phone manufacturers are not deliberately making their products more addictive, for example--although they are, of course, always offering new and improved services and ever-increasing buckets of minutes, which can't help but encourage us to use our phones more and more frequently. But, just as Big Tobacco did, the cell phone industry seems bound and determined to thwart and deny any suggestion that its product might be dangerous.

    A history of bad news
For example, in 1994, University of Washington bioengineering professors Henry Lai and Narendra Singh found that the DNA in rats' brains was damaged after two hours of exposure to levels of microwave radiation considered safe by the government. When Lai and Singh published the research, a leaked memo from Motorola's head of global strategy, Norm Sandler, talked about ways to minimize damage by undermining their research, with Sandler writing, "I think that we have sufficiently war-gamed the Lai/Singh issue." Ouch. Worse, research biologist Jerry Phillips, who was paid by Motorola to conduct similar testing, says he was able to duplicate Lai and Singh's findings, but was then asked not to publish the research and was subsequently shunned by the company. Motorola says it told Phillips that his findings needed clarification, and the industry still maintains that Lai and Singh's results have never been duplicated and can't be considered legitimate.

    The biggest Russell Crowe-style insider in this case, though, is Dr. George Carlo, who was hired by the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association to head up a $28 million research program into possible health effects from cellular phones. Unfortunately, he now says his findings show an increased rate of brain cancer deaths, development of tumors, and genetic damage among heavy cell phone users. He wrote this letter of concern to the president of AT&T Corporation and later went public with his findings after what he considered to be neglect by the industry. He's since broken with the industry, become a vocal critic, and coauthored a book called Cell Phones: Invisible Hazards in the Wireless Age--so you can tell he's on the "cell phones could cause cancer" side of things.

    Meanwhile, more studies keep coming, and they seem to be getting worse. A study funded by the European Union reported last December that radio waves from mobile phones do, definitively, damage DNA and other cells in the body--and that the damage extended to the next generation of cells. Even though mutated cells are considered a possible cause of cancer, the UK National Radiological Protection Board said that since the study didn't show that the damage definitely led to disease, consumers shouldn't worry too much about the findings.

    Uh, right. In the meantime, the report recommended that children use mobile phones only in emergency situations. You know, just in case. How reassuring.

    The cell phone industry hasn't commissioned another large-scale study--at least not publicly--since its fateful encounter with Dr. Carlo--and why would they? They're in a catch-22. It's a multibillion dollar industry, and they simply can't afford to find out, definitively, that cell phones are dangerous.       

   Worse, just like the tobacco companies, if they start issuing warnings and precautionary tales now, it'll look like they knew all along that the radio waves were dangerous, opening them up to major liability claims. They've already dodged one big, big bullet--an $800 million lawsuit against Motorola and cell phone carriers was thrown out in 2002, with the judge ruling that there wasn't sufficient evidence for trial. Since then, neurologist Dr. Christopher Newman, who filed the lawsuit, has died of brain cancer.

    Listen, I use a cell phone, and I'm not trying to scare the bejesus out of everyone. But I do use a headset when I'm talking for any long period of time, and I carry that sucker in my purse, not my pocket. (I know you guys don't have that luxury, but reconsider the briefcase, OK?) And if you're shopping for a new phone, you might want to check our cell phone radiation chart to see which ones carry a low dose.

    In a few more years, we'll either know for sure that cell phones can cause cancer, or we'll know they can't. I just hope we don't find out the hard way--through subpoenaed documents from cell phone makers and carriers who've been trying to minimize their damages and maximize their profits for more than a decade.
Cnet.com, 8th March 2005



Cancer Kills 7 in Tower of Terror

by Chris Tate


Residents' fear over radio masts on roof

A block of flats bristling with mobile phone and radio masts has been branded the Tower of Terror after a grim series of cancer deaths.

Seven residents have died from the disease in the last 18 months alone, with four receiving treatment for related illnesses. Four others have suffered strokes.

Now panic stricken neighbors are desperate to have the masts removed amid fears the emissions are death rays.

Residents' Association chairman, Bill Marrow, 65, who was recently fitted with a pacemaker, said: "Every time I get a headache these days I'm worried I could be the next person to be struck down. The whole block is extremely concerned. We're all asking who is going to be next?"

Vodaphone and Orange have base stations on top of Liscard House - the block housing 86 flats in Wallasey, Merseyside - and there is also a radio mast for the emergency services.

Health chiefs have launched an investigation and offered residents urgent medical checks. Reg Blackmore, 77, is currently nursing his wife Monica back to health after she too fell victim to the cancer curse. He said, "We love it here. It's been a fantastic place to retire to but we are so worried that our health is suffering with each passing day."

Campaigner Bill accepts there is no scientific proof linking radio masts to cancer; but said: "I fear that one day someone will come along and tell us we were right about this. Until then, it is better to be safe than sorry. We're determined to get these masts removed. We know there is no concrete proof these masts are causing the cancers but it is not fair to have the worry over our heads."

Birkenhead and Wallasey Primary Care Trust confirmed health checks were on offer and they would meet residents' requests for data on cancer rates which they can cross reference with those in their building.

Orange said that it had agreed to co-operate during the probe. A spokesman added: "Radiation coming from our masts is well below the guidelines. But we will do everything possible to allay the residents concern."

No one from Vodafone was available for comment.
The People, 15th May 2005

PHILLIP DAY'S COMMENT: Here is another burgeoning industry racing ahead without fear of the consequences. I have a much better idea for mobile phones. We should switch the things OFF altogether and get a life. Aside from the radiation, consider that mobiles ringing a dozen times a day increase stress levels by making a spontaneous demand on your time. Friends will be able to contact you if you don't have one; we sometimes forget there was life before Nokia and 'Moto' and that ghastly 'frog' I wish someone would drop into a blender.

Am I seriously suggesting ditching the mobile? Yes! Do I use one? Not for a while now. As for the baleful 3G concept of sending pictures of stuck-out tongues to teenage buddies, resulting in a whole new generation of masts bristling along the ridge, 'nuff said. Keep one in the glove box if you must (a phone not a tongue), to ring in traffic accidents like a good citizen, and then switch the darned thing off and stuff it back in the dark. Email's a serious enough demand, isn't it? If anyone should be using a mobile phone all over the world, it's me! And I don't! And there's peace!



Mobile Phone Risks 'Rise in Rural Areas'

by Jenny Hope



Mobile phones are at the centre of a new health scare after scientists found that users in rural areas may be at higher risk of brain cancer.

Research shows that the chance of developing a malignant brain tumour could be eight times higher in the countryside compared with towns.

And the risk of developing any brain tumour rises fourfold for country-dwellers using mobile phones for five years or more, says a study published today. It is thought the extra risk may be triggered by the higher power output levels from phones used in rural areas.

Base stations tend to be farther apart outside towns which means the phone needs to generate higher radiowave intensity to compensate for the poor signal.

This could result in higher exposure to radiation emissions. Experts say there are no proven health risks to using mobile phones, but they are such a new phenomenon that problems could still emerge. There are 60 million mobile users in Britain - up from 9 million in 1998 - with around one quarter aged under 18.

In the latest study from Sweden, researchers looked at more than 1,400 adults aged 20 to 80 who had been diagnosed with a malignant or benign brain tumour between 1997 and 2000.

The brain cancer patients were compared with a similar number of healthy adults living in the same area. Each group was asked to record their daily use of mobile and cordless phones, according to a report in the journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The researchers at University Hospital in Orebro found there was a higher risk of all types of tumours for people living in rural areas - defined as less than 90,000 inhabitants - compared with towns.

People living in a rural area who had been using a digital mobile phone for more than three years were over three times more likely to be diagnosed with a brain tumour
than those living in urban areas.

There was a fourfold higher risk for those using a digital mobile phone for five or more years in the countryside compared with the towns.

An eightfold increase in malignant brain tumours was found in country dwellers compared to those in towns.

Researchers said the length of time spent on the phone had little impact on the chances of being diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Professor Lennart Hardell, who led the research, said the findings should be treated with caution because the actual number of brain tumours in areas classified as rural was very small. "Clearly our results support the notion that exposure may differ between geographical areas," he added.

"But there is no information on the exact difference between geographical areas."


There are 45,000 base stations fitted with antennae or 'masts' situated 200m to 500m apart in towns and up to 5 km apart in rural areas of the UK.

Alasdair Philips, director of the mobile phone emission pressure group Powerwatch, said: "It would be sensible for those in areas with a poor signal to limit their calls."

Mike Dolan, executive director of the Mobile Phone Operators Association, said: "All mobile handsets in the UK comply with international health and safety guidelines which apply whether the phones are used in rural or urban areas. Individual studies must be seen in the light of the total research effort into mobile phone safety."
Daily Mail, 17th May 2005

 

For products without sodium lauryl sulfate or other harmful chemicals

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               top  of page


Copyright Healthy-Communications.com. All rights reserved.

Telephone: 310-457-5176 or 888-377-8877 | Fax: 877-885-4657 | For General Information: mailto:helthcom@aol.com

Webmaster for Healthy-Communications.com: Shelley R. Krame