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From the Field


January 29, 2006

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Is There a Ten-Year Latency for
Cell Phone Tumor Development?

German Interphone Points to Long-Term Brain Tumor Risk



Is it a warning sign or a statistical fluke?

This is the question prompted by a new epidemiological study, released on Friday (January 27) which shows —once again— that one may be more than twice as likely to develop certain types of tumors after using a cell phone for more than ten years.

A German research team, which is part of the Interphone project, has reported a 2.2-fold increase in the incidence of gliomas, a type of brain tumor, among those who had used a mobile phone for at least ten years. This result is based on small numbers (12 cases and 11 controls) and is short of statistical significance.

Yet, if this new finding were to be confirmed, it would mark the second type of tumor to be associated with long-term cell phone use. This same ten-year threshold has previously been reported by two Swedish teams for acoustic neuroma, a benign tumor of the acoustic nerve.

“This result is very difficult to interpret,” Joachim Schüz, the lead author of the new German study, told Microwave News in a telephone interview. “I can only say that it’s still an open question whether there is a tumor risk for more than ten years of use.” Schüz, formerly at the Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz in Germany, is now head of the department of statistics and epidemiology at the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology at the Danish Cancer Society in Copenhagen. The paper will appear in the March 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, but is already available on the journal’s Web site.

Sweden’s Lennart Hardell of Örebro University and Kjell Hansson Mild of the National Institute for Working Life in Umeå have previously reported a higher brain tumor risk after long-term cell phone use.

“I have a hard time believing that [the German result] is a statistical anomaly,” Mild said in a telephone interview. “We carried out a pooled analysis with a large number of cases and a clear brain tumor risk emerges after ten years.” Mild noted that he sees the highest risk among those who had used phones a total of 2,000-3,000 hours. In a presentation at last summer’s Bioelectromagnetics Society meeting, held in Dublin, Mild said that he did not see an increased risk for latencies of less than ten years.

The Interphone project is a major international effort to investigate possible tumor risks associated with the use of mobile phones. Thirteen countries are participating in the project, which is being coordinated by Elisabeth Cardis at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France. The U.S. is not among them.

A number of the other Interphone research groups, including those from Denmark, Sweden and the U.K., have already reported their results. Some observers are interpreting these findings as suggestive of a long-term brain tumor risk, but all this is still quite controversial and clouded by complicated methodological issues. A large part of the problem is that the explosion in the use of mobile phones is a relatively recent phenomenon and the Interphone project has only a handful of cases with ten or more years of cell phone use. (The paper with the complete Interphone findings is due later this year.)

For example, last week, on January 20, a U.K. group released its Interphone results, which also showed that the highest glioma risk was among those who had used mobile phones for more than ten years. (The paper is posted on the British Medical Journal Web site.) The increase is relatively small (20%) and not statistically significant, but it stands out because the 13 other tabulated odds ratios (ORs) are strikingly low-all are less than 1. If phones have no effect on tumor development, then all the ORs should have been clustered around 1, with as many greater than 1 as smaller than 1. For this example, an OR<1 would indicate fewer tumors (a protective effect), and an OR>1 more tumors (an adverse effect).

For brain tumors on the same side of the head (ipsilateral), the U.K. risk is 24% higher than expected, but this time the increase is statistically significant. Here too, most of the other reported ORs are less than 1. The OR for contralateral tumors (that is, on the opposite side of the head as the phone was used) is 0.75 and also significant. The British team argues that this apparent protective effect on the contralateral side is most likely an artifact attributable to recall bias. That is, patients with brain tumors would tend to misremember how they used their phones in order to assign a cause for their cancer. Or, to put it another way, the observed higher tumor risk on one side of the head is balanced out by the lower risk on the other side.

But, as we shall see in a moment, there is another possible explanation: Many of the ORs may be artificially low and, if so, the true tumor risk might be higher than presented.

There are some provocative parallels between the U.K. Interphone results and those reported last year by the Swedish Interphone study group led by Maria Feychting at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. While Feychting also concluded she did not see an elevated brain tumor risk, she did find a 60-80%, non-significant, increased incidence of gliomas on the same side of the head as the phone was used —here again after ten years of exposure (see March 10, 2005, below).

As in the U.K. study, the vast majority of Feychting’s ORs are less than one. In a letter to the American Journal of Epidemiology last September, Sam Milham, an epidemiologist in Olympia, WA, highlighted this skewed distribution of risks. Only four of 136 calculated ORs presented in a set of the published tables are above 1, Milham wrote. After recalibrating the data to compensate for the low ORs, Milham concludes that the Swedish data “show that ipsilateral cell phone use is associated with brain tumor development.” (We should point out that in its response to Milham and others, the Karolinska team notes that it saw no increase in tumors in the regions of the head where radiation exposure is the highest —the temporal and parietal lobes.)

Like Mild, Milham has long maintained that changes in tumor incidence would only follow after at least ten years of radiation exposure. “You would expect a long latency period for solid tumors,” he told Microwave News.

Indeed, even the press release accompanying the publication of the German study points out that the fact that the greatest glioma risk is observed among the long-term users is the “most plausible” result. While the risk is still hypothetical, the release argues that this finding “demands attention.”

What makes the ten-year latency for brain tumors compelling is that the Swedish Interphone group has observed a similar ten-year latency for acoustic neuromas. The Hardell-Mild team has reported a statistically significant increase in the incidence of acoustic neuroma but with a shorter latency —although the risk increased as the number of hours of use went up. (Schüz explained that the German Interphone analysis of the acoustic neuroma data is being carried out by a team at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg and will be published separately at a later date.)

One sees a similar pattern of long latencies for the well-known cancer risks associated with tobacco and asbestos. In both cases, epidemiologists have reported no statistically significant increase in lung cancer and mesothelioma, respectively, until there had been at least ten years of exposure.

The German press release is titled “No Increased Risk of Brain Tumors from the Use of Mobile and Cordless Phones.” Not surprisingly, those media outlets that picked up the news sounded the all clear and did not address the ten-year latency tumor risk.


November 23, 2005

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When Enough Is Never Enough
A Reproducible EMF Effect at 12 mG


It’s happened again.

It’s not supposed to happen at all. But now it has happened seven times in research labs on three continents.

Even so, the news of the latest replication of a weak, clearly non-thermal, electromagnetic field (EMF) effect was met with silence. No one issued a press release. No one rushed to try to explain “the impossible.” No one wondered about the policy implications.

And if Rainer Girgert of Germany’s University of Heidelberg, the lead author of this latest replication, meets with the same fate as his six predecessors, he may soon lose his research grants —or perhaps worse, as happened to Robert Liburdy who first saw this same effect years ago.

Writing in the November 4 issue of Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Girgert reports that a 12mG (1.2µT) magnetic field can block the ability of tamoxifen to control the growth of human breast cancer cells.

For more than 20 years, breast cancer patients have been given tamoxifen after surgery and chemo- and/or radiotherapy to help stave off a recurrence. It is only one of a handful of drugs that is prescribed for preventing breast cancer. Just a few days ago, less than two weeks after Girgert’s paper was published, the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) announced that its long-term follow-up study showed beyond reasonable doubt that tamoxifen can indeed prevent breast cancer among women at high risk of developing the disease.

Girgert was working with cells in petri dishes but it’s easy to extrapolate his findings to real-world situations. Consider, for instance, what might happen to a recovering breast cancer patient who is taking tamoxifen, if her job forces her to stand in front of an office copying machine all day, or if she sits next to a wall which conceals an electrical transformer or even if she blow dries her hair every morning.

Each day, over one million American women have an average daily magnetic field exposure of over 10mG. Many more spend an hour or longer in such fields every day.

Liburdy, then at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, was the first to show this same EMF effect with both tamoxifen and with melatonin back in the early 1990s (see MWN, J/A92). (Melatonin can also keep breast cancer cells in check.) Over the next few years, four other American research groups were able to repeat Liburdy’s experiments (see MWN, M/A96 and J/A98).

Then in 2001, Masami Ishido at Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies took Liburdy’s discovery a major step forward. After once again showing that breast cancer cells treated with melatonin would resume growing when exposed to power-frequency EMFs, Ishido explained how the fields could do this. He found that the magnetic field disrupts the cells’ signaling system —their internal communications network, which determines how they respond to their environment.

Ishido had done much more than simply replicate the work of five other labs. He had given credibility to what most others had dismissed as an anomalous experimental finding.

In the process, Ishido also challenged one of the central tenets of mainstream toxicology: Less is better and more is worse. The EMF effect he observed at 12mG was pretty much the same as the one he saw when he used a field a hundred times higher —at 1G. In some later, as yet unpublished work, Ishido found indications that the effect was even stronger at the lower EMF dose than the higher one.

Ishido may have been uncertain about such an inverted dose-response relationship, but Girgert has no doubts. “Surprisingly, at 1G the effect on tamoxifen inhibition was clearly lower than at 100mG,” he writes in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications.

“Girgert’s paper is very important,” says Carl Blackman, a research scientist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Blackman, who led one of the four groups that repeated the original Liburdy work with both tamoxifen and melatonin, points out that the Japanese and German work represent more than simple replication. “Ishido extended Liburdy’s finding by investigating changes with techniques from molecular biology, while Girgert looked at the effect at different tamoxifen concentrations and EMF exposure levels,” he said. “Girgert has filled in some critical missing pieces and the 12 mG effect now rests on a much firmer foundation.”

After Ishido’s work appeared in 2001, a number of leading melatonin scientists, including David Blask and Richard Stevens, told Microwave News that they were now convinced that the 12mG effect was real and would now be taken seriously (see MWN, S/O01).

They were wrong.

For instance, this summer the World Health Organization’s EMF project completed what is billed as an exhaustive review of the scientific literature on EMF health and biological effects (see September 22 entry below). The 365-page draft document includes more than 1,000 references —yet, somehow, the papers by Liburdy, Blackman and Ishido documenting the 12mG effect on melatonin and tamoxifen were all left out.

Nor have any of these three researchers been able to continue their work on EMFs.

In 1999, Liburdy was drummed out of the EMF profession on what many consider to be trumped-up charges of scientific misconduct. (At issue was a set of unrelated experiments.) He settled the case without admitting any “wrongdoing” but was nevertheless barred from receiving federal research funds for three years (see MWN, J/A99). Liburdy has, at least for the present, abandoned his career as a research scientist.

Blackman and others at the U.S. EPA are effectively barred from doing any more EMF experiments. EPA managers have made a habit of looking the other way whenever the EMF-health question is raised. No one at the agency need fear Congressional oversight. Many times over the years, the Congress has moved to eliminate any funds targeted for EMF research.

Ishido is in a similar predicament. In a recent e-mail message, Ishido told Microwave News that there is “no hope” that his EMF project, which has been stalled for years, will be revived.

Both Liburdy and Blackman have not given up. They are still optimistic that someone will be given the opportunity to get to the bottom of this 12 mG effect. “We were committed to pursuing these findings,” Liburdy told us in early November. “The mechanistic research would have been fascinating.” Blackman believes that there is more at stake than biophysical theories. “If we understand what’s going on here, we might well find better ways to treat breast cancer,” he said.

Girgert is their last best hope.


November 21, 2005

Special Report on Cell Phone Radiation

Radio (TV) Canada’s news program Decouverte [Discovery] broadcast a two-part news show on EMFs last night.

You can watch both shows on Radio Canada’s Web site. They are in French.

The first part is on cell phones and kids and their risk of developing acoustic neuromas and brain tumors. Also cited is the University of Lund work showing that microwave radiation can lead to leakage through the blood-brain barrier. The second part is on electrosensitivity.

Among those on the show are: Igor Belyaev Lennart Hardell Olle Johansson Leif Salford Per Segerback —all of Sweden — as well as Sir William Stewart in the U.K. and Louis Slesin of Microwave News

Sir William calls the marketing of phones to kids younger than eight ”grotesque.”


October 2, 2005

Special Report on Cell Phone Radiation

The Sun-Sentinel, a major Florida newspaper, is featuring a series of stories on “Cell Phones & Your Health: The Radiation Question” in today’s editions.


October 1, 2005

WHO and Electric Utilities:
A Partnership on EMFs

As members of the WHO Task Group make their way to Geneva for next week’s meeting to complete its Environmental Health Criteria (EHC) document on power-frequency EMFs, new information has emerged showing that the electric utility industry has played a major role at every stage of developing the review document.

Microwave News has learned that Mike Repacholi, the head of the WHO EMF project, recruited utility representatives to help write the original draft of the document and later asked them to review the completed draft. Then, as we reported last week, Repacholi invited eight utility representatives to attend next week’s task group meeting —the only observers who were invited (see September 22 entry below). The task group and the industry observers will assemble at a WHO conference room in Geneva on Monday, October 3 to recommend exposure limits.

Documents show that Leeka Kheifets played a central role in drafting the EHC document. Kheifets has had a long relationship with EPRI, the research arm of the electric utility industry. She worked for EPRI before becoming Repacholi’s assistant in Geneva. Now, back in California, Kheifets recently disclosed to the British Medical Journal that she “works with the Electric Power Research Institute... and consults with utilities.” Among those who collaborated with Kheifets on the EHC document include: Gabor Mezei, also of EPRI, Jack Sahl of Southern California Edison, the U.S. utility and John Swanson of National Grid, the U.K. utility.

Repacholi sent a draft of the EHC out for review in early July. Among those asked for comments were:

William Bailey, Exponent Inc., U.S.
Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC)
Kent Jaffa, Pacificorp, U.S.
Michel Plante, Hydro-Quebec, Canada
Utility Health Sciences Group (USHG), U.S.

To be sure, a number of independent researchers were also participated, but it is highly unusual, if not unprecedented, for a WHO health document to be reviewed by so many with such strong ties to the affected industry.

Not surprisingly, most of the industry comments seek to downplay potential health risks.

Here for example is an excerpt from those filed by Plante on the epidemiology chapter:
“The whole section on cancer seems more like a desperate attempt to maintain some positive statistical association from epidemiological studies alive than a factual and honest presentation of arguments both, for and against, carcinogenicity.”
Plante, who will sit in on the weeklong deliberations at Repacholi’s invitation, has been assigned to the epidemiology working group, where he will no doubt continue to maintain that the link between EMFs and childhood leukemia is inconsequential.

Plante has played a villainous role in the EMF controversy. A decade ago, he was involved in stopping work on an epidemiological study on possible EMF cancer risks to electric utility workers. The Canadian-French study was the first —and the last— to investigate whether exposure to high-frequency transients could lead the cancer. The multi-million dollar study, published in the November 1, 1994 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology was considered, at the time, a landmark event. The research team led by Ben Armstrong and Gilles Thériault of McGill University found strong cancer risks as well as dose-response. Members of the EMF community were excited by the results and looked forward to follow-up efforts. But, Plante worked with others at Hydro-Quebec to shut down the McGill project by forcing Thériault to return the data he and the others had painstakingly collected (see MWN, N/D94). Thériault was never allowed near it again.

Jack Sahl, another invited observer who will also sit in on the epidemiological working group, was a leading member of the UHSG for much of the 1990s. The USHG was the brainchild of Tom Watson, now of Watson & Renner, a law firm based in Washington. In the 1990s, all the major electric utilities in the U.S. —by one count, 76 participated— were members of the USHG. Watson was originally invited to attend next week’s meeting, but his invitation was later withdrawn. Still obscure is why Repacholi changed him mind and disinvited Watson.

It is not known who wrote the comments submitted by the USHG, but it is possible that every electric utility that is a member of the USHG was given the chance to review the WHO document and funnel its comments back to the WHO.

What is clear is that the USHG attempted to weaken the EHC document. For instance, while the draft states that, “evidence is increasing that magnetic fields could interact with DNA-damaging agents, at least in some cellular models,” the USHG suggested that for the “sake of clarity and balance... it would be useful to include... ‘Any such effects on DNA cannot, however, be considered as established’.”

USHG also proposed the following change in the chapter on protective measures: “It should also be pointed out that ‘redirecting facilities or redesigning electrical systems may be so expensive as to be inconsistent with the low-cost and no-cost steps typically viewed as prudent avoidance’.”

Nor was the USHG bashful about promoting the utility position, arguing:
“It would be useful for the summary to include a clear statement that the scientific research does not establish ELF EMF as a cause or contributing factor in any disease or adverse health effect, including cancer.”

Very useful to industry, indeed.

Thanks to Repacholi, the electric utility industry has been and continues to be a full partner in the writing of the EMF document —a document which will be the WHO’s official position on EMFs for years to come. The most disconcerting part of all is that no one at the WHO thinks he is doing anything wrong.



September 29, 2005

RF-Induced DNA Breaks Reported in China

Research scientists in China have found that relatively low-level RF radiation can lead to DNA breaks, according to a briefing paper prepared for the cell phone industry obtained by Microwave News.

At the 4th International Seminar on EMFs and Biological Effects, held in Kunming China, September 12-16, Zhengping Xu of the Zhejiang University School of Medicine reported that cells exposed to a pulsed 1800 MHz RF radiation at an SAR of 3 W/Kg for 24 hours showed a statistically significant increase in DNA damage. The Mobile Manufacturers Forum (MMF), an industry lobbying group based in Brussels, circulated the news in a September 22 Research Briefing.

Xu’s Bioelectromagnetics Laboratory now joins a growing number of other labs that have found RF-induced DNA breaks. The effect was first reported more than a decade ago by Henry Lai and N.P. Singh of the University of Washington, Seattle (see MWN, N/D94). From the outset, Lai and Singh’s work has been repeatedly assailed by the cell phone industry and their consultants —most recently by Sheila Johnston and Vijayalaxmi, two members of the board of directors of the Bioelectromagnetics Society (see March 29 entry below.) They claimed to have refuted the Lai-Singh findings.

Last year, the European Union-sponsored REFLEX Project announced that 1800 MHz radiation could lead to DNA breaks. Those results were published this summer in Mutation Research.

The MMF also noted that C.K. Chou of Motorola (a member of the MMF) complained at the meeting that it is difficult to publish “negative” results in China. (WHO ’s Mike Repacholi made a similar charge at the last Chinese EMF seminar held in Guilin in 2003, according to the MMF.) Xu disputed this, the MMF added.


September 22, 2005

WHO Welcomes Electric Utility Industry To Key EMF Meeting, Bars the Press

The week of October 3 in Geneva, the World Health Organization (WHO) will set its recommendations for public exposures to power-frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

A 20-member task group from 17 countries, assembled by Michael Repacholi, the head of the WHO EMF project, will finalize an Environmental Health Criteria (EHC) document, which is designed to guide the development of standards for extremely low frequency (ELF) EMFs all over the world. It will likely represent WHO’s official position on EMF health risks for years to come.

Last month, Repacholi gave eight observers the green light to attend the meeting —all eight either work for electric utilities or have direct and strong ties to the industry. Other than WHO staff, these are the only people on the Repacholi’s list of approved observers:
Kazu Chikamoto, Japan NUS Co., Tokyo
Rob Kavet, EPRI, Palo Alto. CA, U.S.
Michel Plante, Hydro-Quebec, Montreal, Canada
Jack Sahl, Southern California Edison, Upland, CA, U.S.
Martine Souques, Electricity de France-Gaz de France, Paris
Hamilton Moss de Souza, CEPEL, Brazilian Electrical Energy Research Center, Rio de Janeiro
John Swanson, National Grid, London, U.K.
Tom Watson, Watson & Renner, Washington DC, U.S.
Although Watson is on the list, he will not be at the meeting. “I tried to become an observer, but I did not succeed,” he said in a recent interview. It is not clear why Repacholi changed his mind and disinvited Watson.

Chris Portier of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) will chair the task group.

Very few other members of the EMF community are aware of the meeting. A spot check, an admittedly unscientific survey, found that staff members at U.S. health agencies knew nothing about it. The single exception said that he had heard about it from colleagues in the electric utility industry.

When asked whether Microwave News could sit in as an observer, Repacholi dismissed the idea. “The press is not permitted to attend EHC Task Group meetings,” he told us.

Did Repacholi invite the industry representatives? If not, how and when did they first learn about the meeting and request observer status? Have any of the companies or associations, other than EPRI, contributed to the WHO EMF project or its activities? EPRI cosponsored a WHO workshop on EMF risks to children held last year in Istanbul (see August 8 entry below), but it is not known whether EPRI’s Kavet has made other contributions to the WHO. All these questions need answering.

While Repacholi has long said that the EHC would be revised around this time, the specific schedule has not been previously publicly disclosed. For instance, the October 3-7 task group meeting is not in the listing of meetings on the WHO Web site nor is it included in the Bioelectromagnetics Society Newsletter conference calendar.

The WHO released its first EHC for ELF EMFs in 1984. Repacholi chaired the task group that wrote that report. Back then, 20 years ago, the panel recommended that: “efforts be made to limit exposure, particularly for members of the general population, to levels as low as can be reasonably achieved” (a policy known as ALARA). Yet for the last ten years while he has been at the helm of the WHO EMF project and while the health risks posed by power-frequency fields have become much less uncertain, Repacholi has consistently refused to endorse ALARA for ELF EMFs.

In addition to NIEHS’ Portier, the members of the EHC task group are:
Houssain Abouzaid, WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, Cairo, Egypt
Anders Ahlbom, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
Larry Anderson, Battelle Pacific Northwest Labs, Richland, WA, U.S.
Christoffer Johansen, Danish Cancer Society, Copenhagen
Jukka Juutilainen, University of Kuopio, Finland
Sheila Kandel, Soreq, Yavne, Israel
Leeka Kheifets, University of California, Los Angeles and EPRI, Palo Alto, CA, U.S.
Isabelle Lagroye, University of Bordeaux, France
Rüdiger Matthes, Federal Office of Radiation Protection, Oberschleissheim, Germany
Alastair McKinlay, Health Protection Agency (HPA), Didcot, U.K.
Jim Metcalfe, University of Cambridge, U.K.
Meike Mevissen, University of Berne, Switzerland
Junji Miyakoshi, Hirosaki University Faculty of Medicine, Japan
Eric van Rongen, Health Council of the Netherlands, The Hague
Nina Rubtsova, RAM Institute of Occupational Health, Moscow, Russia
Paolo Vecchia, National Institute of Health, Rome, Italy
Barney de Villiers, University of Stellenbosch, Cape Town, South Africa
Andrew Wood, Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, Australia
Zhengping Xu, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou, China

Those attending from WHO include Elisabeth Cardis (IARC); Chiyoji Ohkubo, Rick Saunders (on leave from the U.K. HPA) and Emilie van Deventer.

As we post this on the Web, we have learned that Michinori Kabuto of Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies will also be an observer at the meeting.

• • • • •

Five years ago, the Committee of Experts on Tobacco Industry Documents issued a 260-page report documenting the tobacco industry’s strategies to undermine the work of the WHO. In response, the WHO issued 15 pages of recommendations on how to make sure its work is never subverted again.

Nevertheless, the WHO appears to be unable to apply the hard lessons it learned from tobacco to other potentially harmful agents. Instead, the WHO now simply invites the industry to be part of the process.



September 14, 2005

Standards and Rules Database

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association, better known as NEMA, has posted information on EMF standards and regulations from 25 countries on its Web site.

Much of the information was adapted from the WHO EMF Web site and reformatted on an Excel spreadsheet. You can download a free copy here. NEMA, which is based in Washington, plans to post updates on a periodic basis.


August 13, 2005

Keep That Laptop Off Your Lap
At Least Until a New Generation of Researchers Give Us Some Answers


The inside back cover of the August issue of Wired has an ad with a picture of a model who has a laptop on her belly. She’s got a big grin on her face —apparently because her computer is protected with Symantec’s anti-spyware and anti-virus software.

Putting a laptop on your body may be okay for a photo shoot, but it’s probably not such a good idea to leave the computer there for a long time. In addition to delivering heat to sensitive organs, there can be significant exposure to EMFs.

In fact, it’s probably not a good idea to keep any electronic or electric appliance flush to your body on a regular basis.

Let me be clear: We don’t know whether EMFs from appliances are a health hazard. What we do know is that some appliances give off strong localized fields with complex waveforms. While they diminish very quickly with distance, up close they can pack a wallop.

We also know that a discomfortingly large number of epidemiological studies show that long-term exposure to low-level EMFs is linked to childhood leukemia —the implicated levels are 250 times lower than the current limit for exposing children 24/7 and more than a 1,000 times lower than the occupational guidelines. (The U.S. has never adopted an EMF exposure standard.)

In addition, we know that the use of certain appliances has been associated with cancer. For instance, a 1998 National Cancer Institute (NCI) study showed that children exposed to electric blankets, hair dryers or video games had significant higher rates of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. A number of other appliances, including curling irons, were also linked to cancer.

But there were inconsistencies. The risk associated with years of use was often similar to that from short-term use —that is, there was no dose-response relationship. But that said, looking at all the NCI appliance data, you will see a large number of statistically significant elevated risks of childhood leukemia and it’s hard to escape the conclusion that something is going on.

The NCI team, however, focused on the inconsistencies, threw up their hands and concluded there was nothing to worry about.

Earlier this year, the NCI published another study which linked the use of electric hair dryers and shavers with brain tumors. (Men who used electric shavers had ten times more meningiomas!) Once again, the NCI decided that it was “unlikely” that there was a true association.

One major problem with both NCI studies is that the EMFs from the appliances were not measured. The NCI team assumed that the magnetic fields from a hair dryer are identical to those from a fan or a microwave oven, except in terms of the intensity of the field. This is a primitive, though not uncommon, approach among EMF researchers. But it’s like studying particulate air pollutants without specifying the size or the chemical composition of the particles. You might get an idea about effects, but it would be a very rough estimate.

By neglecting the differences among the different types of EMFs, the NCI team assumes that all appliances are sources of simple sinusoidal 60 Hz magnetic fields. No allowance is made for fields whose frequency and intensity fluctuate over time, whether other frequency components and transient are present, or whether the resulting exposures are intermittent. (In the more recent paper, the NCI team does acknowledge that hair dryers and shavers give off high-frequency transients). Another ignored variable is the polarization of the field.

Elizabeth Ainsbury, an English doctoral student of Denis Henshaw’s at Bristol University, illustrates the variation in polarization of the magnetic fields associated with appliances in a paper published recently in Physics in Medicine and Biology. She reports, for example, that microwave and electric ovens have the most elliptically polarized fields, while alarm clocks have the least ellipticity.

(As the field becomes more circularly polarized —that is, as it become more elliptical— the greater the potential for depositing its energy into those exposed, see MWN, M/A00.)

Ainsbury concludes that her measurements

“demonstrate that domestic magnetic fields are extremely complex and cannot simply be characterized by traditional measurements such as time-weighted average or peak exposure levels.”

Could polarization be the missing variable that, if taken into account, would clarify the existing epidemiological and experimental data? It’s far too soon to tell, but it is a tantalizing possibility.

For a long time, many have speculated that EMF epidemiological studies are cloudy because some characteristic of the field has been left out. It is as if we are looking through a distorted prism. But with the right set of filters, we could see the EMF risk more clearly.

Five years ago, Jim Burch showed that workers exposed to circularly or elliptically polarized fields were more likely to have lower melatonin levels. And years before that Masamichi Kato in Japan reported a similar finding in animals (see MWN, M/A00).

Back in 2000, Burch told us his results “definitely need to be followed up.” They weren’t. (Burch has recently moved to the University of South Carolina.)

With progress coming in five-year intervals it is going to take a long time to sort all this out.

Joe Bowman at NIOSH in Cincinnati is hopeful however. “I’m encouraged to see an EMF health study measuring more than just the time-averaged magnetic field,” he told Microwave News in a recent interview. “Studies like Ainsbury’s will hopefully lead to a new generation of more informative epidemiologic studies.” Bowman is himself designing an epi study using the Multiwave meter developed by Electric Research, which can measure a number of field parameters including polarization. Ainsbury also used the Multiwave.

Clearly, there is much more work to be done. And until we learn more and can see the EMF problem more clearly, it’s probably a good idea to keep your laptop off your lap —especially if that computer is broadcasting RF radiation through its wireless connection to the Internet.


August 9, 2005

According to the UCLA School of Public Health, Leeka Khefiets received $50,000 from EPRI for her work on the WHO workshop on EMF risks to children. UCLA calls it a “joint WHO/EPRI” workshop.

That’s a lot money for a review paper (250 hours @$200/hour). Or is this another way for Mike Repacholi’s EMF project to skirt WHO rules prohibiting direct industry funding?


August 8, 2005

Money Talks and the WHO Follows

EPRI, the Electric Power Research Institute, the research arm of the electric utility industry, has lots of money and is not shy about using it to push its agenda.

Today, EPRI is the only source of research funds on power line EMFs in the U.S. In recent times, practically all of EPRI’s money has been devoted to pushing the idea, championed by staffer Rob Kavet, that contact currents —not EMFs— are responsible for the oft-observed increase in childhood leukemia. Kavet may be on to something, but at the moment only Kavet himself and his contractors embrace this hypothesis.

Actually, there is another: The WHO EMF Project in Geneva.

EPRI was one of the sponsors of WHO’s workshop on EMF risks to children, held in Istanbul last summer.

EPRI also paid Leeka Kheifets to prepare a review of the epidemiologic evidence for the EMF-childhood leukemia link. She presented a draft at the meeting; the final paper, “The Sensitivity of Children to Electromagnetic Fields,” appears in the August issue of the journal Pediatrics, which is posted on the Internet. (You can download a complete copy of the Pediatrics paper for free.)

Most of you will remember that Kheifets was a coconspirator, with Mike Repacholi, in the infamous flip-flop over applying the precautionary principle to EMFs (see MWN, M/A03 and M/J03). After announcing a decision to adopt precautionary policies, they backed off without any explanation for the reversal.

Before joining Repacholi in Geneva, Kheifets worked at EPRI in California for many years, where she was Kavet’s boss. She now has a position at the University of California, Los Angeles. She continues to do a lot of work for Repacholi.

Kavet’s non-EMF theory gets top billing in both Kheifets’s review paper, and the workshop report.

Kheifets and Repacholi, as they have done in the past, cast the EMF-childhood leukemia association as still highly uncertain due to the lack of a mechanism. They write:

“At present there is no experimental evidence that supports the view that [the EMF-childhood leukemia] relationship is causal.”

What is left out of both papers is the fact that at least six different labs have shown that power-frequency EMFs can break DNA. It’s true, we don’t know how EMFs can do this, but it has been observed experimentally over and over again.

Kheifets and Repacholi must be aware of the DNA work.

If EMFs can break DNA, EMFs can certainly play a major role in the etiology of childhood leukemia. But this is an inconvenient fact for both EPRI’s Rob Kavet and WHO’s Mike Repacholi. They have common interests: In addition to both supporting Kheifets, neither wants to endorse precautionary policies to protect children from EMFs.

Here’s the payoff —from the conclusion of the Pediatrics paper (with some emphasis added):

For ELF (power-frequency) fields, there is some evidence that exposure to environmental magnetic fields that are relatively high but well below guidance levels is associated with an increase in the risk of childhood leukemia, a very rare disease (even if the risk is doubled, it remains small at 5-8 per 100,000 children per year). Although the evidence is regarded as insufficient to justify more restrictive limits on exposure, the possibility that exposure to ELF magnetic fields increases risk cannot be discounted. For the physician faced with questions from, for example, a couple planning a family and concerned about this issue, or from someone pregnant and occupationally exposed to relatively high ELF magnetic fields, standardized advice is not possible. Instead, physicians could inform their patients of possible risk and advise them to weigh all the advantages and disadvantages of the options available to them (of which EMF reduction is but one consideration). Some simple options include reducing exposure by minimizing the use of certain electrical appliances or changing work practices to increase distance from the source of exposure. People living near overhead power lines should be advised that such proximity is just an indicator of exposure and that homes far away from power lines can have similar or higher fields.

This may read like it was written at EPRI, but the paper is signed by Kheifets, Repacholi, together with Rick Saunders (on leave from the U.K. Health Protection Agency) and Emilie van Deventer, all affiliated with the EMF project at the World Health Organization.

How much money does EPRI give the EMF project every year? How much support did EPRI provide for the Istanbul workshop? And how much did Kavet pay his old boss Kheifets for the literature review? We don’t know because Repacholi continues to refuse to open up his books.

But whatever the cost to EPRI, you can be sure that Kavet’s managers back in Palo Alto, California, are pleased.

One final footnote: Kheifets was recently hired to serve as a consultant to the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) to help develop state EMF policies. She will receive approximately $58,000, plus expenses. In her application, she told the presiding administrative law judge that, “I believe that rigorous application of Precautionary Framework to EMF is appropriate.”

Hmmmm....We wonder how we should interpret the word “rigorous.” Actually, it doesn’t matter. It’s doubletalk. The capital “P” and “F” indicate that she is referring to Repacholi’s framework and we know that neither of them has any interest in applying precautionary EMF policies (see the July 5 entry, below).

When Kheifets applied for the CPUC job, she requested that her personal financial information be kept confidential because its release “would unnecessarily intrude on [her] privacy.” Maybe so, but it would reveal how much EPRI and Repacholi are paying her, while she gives advice —on behalf of the rate-paying public— to California regulators.

Most surprising of all is that, in his ruling granting her request, the judge noted that not one of the many EMF activist groups in the state of California challenged Kheifets’s application.


August 5, 2005

A few more words about the potential health risks to children from mobile phones...

A literature review on the topic by Luc Martens of Belgium’s Ghent University was posted on the Bioelectromagnetics Web site a few days ago. Anyone who doubts how little we know about all this should check it out.

Not counting the abstract, references and acknowledgments, the review runs just three pages —that’s it. There’s not much to say because we don’t know much.

Even the relatively long-running controversy over whether children absorb more radiation than adults due to their thinner skulls and whether the radiation penetrates deeper into their heads —sometimes referred to as Salt Lake City vs. Zurich or Gandhi vs. Kuster— remains unresolved (see MWN, N/D01). Or as Martens puts it, “There is still an inconsistency in the literature.”

The fact is that most of the literature on cell phone health risks is inconsistent. Not only don’t we know whether the unlimited use of mobile phones is riskier for children than for adults, we don’t know how great the risk is for adults.

Regardless of all this uncertainty, U.S. mobile companies, ever hungry for more profits, are now targeting children as young as six. The health issue is so far off the radar screen that in the last week, Time, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal have all run major stories on the selling of kiddie phones. Not one of them even mentioned health concerns.

Youri Grigoriev of the Institute of Biophysics in Moscow predicted this would happen after Eric van Rongen and the Health Council of the Netherlands’ finding that there is no scientific rationale to limit children’s use of cell phones.

To be fair, van Rongen is hardly alone. As we have made clear in earlier postings, the World Health Organization (led by Mike Repacholi) and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (led by Paolo Vecchia) are similarly more concerned with maintaining scientific integrity than with addressing uncertain health impacts.

Here’s how Grigoriev closed his response to van Rongen and the other members of the council: “The resolution of the Health Council of the Netherlands that it ‘sees no reason for recommending limiting the use of mobile phones by children,’ opens the way for aggressive advertisement of a ‘cellular phone for each child’ and the possibility of using cellular phones by children without limit or control.”

That was last year. This year it has all come to pass.


August 3, 2005

WHO’s Repacholi Flip-Flops Again

Remember this: The next time Mike Repacholi tells you something, it probably means nothing at all.

A couple of years ago, he advocated precautionary policies for EMFs from power lines and RF radiation from mobile phones, but soon afterwards he backed off, saying it was all a misunderstanding (see MWN, M/A03 and M/J03).

Now he’s done it again.

Cell phones are safe and children need take no special precautions—unless they or their parents are concerned —Repacholi advises in a just-released clarification, reaffirming a five-year old policy statement.

Repacholi sang a different tune when he was in Canada last month for his workshop on setting precautionary policies under uncertainty. That same week (July 9-14), the Toronto Star ran a major series on the controversy over the safety of cell phones, with special emphasis on the possible risks to children. Under the media spotlight, Repacholi, promoted precautionary policies for children’s use of mobile phones.

“With respect to children, WHO recommends that children should use hands-free headsets,” Repacholi told Canadian TV.

“We certainly advocate precautionary measures for children,” Repacholi told the Toronto Star.

“With respect to children, WHO recommends that children should use hands-free headsets” reported ConsumerAffairs.com.

Repacholi would have us believe they all got it wrong.

Tyler Hamilton, one of the two reporters who wrote the Star series is standing firm. “Repacholi said it in three different forums plus I saw him say it on television,” Hamilton told Microwave News. “He said it to me in a telephone interview, he wrote it to me in an e-mail and I heard him say it at the Ottawa conference.”

Hamilton forwarded an e-mail Repacholi had sent him a few days before the conference. This is part of what Repacholi wrote:

“WHO has already said on a number of occasions that children’s exposure should be reduced. However the best way to achieve this is to ask them to use hands-free-kits.”

In his latest clarification posted on the WHO Web site, Repacholi states that “WHO’s policy on mobile phones, released in 2000, remains intact.” He goes on: “WHO’s International EMF Project does not change its position through media reports, rather policies and recommendations will only be amended in documents through normal WHO information outlets.”

We beg to differ.

Mike Repacholi does change his position for media reports. He believes that he can say whatever he wants when under pressure and that he can retract it all later.


Repacholi and Sound Science

When asked by a Canadian who is electrosensitive for a response to our
July 5 commentary, “Time To Stop the WHO Charade,” here’s part of what Repacholi replied:

“As you know WHO has built the highest possible reputation in public health matters among the public and governments world wide and the EMF Project will not be deviating from the sound science course that sustains this high esteem, no matter what the pressures from self interest groups or individuals. Louis appeals to people who do not believe in the scientific method for resolving issues. He, like others who are unable to argue a scientific case always claim WHO decisions are industry biased—a completely untrue position.” [our emphasis]

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, our criticism of WHO’s EMF project has nothing to do with science per se, but how Mike Repacholi sets policies based on the science—both what the science tells us and, just as importantly, what it doesn’t tell us.

As we noted in the commentary, many national governments have looked at the same body of scientific data and have promoted precautionary policies. These include China, Italy, Switzerland and Russia. In addition, expert panels in England, France, Germany and Russia have issued advisories discouraging children from using mobile phones.

Perhaps, it is easier for Mike to single us out than to address those who seek to protect the public health of well over a billion people, including the national government of Switzerland, WHO’s host country.

As we have stated time and time again, the WHO should err on the side of public health, not the interests of the wireless industry.

We should also highlight Mike’s use of the phrase “sound science.” As Elisa Ong and Stanton Glantz of the University of California, San Francisco, have pointed out, these seemingly unchallengeable words were coined by the tobacco industry and other corporate interests to manipulate public opinion. Here is some of what they wrote in the American Journal of Public Health in November 2001:

“Public health professionals need to be aware that the ‘sound science’ movement is not an indigenous effort from within the profession to improve the quality of scientific discourse, but reflects sophisticated public relations campaigns controlled by industry executives and lawyers whose aim is to manipulate the standards of scientific proof to serve the corporate interests of their clients.”

The WHO has long been targeted by the tobacco industry in its continuing efforts to water down control initiatives. Ong and Glantz have also documented the campaign waged against the IARC study on second-hand smoke.

A detailed report on the tobacco industry’s nefarious activities was released in 2000. At that time, Nature ran an editorial calling for the WHO and other groups to “strengthen their guard against conflicts of interest.”

As we have reported (see MWN, N/D01), a number of the players in the mobile phone controversy have also worked for the tobacco industry —most notably, George Carlo.

Where does Mike Repacholi fit in to all this? No one will know until he opens up his books and tells us who is paying the bills for the EMF charade that he runs out of the WHO offices in Geneva.

Once again, we ask: Show us the money, Mike.


BEMS Editor Addresses Change in Jerry Phillips’s Paper

Microwave News has received a letter from Ben Greenebaum, editor of Bioelectromagnetics, concerning the claim that a sentence was added to a 1997 paper by Jerry Phillips without Phillips’s knowledge. Download a copy of the letter here. Greenebaum is addressing our July 11 entry below.


July 12, 2005

In a major change of policy, Mike Repacholi is now advising children to reduce their radiation exposure from mobile phones. Repacholi, who leads the World Health Organization’s EMF project, has told CTV (Canadian television) that the “WHO recommends that children should use hands-free headsets.”

In the past, Repacholi has shunned precautionary policies. He has steadfastly argued that children have no reason to protect themselves when using mobile phones. For instance, in its last fact sheet on mobile phones, No.193 revised in 2000, the WHO stated: “Present scientific information does not indicate the need for any special precautions for use of mobile phones. If individuals are concerned, they might choose to limit their own or their children’s RF exposure by limiting the length of calls, or using ‘hands-free’ devices to keep mobile phones away from the head and body.”

Repacholi’s change of outlook comes with the opening of his workshop, being held in Ottawa, on how to deal with uncertain risks and the publication of a major series in the Toronto Star on the potential health risks associated with use of mobile phones by children, at a time they are being targeted by the marketing arms of cell phone companies.


July 11, 2005

The Toronto Star is running a series of articles on the growing use of mobile phones among children and whether the radiation exposure may endanger their health. The first, Kids at Risk?, appeared on Saturday, July 9, followed by Is Her Cell Phone Safe? on Sunday and Can We Reduce Cell Phone Risk for Kids? today. They feature many familiar members of the RF community, including Martin Blank, Om Gandhi, Henry Lai, Mary McBride, Jerry Phillips, Mike Repacholi, Norm Sandler and Mays Swicord —as well as Louis Slesin of Microwave News. In addition, there are a number of related stories posted on the newspaper’s Web site.

In Sunday’s piece, Star reporters Robert Cribb and Tyler Hamilton highlight the mystery of how language that downplayed an observed biological effect was added to a 1997 paper published by Jerry Phillips in Bioelectromagnetics. The last sentence of the paper states that the change in gene expression following exposure to mobile phone radiation, seen by Phillips, “is probably of no physiologic consequence.” But Phillips says that he did not write those words. “I have no idea how that statement got in there,” he told the Star. Phillips notes that Motorola's Swicord had originally asked for that language to be included in the paper, but he had refused. (Motorola helped pay for the study.) For his part, Swicord dismisses the allegation that he had interfered with the paper as “pure nonsense.”

You can access all the articles in the Toronto Star’s special report on cell phones here.


July 5, 2005

Time To Stop the WHO Charade

Now we know what Mike Repacholi has been doing since the infamous Mike-and-Leeka flip-flop of 2003. Back then Repacholi and his assistant Leeka Kheifets decided that there was no need to apply the precautionary principle to EMFs—soon after telling everyone that the time for action had finally arrived.

It appears that for the last two-and-a-half years, when not shuttling from one meeting to another, Mike has been cataloguing ways the WHO can avoid taking precautionary steps to reduce EMF exposures.

Mike’s apologia will be presented next week at a three-day workshop in Ottawa, July 11-13. He calls it a policy framework. We call it a sham. Mike has assembled a list of reasons for doing nothing. Electric utilities and telecom companies could have written the WHO plan. They may well have played a leading role.

You can see where Mike’s sympathies lie from the workshop agenda: the GSM Association, the U.K. National Grid, the American Chemical Council, Shell Canada, have all been invited to speak, together with an assortment of academics, risk consultants and a few of his WHO buddies.

Mike has not even made a pretense of having a balanced program. Absent are labor, consumer and environmental groups, save one small Canadian organization. John Swanson of the National Grid will be in Ottawa, but Alasdair Phillips, England’s leading and most knowledgeable EMF activist, will not be there—no doubt because he would openly challenge Repacholi’s pro-industry sympathies.

Power lines or mobile phones are not really even on the workshop agenda. Only Mike is slated to address the EMF issue. Instead, the Ottawa workshop will address many of the major social risks that are in the news: global warming, mad cow disease, and even a flu pandemic which could wipe out many of us long before the ice caps melt. Mike’s message is loud and clear: Don’t worry about a tiny—and unlikely—EMF health risk when there are more important threats on the horizon.

Back in early 2003, there were enough reasons to invoke the precautionary principle for power-frequency EMFs and for RF from mobile phones. Over the last year, more studies have reaffirmed the need for caution. Three different data sets now implicate long-term use of mobile phones with acoustic tumors: Two from the Öreboro group and one from the Karolinska group. The University of Vienna has found support for Henry Lai and NP Singh’s studies showing that RF radiation can break DNA—these results from the REFLEX research program indicate that RF radiation may well be genotoxic after all. And even more recently, an Australian researcher reported additional evidence that RF can break up DNA.

Just last month, a British team published a paper in the British Medical Journal showing that children living near power lines had higher than expected rates of leukemia. The National Grid’s Swanson is one of the authors of that paper, but at this point he is not slated to discuss it in Ottawa.

Mike has no use for any of this new information —none of it is cited in his framework—because he has already made up his mind that nothing needs to be done. When the REFLEX DNA work first hit the media, Mays Swicord and his gang at Motorola didn’t have to say a word because their man in Geneva, Mike Repacholi of the World Health Organization, was ready to speak for them. Mike offered immediate reassurances that the Vienna results are spurious and may be discounted. “One has to question what went wrong, or was different, for them to get the results they claim,” Mike told the New Scientist.

Mike wants us to believe that his is the voice of reason, but, in fact, it is his views that are out of step with those of many national governments. China, Italy, Switzerland and Russia have all adopted precautionary exposure limits —directly rejecting Mike’s pleas for harmonizing radiation standards. Expert panels in England, France, Germany and Russia have all issued statements discouraging children from using mobile phones.

To his shame, Mike was the only member of Sir William Stewart’s panel to object when, in 2000, it was the first to call for children to avoid cell phones. English kids, like others everywhere, love their mobile phones and use them all the time. Neither they nor most of their parents have ever heard of Sir William’s cautionary advice. But even though largely ignored by consumers, Sir William, with this single recommendation, underscored our ignorance about radiation health effects and prompted continued health research. He set a tone for others to follow.

Sir William’s imperative is to protect public health. That is also supposed to be Mike’s mission at the WHO. But his words and action make it clear that his principal interest is in the well-being of his corporate friends.

As the old saying goes, “If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s a sure bet, that it’s a duck.” Mike’s actions and words are those of an industry operative. And for all we know he may be one.

Mike has repeatedly refused to disclose who is paying for his EMF project and all its conferences and workshops. We do know that WHO does not foot the bill. Mike has to raise his own budget and travel funds. We also know that he found a way to skirt the WHO rules that bar direct industry support —the mobile phone manufacturers have said that they provide him with $150,000 a year with additional money for meeting and travel expenses.

But where does all the other money come from? What’s stopping Mike from doing the right thing? Why doesn’t he issue a simple and clear message that EMFs and RF radiation present possible health risks and that, until more answers are in hand, we should try to reduce unnecessary exposures. All he needs to do is to offer a single sentence of advice: Be careful until we know more about the health risks. That’s it. A simple public health message of caution from the World Health Organization.

It's time for the Mike-and-Leeka charade to come to an end. Show us the money, Mike. Show us who’s paying the bills. Maybe then we will know who you are really working for.


April 13, 2005

Could cell phone radiation actually protect against brain cancer? Could it provide “vitamins for the brain”, as one irreverent epidemiologist suggested recently? Such a possibility, however improbable, is not as far fetched as it may sound.

This is not a new idea, but a new epidemiological study, published yesterday in Neurology brings it back to mind. A team led by Chrisoffer Johansen of the Danish Cancer Society in Copenhagen was looking at whether cell phones could promote brain tumors. They did not see an increased risk but did find that users had fewer aggressive tumors than non-users and that, in general, the tumors that did develop were smaller among users. These so-called “regular users” had only a little more than half as many high-grade gliomas as expected. And the tumors were, overall, 25% smaller.

The Danish study is the second brain tumor study to appear from the Interphone project, which is being coordinated by IARC, the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France. (In all, 13 countries are participating). Maria Feychting and coworkers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm published their results last month in the American Journal of Epidemiology (AJE). They also saw fewer gliomas among cell phone users, though this difference was not statistically significant. While the Danes observed the greatest protection for the high-grade gliomas, the Swedes found it for the low-grade, or less aggressive, gliomas.

Since the Karolinska paper appeared on March 15, there has been much talk among epidemiologists about the fact that practically all the observed risks were smaller than expected. Amazingly, in one table (Table 2) presenting approximately 50 different categories of cell phone use, the Swedes found only a single risk above unity. (A relative risk of one signifies no effect; without a protective or deleterious effect, one would expect to see the risks randomly distributed above and below one.)

Sam Milham, the well-known epidemiologist, was the first to spot the skewed distribution of observed risks in the Swedish paper and has pointed this out in a letter which will appear in the AJE. If cell phones are not protective, then there was some kind of bias in the way the Swedes collected their data. This could mean that the whole study is faulty, calling into questions their conclusion that cell phones are not linked to brain cancer. Indeed, Milham believes that the Karolinska study points to a brain tumor risk on the same side of the head as a phone is used.

What’s so tantalizing about these two sets of findings is that there is some experimental evidence to support a protective effect. More than 15 years ago, Steve Cleary of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond showed that microwaves could either stimulate or suppress the growth of human glioma cells exposed in a laboratory setting. The direction of the effect depended on the intensity of the radiation (see MWN, M/A90)

To be sure, Cleary used some relatively high power levels in his experiments, but Jerry Phillips, in some experiments sponsored by Motorola, later showed a similar delicate balance between beneficial and deleterious effects in experiments on RF-induced DNA breaks. Phillips exposed human cancer cells at intensities that are common for users of cell phones (see MWN, J/F98).

A number of animal studies have also pointed to a protective effect The most notable of these was the experiment run by the late Ross Adey for Motorola (see MWN, M/A96 and J/A96). In essentially all these cases, the protective effect has been due to digital or pulsed microwave signals. (For an overview of these studies, see MWN, S/O02.).

The Danes and the Swedes who participated in the newly published epidemiological studies mostly used analog phones —at least in the early years. So one should be careful before jumping to any conclusions, but the results are provocative and should, we would hope, stimulate some interesting experiments. That is of course, if there is any money for follow-up work, always a dicey proposition.

The Danish group dismisses the possibility of a protective effect because of a lack of a “biologic plausibility.” But we would counter that many say that there is no biological plausibility for a detrimental effect.

Until we better understand what’s really going on, we are in uncharted waters and all possibilities should be considered. These two epidemiological studies and the others due from the Interphone project are only a preliminary picture of the long-term impact of cell phone use. So far at least, they have included only a small number of subjects who have used phones for ten or more years, with substantial air time over that period.

[It is worth noting that the definition of a “regular user” of a cell phone in all the Interphone studies is the use of a mobile phone on average once per week during at least six months.” Today, mobile phone companies routinely sell plans that allow thousands of minutes per month.]

The issues discussed here go far beyond hazard research. They raise fascinating questions about basic science that need to be answered. We shall see if anyone out there is interested in science or if this is really all about telling people that it’s okay to keep using their mobile phones.


April 8, 2005

Fire fighters want to know if placing cell phone towers on fire stations puts them at risk. Until a study can provide some reassurance that there is no radiation hazard, the International Association of Fire Fighters wants to ban antennas from fire stations.

We wish them luck, but we bet that the study will never get off the ground. In any case, if an epidemiological study were to be done, this is not the one to do.

The fire fighters’ appeal reminds us what happened when, some 15 years ago, police officers asked the government to look into allegations that radar guns could cause cancer. The police had some powerful friends. Democratic Sens. Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman asked the NIEHS and the NIOSH for an epidemiological study while the International Brotherhood of Police Officers campaigned for a ban on the use of radar guns. At a Senate hearing held on August 10, 1992, representatives from government, industry and academia all voiced support for a study.

“Senator Dodd and I are going to stick with this until we get some answers,” Lieberman promised that day. Space hero Sen. John Glenn showed up and said that he was “extremely disturbed” by the reported link between police radar and cancer. And Dodd urged the NIH to get on with it because his patience was “about to run out” (see MWN, S/O92). That summer, the controversy was featured on a segment of 60 Minutes. But nothing ever happened. There was no study, there was no follow-up.

The next summer, an epidemiologist and a pathologist jointly reported in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine an abnormal clustering of testicular cancer among police officers who had used hand-held radar guns (see MWN, J/A93). But that also failed to prompt any action from NIH. And five years later, the same journal published a paper
pointing to a link between both testicular cancer and skin cancer (melanoma) with radar guns (see MWN, J/A98). Again, nothing happened.

The fire fighters have a much tougher battle than the police officers because very few people think it’s worth spending the money to investigate cancer rates around a cell site. If they really want a study, the union will have to pay for it. But even if the fire fighters pony up the money, it’s unlikely they will get any reliable answers. These types of studies are notoriously hard to do and, in this case, it will be even more difficult because the microwaves from cell towers are not very strong. It will be a torturous task to untangle all the various factors at work.

We must believe that the fire fighters have been warned about how hard the epidemiology will be. And that they have been told that it would be much easier to study those who use hand-held phones. After all, it’s essentially the same type of radiation and although the exposures from the phones are intermittent, their intensity is approximately a thousand times higher.

Another approach would be to study radio and TV towers, which broadcast much stronger radiation signals. That was the logic of Bruce Hocking, who once was the chief medical officer of Australia Telecom (later called Telstra). He wanted to show that cell towers were safe and figured that if he could show that TV towers were not associated with cancer, he would reassure the locals who were fighting cell towers. It did not turn out the way he expected. He found higher rates of leukemia among children living near the TV antennas in Sydney (see MWN, N/D95).

To no one's surprise, a controversy erupted and no one dared to repeat the study. This too is unresolved.

As long as each group limits itself to a special case, there will be no answers. Progress will only come when the various factions understand that they have common interests. A useful first step would be for the firefighters to look beyond the towers and ask for studies of cell phone users. In the long run, that’s their only hope of finding out whether those antennas are safe.


March 29, 2005

Bill Guy says that he didn’t do it, that he didn’t call NIH, that he didn’t try to shut down Henry Lai’s work on microwave-induced DNA breaks. (See March 11 below.)

In a letter to Microwave News, Guy wrote: “I most vehemently and unequivocally deny that I, or anybody that I am aware of, made any calls to NIH...”

We are not so sure that Guy’s memory is serving him well. Our detailed response recounts the sordid story of CTIA’s health research program, known as Wireless Technology Research (WTR), which Guy helped run. The call was part of the cell phone industry’s concerted effort to discredit Lai and his colleague, N.P. Singh.

The smear campaign continues today. Two weeks ago, two members of the board of directors of the Bioelectromagnetics Society with long-time associations with the wireless industry and the U.S. Air Force, circulated a crude review of Lai’s DNA and behavioral research. The cover note proclaimed, “Lai’s science has failed CONCLUSIVELY” (their emphasis). Maybe not. These are people and organizations that keep telling us they are only interested in science. Clearly not.

Read the complete text of Guy’s three-page letter and our response. (Both are pdf files.) And make up your own mind.


March 11, 2005

The March issue of the University of Washington alumni magazine, Columns, features a well-deserved tribute to Henry Lai and his colleague, N.P. Singh, who have demonstrated that low-level microwave radiation can lead to an increase in DNA breaks in the brain cells of rats (available online). The headline of the piece tells the story: “Wake-Up Call: Can Radiation from Cell Phones Damage DNA in Our Brains? When a UW Researcher Found Disturbing Data, Funding Became Tight and One Industry Leader Threatened Legal Action.”

The article later identifies that “industry leader” as George Carlo who ran Wireless Technology Research (WTR) on behalf of the CTIA, the trade association of the cell phone industry. Of course, most people, except those on the industry payroll, now concede that WTR was misnamed. Something like “Whatever Happens Do As Little Research As Possible and Take As Long As Possible Not To Do It” would have been far more appropriate (even though it’s hard to make an elegant acronym out of all that).

One important fact is left out of the story —for reasons that will become apparent in a moment. The piece begins with Lai recollecting how, back in 1994, someone had tried to stop his DNA-microwave work by calling the National Institutes of Health and alleging that Lai was misusing his research grant by carrying out unauthorized experiments. After Lai explained what he was up to, the NIH was satisfied that nothing was amiss. Lai was allowed to go back to work, though he lacked the funds to do as much he would have liked.

The snitch is not named in the article but should be revealed. It was Bill Guy, who had received three degrees from the University of Washington, including his doctorate, and then spent much of his professional life at its Department of Bioengineering. No wonder the alumni magazine was squeamish about identifying him.

For more than ten years, Guy and Lai had worked together at the university’s Bioelectromagnetics Research Lab. They were coauthors on close to 20 research papers. But that did not stop Guy from trying to sabotage Lai’s research. At the time he made the call to Mike Galvin of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Guy was one of two key advisors to George Carlo, and was helping him map out the strategy for CTIA’s $25 million cell phone-health research project. Separately, he was also a consultant to the CTIA. Guy would stay on the WTR payroll for another three years.

Guy is a former president of the Bioelectromagnetics Society and the recipient of the d'Arsonval Award, its highest honor. Despite a lifetime in RF research, despite the fact that he chaired the committee that wrote the 1982 ANSI RF exposure standard, despite the fact that he chaired the committee of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements that wrote the council's 1986 (and its most recent) report on RF biological effects, Guy’s first impulse on hearing about some important new experimental finding that questioned the safety of a product that would soon be responsible for exposing more than a billion people to a constant stream of RF radiation was to blow the whistle and try to impugn Lai.

Does anyone still believe that the mobile phone industry ever made an honest attempt to get to the bottom of the cell phone safety question?


March 10, 2005

The Karolinska group’s paper showing no increased risk of brain tumors among those who used a cell phone for ten or more years appears in the March 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology. We first reported this result in December based on a brief announcement from Stockholm, but the published paper offers many more details. One interesting item is the finding of a somewhat elevated risk of developing a glioma (a 60-80% increase) on the same side of the head as the phone was used. But, the Karolinska researchers also saw a lower than expected glioma risk on the opposite side of the head. Stefan Lönn, Maria Feychting and Anders Ahlbom posit that these results don’t make sense. “It is not biologically plausible that RF exposure from mobile phone use would increase the brain tumor risk on the side of the head where the phone is usually held and protect against brain tumors on the other side of the head,” they write. Lönn’s team previously reported an increased risk of acoustic neuromas among this same population of long-term phone users (both studies are part of his doctoral dissertation, and, in turn, they are part of the 13-country Interphone study coordinated by IARC in Lyon, France). For neuromas, there was no apparent protective effect on the opposite side of the head. All this means that the new paper, in their words, “strengthens the finding of an increased risk of acoustic neuroma.” The number of Swedes who used a phone for more than a decade is small, and so we anxiously await the results from other Interphone study groups. It is quite possible, however, that the Interphone study will not adequately resolve the neuroma risk. After all, the Scandinavian countries were quick to adopt mobile phones and some of the participating countries may have a smaller proportion of subjects who used them for more than ten years. The recent Stewart report (see below) recommended more research, and made specific mention of a need for an international cohort study of mobile phone users. The editors of The Lancet endorsed this idea. Writing in the January 22 issue, they warned, “With more than one billion people, in more than 200 countries, now using a mobile phone, any risk, however small, could conceivably affect thousands of people.”


February 16, 2005

It was embarrassing watching the cell phone industry shoot itself in the foot yesterday. The scene was a public hearing at the New York City Council in downtown Manhattan on a proposal to maintain and make available a list of all new cell phone antenna sites. Predictably, the mobile phone operators oppose the bill (Intro. No.149-A) and the citizen groups are backing it. Jane Builder, a manager at T-Mobile, called the proposal “anti-business” and “anti-technology,” but there was another reason she did not even want to discuss in a public forum —the security issue. Though Builder kept mum, she had brought along Kathryn Condello who had no problem raising the specter of a terrorist attack on the city’s critical infrastructure. “Since September 11, 2001, we live in a different world,” said Condello. If the bill becomes law, she warned, it would provide “a blueprint for sabotage” with the potential of devastating the City of New York’s telecommunications. Condello was also issuing this overly dramatic —and spurious— warning on behalf of Cingular, Nextel and Sprint.

There was something quite vile about sitting there, only a short distance from the site where the World Trade Center towers once stood, listening to a lobbyist use the 9/11 attacks to further the industry’s economic interests. City Council Member Peter Vallone Jr., the chief sponsor of the bill, berated Condello for using scare tactics. But, in fact, Condello was not scaring anyone, just tossing the industry’s credibility out the window. No one believed her and, odds are, few will believe the industry when, at a second hearing to be held later this week, it will no doubt dismiss the health issue. (Speakers were actively discouraged from addressing RF health effects at yesterday’s hearing.)

The whole terrorism argument is bogus. Anyone who wants to attack a cell tower can easily spot them around the town. But surely there are much more critical telecom targets than some cell phone antenna on top of an apartment building in Astoria. What Condello neglected to mention is that such information is available for a relatively small fee. Tower Maps has 224,817 (at last count) antenna sites in its database. You can find all the towers in a given county for $500.

For years, detailed information on cell phone antennas in a number of European countries has been available for free on the Internet (see MWN, M/J02). For instance, in the U.K. the Office of Communications maintains the Sitefinder database, which not only gives the location of mobile phone towers but also their height, frequency and output power as well as the operating company. The Swiss database also includes radio and TV transmitters, which typically broadcast at much higher power levels. Other countries either already have or are developing their own information systems. Some are even working on providing real-time radiation levels near certain mobile phone towers on the Internet.

The Vallone bill is hardly a draconian proposal. It does not even require the cataloguing of the thousands of existing cell tower sites in New York City. But it’s a start —a small step towards giving the public the information it has every right to have.



February 11, 2005

If you are a geek and want to be a cool geek, Griffin Technology and Apple Computer have the just thing for you. The new Griffin AirBase allows you to put Apple’s Airport Express right on top of your desk instead of hidden away in the wall power socket. Once in full view, it will be, according to Griffin, “an elegant artistic statement.” The Airport Express lets you set up a Wi-Fi hot spot so that you can move your laptop around your home (or wherever) and still be connected to the Internet and your printer. Griffin’s marketing plan isn’t based only on aesthetics: When the Airbase is up on your desk and away from a dusty corner, it will increase the effective range of the Airport Express. Our concern is that it will also increase your radiation exposure. We realize that it is a low-power transmitter (with an output power of about 30 milliwatts at 2.4 GHz, giving it an effective range of 50 to 150 feet), but, given all the uncertainties, do you really want it broadcasting into your face whenever you are sitting at your desk?

Last summer, we tried to find out how much microwave exposure a user might get from an Airport Express. We sent a query by e-mail to Tom Neumayr at Apple’s press office. No answer. About a week later we sent a second request this time to Natalie Sequeira, another press aide. No answer. Three weeks later we made one last stab and wrote to Steve Dowling and Todd Wilder in Apple’s corporate media relations department. Again, no answer. We got the message and we turned to other projects. But it all came back when we saw a puff piece on the AirBase in the Circuits section of yesterday’s New York Times: “Now, AirPort Express owners who want to show off the routers have an option...”

Fifteen years ago, Apple executives favored the same head-in-the-sand strategy. They assumed that they could ignore growing public concern over radiation emissions from computer terminals. Their complacency came to a sudden end when Macworld asked in a July 1990 cover story “HEALTH HAZARD: Could Your Computer Be Killing You?” Soon afterwards, David Nagel, an Apple VP was testifying before a Congressional subcommittee assuring Rep. James Scheuer that Apple had a responsibility to look “at ways of reducing emissions from products.” Nagel went on, “We have a role to play in sponsoring research with the government to understand the effects and how to control them.”

But this has now been forgotten and the lesson will have to be learned all over again. In the meantime, why not leave the AirPort Express in that dusty corner.



February 10, 2005

Microwave News has long advocated more research on the potential health effects of power-frequency EMFs and RF radiation. It’s been an uphill battle. EPRI and the CTIA, the two key industry players, are more interested in shutting down research labs than sponsoring those who might be able to make sense of the conflicting results that bedevil this whole business. With respect to mobile phones, Motorola and Nokia have been among the most outspoken in asserting that they have done enough RF studies. (One exception is Sony-Ericsson: Mats Pellback-Scharp recently (January 24) told the Financial Times that, “Every report that comes out calls for more research. I have never heard anyone say on anything, ‘This is fully researched.’” Clearly, Mr. Pellback-Scharp has not been hanging out with Mays Swicord, the director of Motorola’s EMR programs.) Today we received a press release from the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) in Washington that puts industry’s failure to spend any money on health in perspective. The TIA projects that U.S. spending on wireless communications will reach $159 billion this year and will grow to $212 billion by 2008. That’s only in the U.S. By the end of the decade the worldwide total could easily top $1 trillion a year. Five years ago, we humbly pointed out that if each of the then 87 million cell phone users in the U.S. chipped in just one cent a month, we would have $10 million a year for health research. Nothing approaching that has ever been spent in a single year. Today, there are more than twice as many American subscribers: 175 million, according to the CTIA. That same penny a month per user would now bring in $20 million a year. But don’t expect anything to happen. The industry’s “no conclusive proof” mantra is working so well, there is no hope that a research initiative will find any support among telecom executives.


January 21, 2005

One of the lessons to be learned from the aftermath of the second Stewart report, released by the UK NRPB last week (see below), is that interpreting the mobile phone health data is much like reading Rorschach inkblots. What you see depends a lot on your mind-set. Robert Matthews, the Daily Telegraph’s science correspondent, thinks that Sir William made “a bad call.” After noting that there were concerns at the NRPB press conference over last October’s Karolinska study, that showed a doubling of the risk of acoustic neuromas among those who had used a cell phone for more than ten years, Matthews went on to write: “What was not made clear, however, is that the tumor is benign, non-fatal and astonishingly rare: just one person is affected per 100,000 per year.” He then added that Maria Feychting, who led the Karolinska study, is not very worried about all this. He quoted Feychting as saying: “I must say I am happy my children have mobile phones, because then I know where they are... I would not stop them using one.” On the other hand, in today’s Financial Times, Clive Cookson took a different tack: “Although [an acoustic neuroma is] a benign tumor, it leads to deafness and loss of balance —and if it is not removed surgically, it will eventually kill the patient.” He quoted Anders Ahlbom, another member of the Karolinska team, saying “it’s a strong association” but one that must be replicated before it can be relied upon. Contrast also the title of Cookson's article, “The Warnings We Must Listen To,” with Matthews’s, “Dial M for Myth.” [Unfortunately, there is no free on line access to this FT story. The FT will continue with a second article next Monday.] Should we trust Matthews or Cookson? Should we follow the lead of Feychting or that of her mentor, Ahlbom? Cookson concluded with an important point: As the number of subscribers surges past 1.5 billion, even a tiny individual health risk could translate into thousands of deaths.” Let’s do the math. If the Karolinska study is found to reflect a real neuroma risk, then one cell phone user per 100,000 will develop a tumor each year. That comes to 15,000 cases a year based on today’s usage and 20,000 by the end of this year when, as Deloitte predicted earlier this week, there will be 2 billion owners of mobile phones. So, between 2015 and 2020, there could be (very approximately) a total of 100,000 tumor cases, most of which would have been avoidable. Could this be an acceptable risk for the convenience of using a cell phone without a hands-free kit? (We wonder why Feychting doesn’t ask her kids to use hands-free kits.) Do we really want to let the industry off the hook and not bother to do the research to better understand the health impacts of cell phones? Ahlbom told the Financial Times that it is the “the responsibility of the industry to support research.”

Matthews of the UK Telegraph closes with a quote from Adam Burgess of the University of Bath who predicted that the cell phone controversy will eventually go the same way as the now-forgotten scares over color TVs, VDTs and microwave ovens. Burgess, the author of Cellular Phones, Public Fears and a Culture of Precaution, should know better. (Disclosure: If you read the book, you may well conclude that Burgess believes that Microwave News has unnecessarily fanned the flames of the EMF controversy.) Burgess would have us believe that the radiation risks from these appliances are urban legends. The truth is very different, and Burgess should know better. In each case, a technological fix reduced radiation exposures to the point where the risk could be justifiably ignored. For color TVs, lead was added to the glass of the cathode ray tube, thereby absorbing any troublesome X-rays. Whether VDT EMFs could cause adverse pregnancy outcomes was never settled —much like today’s cell phone industry, VDT manufacturers did not want to do any research. But the question became moot when TCO, the Swedish union, single-handedly forced the industry to reduce stray VDT emissions to a very low level. (TCO Development is now encouraging the production of safer phones.) And microwave oven radiation became a non-problem when the US FDA set tough leakage standards and actually enforced these rules. (That was a very different FDA than the one we have today that has been captured by the industry.) Another important point is that in all three cases the radiation emissions were unwanted byproducts. Cell phones are very different, the radiation conveys the message. No radiation, no conversation.


January 15, 2005

Going through our collection of clips on the new Stewart report this afternoon, we came across the following quote by Paolo Vecchia, the chair of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), in a press release issued by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) on January 11:

“Because EMF exposure guidelines are based on worst-case hypotheses and include reduction factors providing safety margins for possible lack of data, the Commission does not need to create separate guidelines to protect special groups such as children.”

This is a truly astonishing statement. The ICNIRP EMF limits allow children to be exposed to up to 999 mG, anytime and all the time. Vecchia is well aware of the large number of epidemiological studies that point to a cancer risk above 3-4 mG. So he must know that these epi results point to the worst-case hypothesis. We wonder what the other members of ICNIRP —especially Anders Ahlbom who has done more than anyone to show that the EMF-childhood leukemia risk is highly credible— think about what Vecchia said and more importantly why ICNIRP has consistently failed to advocate a precautionary approach to children’s EMF exposures. Why not ask them. All their e-mail addresses are given in the link above.

The AMTA attributed Vecchia’s quote to a talk he gave at a workshop on children’s sensitivity to EMFs, hosted by the WHO International EMF Project in Istanbul last June. We were sufficiently incredulous that we decided to check it out (our travel budge did not allow us to go to Turkey). We found Vecchia’s power point presentation on the WHO EMF Web site and, yes, the AMTA got it right.


January 14, 2005

As the aftershocks from the Stewart report continue to reverberate, the telecom industry is brazenly moving forward with its plan for a major relaxation of the US limit for radiation exposures from cell phones. Yesterday and today, some members of the IEEE International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety (ICES) are meeting to hammer out their revision of the IEEE RF safety standard (known as C95.1). One of the major planned changes is to replace the current SAR limit of 1.6 W/Kg, averaged over 1g of tissue, with a standard of 2.0 W/Kg, averaged over 10g. James Lin of the University of Illinois, Chicago, who was recently appointed a member of ICNIRP, has called this proposal to increase the averaging volume from 1g to 10g “scientifically indefensible” (see MWN, J/A00 and N/D00). According to Lin, a limit of 2.0 W/Kg averaged over 10g would be approximately equivalent to an SAR of 4-6 W/Kg, averaged over 1g (see MWN, S/O01 and M/J03). Or to put it more simply, ICES wants to triple the amount of radiation you could get from a cell phone. Exactly who was invited to this “editorial” meeting is not clear. (ICES’ procedures are not what you might call transparent. Over the years, we have repeatedly asked to be advised of future meetings. But soon after we make it onto the mailing list, our name is somehow deleted. No one can explain why this keeps happening.) We do know, however, where the ICES meeting is taking place: on the Motorola campus in Plantation, Florida. What remains to be seen is whether the FCC will bow to industry pressure and gut the cell phone standard. Anyone want to bet that the commission will stand its ground?


January 13, 2005


The British press has given a lot of ink to the Stewart report, featuring numerous interviews with Sir William. In one of the most detailed of these he told Nic Fleming of the Daily Telegraph that he is “more concerned” about possible health risks today than he was five years when he first called for children to be discouraged from using mobile phones. Sir William said that, “When it comes to suggesting that mobile phones should be available to three- to eight-year-olds, I can’t believe for a moment that can be justified. It seems to me ludicrous.” He explained: “They should not have them because children’s skulls are not fully thickened, their nervous systems are not fully developed and the radiation penetrates further into their brains.” Not everyone agrees with Stewart. The editorial writers at the Telegraph, for example, called him a “Professional Fusspot.” They wrote that “all human activity carries risks, and we have quite enough to worry about these days, without getting into a flap about dangers that may or may not exist.” Even some of those who report to Sir William at the NRPB appear to a bit uneasy. (We doubt that the NRPB has yet gotten comfortable with having an activist chairman.) In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, published today, Michael Clark of the NRPB’s press office tried to moderate Sir William’s warnings. “Our chairman felt very strongly that parents ought to be aware of the risk of a risk. But we found no hard evidence of a risk,” Clark said. On this side of the Atlantic, the Journal quotes David Heim, the deputy editor of Consumer Reports, who also downplayed possible health concerns, as did officials at the FCC and the FDA (see January 11, below). Heim discounted recent studies that point to hazards —such as the Karolinska paper, published last October, pointing to an increased incidence of acoustic neuromas among those who had used cell phones for more than ten years. He reasons that ten years ago everyone was using analog phones, and since these are no longer around, it would be a mistake to infer that the present generation of digital phones is unsafe. “Analog phones use considerably more power than digital phones and their emission patterns are different,” he told the Journal. Heim is right, but he neglects to mention that pulsed radiation, like the signals from many digital phones, is more biologically active than the continuous wave (CW) radiation from analog phones. At this point, no one knows whether the enhanced biological activity might compensate for the weaker signals. And we will not know for another decade or so, by which time we will probably have graduated to yet another type of phones with yet another set of radiation signals. Health research may never catch up with the changing technology, preserving industry’s and Consumer Reports’ ability to keep on the path of denying the relevance of health studies as they are published. But Heim is ignoring a much more fundamental issue. According to current (official) thinking, analog cell phones should not be able do anyone any damage. If the Karolinska study turns out to reflect a true tumor risk (and it’s the second epidemiological study to point that way) all bets would be off. We may have been wrong about analog phones and equally wrong about digital phones. Why then is Consumers Union and its magazine, Consumer Reports, so gung ho about discounting digital phone risks —to the point of sounding like they are part of industry’s PR machine? It’s true that Consumer Reports has long been uninterested in cell phone health risks, (see MWN, J/F02), but it’s still strange that its editors’ first instinct is to dismiss an important new study by a leading group of Swedish researchers on little more than wishful thinking. As we argued in our recent commentary on the precautionary principle, the reason the EMF controversy never moves forward toward resolution is that those whom we count on to speak out on behalf of public health remain strangely silent —or worse, shoot from the hip in the wrong direction— when it comes to electromagnetic radiation.

Before moving on, we should give credit to the Journal for covering the Stewart report. It is practically the only newspaper in America to do so. The Financial Times had an item in its UK news, but, perhaps because the FT well understands the US market, it did not bother to run the news in its US edition.

As expected, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences today released its report on the possible health impacts of the US Air Force’s PAVE PAWS radar. The investigating committee found that, “There is no evidence of adverse health effects to Cape Cod residents from long-term exposure to radiofrequency energy from [the] nearby U.S. Air Force radar installation," the press release states. You can download a free summary. You can also read the report page-by-page, but you cannot download a full copy. The published report will be available for purchase later this winter from the National Academy Press.

On the lighter side, a friend asked us today why we don’t have any fun stuff on our Web site and he sent along a “radiation puzzle” from the “kids’ corner” of the National Safety Council’s Web site. So, for a change of pace, here it is.