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Brain Tumor Hazard For Children From Cell Phones

Washington, DC, September 4, 2009

On August 25, 2009 the International EMF [Electro Magnetic Field] Collaborative released Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern. This report underscores the risk of tumors from cellphone use, especially for children. Endorsed by a wide range of scientists from around the world, the report makes three findings based on a review of existing scientific data: 1) There is a risk of brain tumors from cellphone use; 2) Telecom funded studies underestimate the risk of brain tumors; and, 3) Children have larger risks than adults for brain tumors.

The Collaborative’s report, by well-known health advocacy groups, and with over forty additional scientific endorsers, specifically underscores the shortcomings of a $25 million, multi-country study conducted for the cellphone industry, the so called “Interphone” study. The industry effort was begun over ten years ago in response to significant evidence that cellphones posed a risk of brain tumors. Interphone researchers finished collecting data for the study in 2004, but amid reports of conflicts among researchers within the study group (some saw serious risk, some saw no risk and some counseled silence), final results remain hidden from the public.

Partial Interphone results released thus far by some of the participating countries raise doubts about the validity of any of the Interphone study’s conclusions, and raise the spectre that some design flaws may have been intended to underestimate risk.

The Collaborative’s report cites a recent Swedish study which reported a 420% increase in tumor risk for teenage cellphone users. France has banned cell phones in primary schools and is calling on manufacturers to produce texting-only cellphones for children, thereby reducing radiation to the head. University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Director Emeritus, Ronald B. Herberman, MD, citing substantial evidence that long term exposure to radiofrequency radiation may lead to increased risk for brain tumors, issued a precautionary advisory to the Institute’s faculty and staff last year. Lloyd Morgan, lead author of the Collaborative’s new report, told Computerworld magazine, “I fear we will see a tsunami of brain tumors, although it is too early to see that now, since the tumors have a 30-year latency.” He added, ” I pray I’m wrong, but brace yourself.”

The Collaborative’s report, subtitled “Science, Spin and the Truth Behind Interphone” cited Interphone study design flaws that included categorizing subjects who used portable phones (which emit the same microwave radiation as cellphones) as “unexposed;” excluding many types of brain tumors; excluding people who had died, or were too ill to be interviewed, as a consequence of their brain tumors; and excluding children and young adults, who are more vulnerable.

Industry Spin

John Walls, vice president of public affairs for the CTIA, which represents cellphone makers in the U.S., said in a statement in response to the Collaborative’s report that “peer-reviewed scientific evidence has overwhelmingly indicated that wireless devices do not pose a public health risk.” He claimed that the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have all concurred that wireless devices are not a public health risk.

In fact, however, the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is on record as saying, “The available science does not allow us to conclude that mobile phones are absolutely safe, or that they are unsafe. However, the available scientific evidence does not demonstrate any adverse health effects associated with the use of mobile phones.”

The FDA and FCC jointly state that “The available scientific evidence does not show that any health problems are associated with using wireless phones. There is no proof, however, that wireless phones are absolutely safe.”

The American Cancer Society says “Cellular (cell) phones are a relatively new technology that became widely used in the United States only in the 1990s. Although they have been studied extensively, we don’t yet have information on the potential health effects of very long-term use or usage by children. Cell phones wouldn’t be expected to cause cancer because they don’t emit ionizing radiation.”

It also says “Periodic reports exist that have observed an association between cell phone use and the risk of brain cancer, but these reports are primarily based on small studies in Sweden. But the weight of the evidence, which is based on larger studies, has shown no association between cell phone use and brain cancer. Studies currently in progress such as the European Interphone Study will provide more information on this subject.”

In fact the authorities that CTIA relies on to say “wireless devices do not pose a public health risk” carefully hedge their statements and dodge the real issues raised by the “Cellphones and Brain Tumors” report: long term effects, especially in children. Every one of the expert agencies hedges its comments by indicating that they can make no statements about long term effects or effects in children since they have not been studied. Note that none of them states what CTIA attributes to them — that we know that cell phones pose no risk.

This looks like the strategy to maximize profits that one former telecom industry executive has recently described: “The industry relies on experts who publicly say cellphones pose no risk and supports long drawn-out studies, like Interphone, to push regulators into support for statements that play down risks. In the meantime, the industry files, but keeps hidden, new patents for safer phones until the authorities can no longer deny that current cellphones pose significant risk. When studies conclusively show health problems, the industry will by then have new and better technologies up and running. When the development of the new mobile phone generation is complete it will be important to highlight its health benefits. This will help the marketing of another 3 billion phones.”

The International EMF Collaborative Study, “Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern,” directs its focus on just such a possibility. It demonstrates the existence of a significant long term risk of brain tumors, especially for children. It points out the fundamental failings of the Interphone study design, and it challenges regulators to develop and enforce exposure guidelines for industry that address the demonstrated risk—acknowledging biological effects of non-ionizing cellphone radiation at non-thermal (heating) exposure levels, a pivotal issue in the misrepresentation of safety by the telecom industry and other health agencies. The Collaborative’s analysis of brain tumor risk from cellphone use is must reading for all interested citizens, policy makers and health professionals.

American and international scientists endorsing the Collaborative’s report include Ronald B. Herberman, MD, Director Emeritus, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute; David Carpenter, MD, Director, Institute for Health and the Environment, University at Albany; Martin Blank, PhD, Associate Professor of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics, Columbia University; Professor Yury Grigoriev, Chairman of Russian National Committee on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection; and 40 others.

Download the Report Here.

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