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Extremism on Both Sides of Cell Phone RF Safety Issue

Readers may have noticed the news listing on the left column of this blog with the heading “News from openspectrum.info”. It is provided by Bob Horvitz, an American living in Prague who is head of that group. I am not sure how he finds these links, but they are often interesting and newsworthy. On Xmas day, the top link was “'Interphone' brain cancer/cell phone study shown to greatly underestimate brain tumor risk” and pointed to a website called Medical News Today., which appears to be a mainstream medical news information site.

The summary of a recently published letter (not an article) in the International Journal of Epidemiology ends with

Key Points to Appreciate:

* The independently funded Hardell re-analysis study confirms the flaws of the industry-funded Interphone study and confirms that cell phones cause brain tumors.
* No longer can Interphone researchers claim 'error and biases' in their work prevent a 'causal interpretation', thereby diminishing the gravity of the industry-funded study's results that did show risk, and giving pause to public health officials globally.

Note the line: “The independently funded Hardell re-analysis study... confirms that cell phones cause brain tumors.”

Similar information was repeated in the ElectromagneticHealth.org website which stated

In conclusion both studies showed a statistically significantly doubled risk for glioma at the same side as the mobile phone had been used for 1,640 hours or more; Örebro study OR 2.18, Interphone OR 1.96. Similar results were thus obtained in both studies if the same criteria were used in the analysis, that is type of phone (only mobile), cumulative number of hours for use, age group, and anatomical localisation of the brain tumour compared with exposure to microwaves from the mobile phone.

But in considering the reliability of ElectromagneticHealth.org, note that they previously previously stated on its website:

Illness linked to electromagnetic radiation exposure include many cancers, neurological conditions, ADD, sleep disorders, depression, autism, cognitive problems, cardiovascular irregularities, hormone disruption, immune system disorders, metabolism changes, stress, fertility impairment, increased blood brain barrier permeability, mineral disruption, DNA damage and much, much more.

While your blogger is not totally convinced that all cell phone use is safe, he also is dubious about any claim that it is related to so many different pathologies. Nevertheless this is a growing number of people who are concerned, justly or not, about a possible link between cell phone use and illness.

Now let’s look at the other side, CTIA. CTIA does not consider RF safety as one “of the topics that are shaping the industry” or as worthy of a policy paper. However, a search of the CTIA website finds Consumer Info on “Wireless Phones and Health” as well as 2 press releases on its battle with San Francisco on SAR information. The Consumer Info links to the Interphone study -- the design of which Prof. Hadell is questioning above. Then it has the following statement:

The link to the FDA website may have once pointed to that quote, but it does not now. Nor can it be found with the FDA’s search engine. Perhaps, like FCC on SAR, FDA has secretly modified its position. The most explicit statement on cell phone safety I could find on the FDA site was

Under the law, FDA does not review the safety of radiation-emitting consumer products such as cell phones and similar wireless devices before they can be sold, as it does with new drugs or medical devices. However, FDA does have the authority to take action if cell phones are shown to emit radiofrequency energy (RF) at a level that is hazardous to the user. In such a case, FDA could require cell phone manufacturers to notify users of the health hazard and to repair, replace or recall the phones so that the hazard no longer exists.

So instead of saying cellphones are safe, it says FDA could “take action” if they found them “hazardous to the user”. Not quite a positive statement of safety.

Of course, the CTIA site also contains information about their battle with San Francisco including an announcement of their July 23, 2010 filing of a lawsuit against the City of San Francisco for requiring reasonable consumer information on SAR levels of cell phones sold in their city. CTIA states

“The FCC has determined that all wireless phones legally sold in the United States are ‘safe.’ The FCC monitors scientific research on a regular basis, and its standard for RF exposure is based on recommended guidelines adopted by U.S. and international standard-setting bodies. Furthermore, according to the experts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the available scientific evidence shows no known health risk due to the RF energy emitted by cell phones. As the FDA states on its website, ‘[t]he weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems.’

CTIA also has information about their boycott of San Francisco as a convention site. So there is information about a lawsuit and a boycott and the statement that “The FCC has determined that all wireless phones legally sold in the United States are ‘safe.’”. No credible information on RF safety or suggestions on how users might want to reduce if they don’t totally trust the federal government. I am not sure what newspapers CTIA leadership reads, but mine indicate that outside the Beltway not everyone trusts the federal government.

Vague government statements about lack of proof that cellphones cause disease may not have universal acceptance in a country where almost 20% of the population
think the President is a Muslim.

It is ironic, that with the peaking of cellphone voice minutes last year as reported by FCC, the total RF exposure of the US public may be decreasing since mobiles used in the rapidly expanding texting, video, and web surfing modes result in lower SAR exposure and are actually subject to a higher SAR limit since mostly the hand is exposed. It is also ironic that the growing use of Bluetooth handsfree headsets are also decreasing public exposure. CTIA’s French counterpart, AFOM, is telling the French public about this and providing practical suggestions to decrease exposure - not hiding behind government findings that everything is safe. CTIA seems content with lawsuits and boycotts.

Your blogger feels that both sides are taking irresponsible positions here while we wait for more reasoned analysis and research. FCC’s recent mysterious change of position on SAR is also not helping productive dialogue. Perhaps the new year will bring more reasoned discussion and dialogue on this issue.
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