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George Carlo's Letter to AT&T Chairman & CEO
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C. Michael Armstrong
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
AT & T Corporation
32 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 100313-2412
much thought, I am writing this letter to you, personally, to ask your
assistance in solving what I believe is an emerging and serious problem
concerning wireless phones. I write this letter in the interest of the
more than 80 million wireless phone users in the United States and the
more than 200 million worldwide. But I also write this letter in the
interest of your industry, a critical part of our social and economic
1993, I have headed the WTR surveillance and research program funded by
the wireless industry. The goal of WTR has always been to identify and
solve any problems concerning consumers' health that could arise from
the use of these phones. This past February, at the annual convention
of the CTIA, I met with the full board of that organization to brief
them on some surprising findings from our work. I do not recall if you
were there personally, but my understanding is that all segments of the
industry were represented.
that briefing, I explained that the well-conducted scientific studies
that WTR was overseeing indicated that the question of wireless phone
safety had become confused.
I reported to you that:
- The rate of death from brain cancer among handheld phone
users was higher than the rate of brain cancer death among those who
used non-handheld phones that were away from their head;
- The risk of acoustic neuroma, a benign tumour of the auditory
nerve that is well in range of the radiation coming from a phone's
antenna, was fifty percent higher in people who reported using cell
phones for six years or more, moreover, that relationship between the
amount of cell phone use and this tumour appeared to follow a
- The risk of rare neuro epithelial tumours on the outside of
the brain was more than doubled, a statistically significant risk
increase, in cell phone users as compared to people who did not use
- There appeared to be some correlation between brain tumours
occurring on the right side of the head and the use of the phone on the
right side of the head;
- Laboratory studies looking at the ability of radiation from a
phone's antenna to cause functional genetic damage were definitively
positive, and were following a dose-response relationship.
also indicated that while our overall study of brain cancer occurrence
did not show a correlation with cell phone use, the vast majority of
the tumours that were studied, were well out of range of the radiation
that one would expect from a cell phone's antenna. Because of that
distance, the finding of no effect was questionable. Such
mis-classification of radiation exposure would tend to dilute any real
effect that may have been present. In addition, I reported to you that
the genetic damage studies we conducted to look at the ability of
radiation from the phones to break DNA were negative, but that the
positive finding of functional DNA damage could be more important,
perhaps indicating a problem that is not dependent on DNA breakage, and
that these inconsistencies needed to be clarified. I reported that
while none of these findings alone were evidence of a definitive health
hazard from wireless phones, the pattern of potential health effects
evidenced by different types of studies, from different laboratories,
and by different investigators raised serious questions.
my presentation, I heard by voice vote of those present, a pledge to
"do the right thing in following up these findings" and a commitment of
the necessary funds.
I took on the responsibility of doing this work for you, I pledged five
years. I was asked to continue on through the end of a sixth year, and
agreed. My tenure is now completed. My presentation to you and the CTIA
board in February was not an effort to lengthen my tenure at WTR, nor
to lengthen the tenure of WTR itself. I was simply doing my job of
letting you know what we found and what needed to be done following
from our findings. I made this expressly clear during my presentation
to you and in many subsequent conversation with members of your
industry and the media.
I sit here extremely frustrated and concerned that appropriate steps
have not been taken by the wireless industry to protect consumers
during this time of uncertainty about safety. The steps I am referring
to specifically followed from the WTR program and have been recommended
repeatedly in public and private for and by me and other experts from
around the world. As I prepare to move away from the wireless phone
issue and into a different public health direction. I am concerned that
the wireless industry is missing a valuable opportunity by dealing with
these public health concerns through politics, creating illusions that
more research over the next several years helps consumers today, and
false claims that regulatory compliance means safety. The better choice
by the wireless industry would be to implement measured steps aimed at
true consumer protection.
indications are that some segments of the industry have ignored the
scientific findings suggesting potential health effects, have
repeatedly and falsely claimed that wireless phones are safe for all
consumers including children, and have created an illusion of
responsible follow up by calling for and supporting more research. The
most important measures of consumer protection are missing: complete
and honest factual information to allow informed judgement by consumers
about assumption of risk; the direct tracking and monitoring of what
happens to consumers who use wireless phones; and, the monitoring of
changes in the technology that could impact health.
am especially concerned about what appear to be actions by a segment of
the industry to conscript the FCC, the FDA and The World Health
Organization with them in following a non-effectual course that will
likely result in a regulatory and consumer backlash.
an industry, you will have to deal with the fallout from all of your
choices, good and bad, in the long term. But short term, I would like
your help in effectuating an important public health intervention
question of wireless phone safety is unclear. Therefore, from a public
health perspective, it is critical for consumers to have the
information they need to make an informed judgement about how much of
this unknown risk they wish to assume in their use of wireless phones.
Informing consumers openly and honestly about what is known and
not-known about health risks is not liability laden - it is evidence
that your industry is being responsible, and doing all it can to assure
safe use of its products. The current popular backlash we are
witnessing in the United States today against the tobacco industry is
derived in large part from perceived dishonesty on the part of that
industry in not being forthright about health effects. I urge you to
help your industry not repeat that mistake.
we close out the business of the WTR, I would like to openly ask for
your help in distributing the summary findings we have complied of our
work. This last action is what always has been anticipated and forecast
in the WTR's research agenda. I have asked another organization with
which I am affiliated, The Health Risk Management Group (HRMG) , to
help us with this public health intervention step, and to put together
a consumer information package for widespread distribution. Because
neither WTR nor HRMG have the means to effectuate this intervention, I
am asking you to help us do the right thing.
would be happy to talk to you personally about this.
George L. Carlo Ph.D, M.S., J.D
Technology Research LLC
1711 N. Street, NW, Suite 400, Washington DC 20036-2811”
George Carlo, an epidemiologist and public health scientist who headed
a research program funded by the cellphone industry, co-authored with
journalist Martin Schram the book, Cell Phones: Invisible Hazards in the Wireless Age.
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