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Feds to Launch $10 million for Investigation into Cell Phones
Sun Sentinel Florida, November 16,
By Nancy McVicar, Health Writer
than 10 years after the safety
of cellular telephones was called into question by the death of a
Florida woman from a brain tumor, the federal government is preparing
to launch a multimillion dollar investigation into potential
cancer-causing or toxic effects associated with the phones.
Susan Reynard, 33, of Madeira Beach died in 1992, 10 million people in
this country were using cell phones. Today 150 million Americans,
including children and teenagers, put the phones up against their heads
every day, yet no government agency vouches they are safe.
1.5 billion people using wireless phones worldwide, and more devices
such as personal computers rapidly switching to wireless technologies,
getting answers to the health questions has become crucial.
Brown, an adjunct professor in technologies at Nova Southeastern
University, said people don't realize the issue of cell phone safety
has not been settled.
industry says there's no problem and the public remains ignorant.
Adults can do what they want, but where the issue becomes critical, is
with children," Brown said.
new federal research will follow up on studies that have been going on
in 15 other countries around the world under a World Health
Organization research agenda developed since the Reynard case prompted
At least one of those studies has caused concern that children and
teens might be adversely affected.
Lief Salford, of Lund University in Sweden, who has called the
evolution of wireless phones "the largest biological experiment in the
history of the world," reported in June that cell phone radiation
damaged neurons in the brains of young rats.
study showed cells in the parts of rats' brains that control sensation,
memory and movement died after being exposed to various cell phones at
different levels of radiation for two hours.
situation of the growing brain might deserve special concern, since
biological and maturational processes are particularly vulnerable,"
cautioned that it is possible that after decades of daily use a whole
generation of users may suffer negative effects as early as middle age.
The paper was published in Environmental Health Perspectives, a U.S.
National Institutes of Health journal.
for the new federal research -- what will be studied, how the studies
will be done, what types of animals will be used, and how they will be
exposed to the radiation -- will be determined by the U.S. National
Toxicology Program, a division of the National Institute of
Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of
Health. The program will also get some guidance from the FDA and the
National Institute of Standards and Technology.
of time it takes to plan such a project and seek proposals for carrying
out the research, the work is not expected to get underway until 2005
and won't be completed for six to seven years.
Melnick, a toxicologist and director of special programs at NTP, said
at least $10 million has been earmarked for the research initiative.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has health-related
jurisdiction over the phones, but no money for research, recommended
the NTP get involved, Melnick said.
also been a fair bit of interest from the U.S. Congress about what the
U.S. government is doing and why aren't we doing more," Melnick said.
Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., both
requested the U.S. General Accounting Office investigate the issue of
cell phone safety. The GAO has produced two reports, one in 1994 and
another in 2001, both calling for more research.
phones emit radio frequency radiation as they transmit a signal that
can be picked up by a base station miles away. The radiation is called
non-ionizing and is on the same part of the radio frequency spectrum as
microwave ovens and radar. Some of the low-level radiation enters the
user's head, and the concern is that such exposures might lead to
United Kingdom and some other countries have issued cautions about cell
phone use, particularly warning parents to limit the amount of time a
child spends talking on the phones, because not enough is known about
the effects of the radiation on developing brains.
FDA and the Federal Communications Commission, agencies that both have
some jurisdiction over the phones, have a joint Web site that says:
"The available scientific evidence does not show that any health
problems are associated with using wireless phones. There is no proof,
however, that wireless phones are absolutely safe."
January 1993, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel published a story about a
lawsuit filed by David Reynard of Madeira Beach alleging that the
cellular phone he bought his wife, Susan, caused or accelerated the
growth of a brain tumor that took her life in May 1992. The story was
picked up by other media, including CNN, and worries from the public
caused wireless stocks to temporarily plummet.
The wireless industry at first said thousands of studies had proven
emissions from the phones were safe, but when asked to produce them,
said none or few had been done at cellular phone frequency levels.
FDA issued an advisory recommending that people keep their calls short
and saying "if there is a risk from these devices -- and at this point
we don't know if there is -- it is probably small."
an internal memo written in April 1993, by two scientists in the FDA's
Center for Devices and Radiological Health shows the agency was
are a few reported experiments which bear directly on the question of
cancer progression and chronic low-level exposures," said the memo
co-authored by Mays Swicord, who now works for Motorola in Plantation.
small and incomplete database strongly suggests that under at least
some circumstances these exposures do indeed accelerate the development
of cancer by some unknown mechanism," said the memo obtained this year
by Microwave News, a New York-based publication that has covered the
industry for two decades.
Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, the trade
association that represents cell phone manufacturers and service
providers, pledged in mid-1993 to pay for the necessary research to
prove the phones cause no harm.
Basile, vice president of the CTIA, said she could not provide a list
of the studies paid for with the CTIA's $25 million or their findings.
"It was completed in 1999, and there was some frustration in the fact
that a number of the studies did not get published. The projects ended
and they were never submitted for publication," Basile said.
she pointed to reviews of hundreds of studies done by scientists in
date they've found nothing to suggest there was any adverse health
effects with cellular phones," Basile said, "but some said more
research is needed before we can be definitive about this."
say the CTIA's research agenda was ill conceived.
industry] never funded the real work -- the blood-brain barrier work,
the sleep work, the DNA breaks -- the things people were concerned
about," said Louis Slesin, publisher of Microwave News.
still don't really know much. You can't say they're safe; you can't say
they're not safe, but what we've learned certainly doesn't allow us to
discount the risk, " Slesin said.
George Carlo, an epidemiologist at The George Washington University,
who was in charge of the industry's $25 million research program,
announced in 1999 at the conclusion of his contract that two studies
showed a possible cancer risk and that more research should be done.
industry agreed to pay for the follow-up studies, but that work, which
is being monitored by the FDA, is not yet complete. Carlo could not be
reached for comment.
the time of the Reynard case, many scientists dismissed any health
risks by saying the phone emissions were not strong enough to heat
tissue, and that heating was necessary to cause damage.
Ross Adey, distinguished professor of physiology at Loma Linda
University School of Medicine in Loma Linda, Calif., said that attitude
is changing, even among military researchers who are working on
non-lethal microwave weapons that could alter consciousness by
interfering with brain activity or be used to stun.
a report in 2002, they point out that old notions that we knew
everything about microwave interactions with tissue based solely on
heating is worthless, and we have to deal now with non-thermal
effects," he said. "It involves a whole new area of science," said
Adey, who has done research in the field for 40 years.
has its own communication system, and that communication system allows
cells to whisper together with a faint and private language that has
not been realized until very recently," Adey said.
Cell phone radiation may interfere with that communication, he said.
animal and test-tube studies have found no ill effects from radio
frequency radiation, but others have found evidence of breakage in DNA
strands, sleep and memory problems, brain cell death or damage, leakage
through the blood-brain barrier (nature's way of protecting brain
tissue from toxins), and other problems.
Swicord, now director of electromagnetic energy research at Motorola,
one of the world's largest manufacturers of wireless products, who
wrote the FDA memo in 1993 about possible dangers, says now there is no
reason for concern.
"In the last 10 years, the world has spent $200 million on this
research," Swicord said.
To be considered valid, scientific studies must show the same or
similar results when repeated by other researchers, and that has not
happened, he said.
Henry Lai, research professor of bioengineering at the University of
Washington, who found DNA breaks in animals exposed to RF radiation,
has done his own review of the research findings from around the world
and has a different view.
are 172 studies up to today that I can find, and quite a lot of them,
about half, found some kind of effects," Lai said.
came up with very interesting data, including a series of studies by
[Lennart] Hardell, of Sweden. He published several papers and found
depending on which side you use the phone, there tends to be a higher
rate of cancer on that side of the head," Lai said. "But some people
think it's still too soon to see any cancer effects, because usually,
brain tumors take many years."
brain tumors have a latency period of 10 to 20 years before they become
large enough to cause symptoms.
published some of his findings in the International Journal of Oncology
in February. He found a 30 percent greater risk of developing a brain
tumor among people who had used cell phones, compared with a similar
population of people who did not.
looking for an increased incidence of cancers among cell phone users in
this country found none, however. The studies were published in late
2000 and early 2001 in two prestigious medical journals, the New
England Journal of Medicine and JAMA. The researchers said, however,
that the studies did not answer questions about long-term use of the
lawsuit eventually was dismissed for lack of scientific evidence, and
many similar cases during the past decade have met the same fate. To
present scientific evidence in court requires that it be widely
accepted in the scientific community, and so far there is no consensus.
Kane, a former engineer with Motorola and author of a book called
Cellular Telephone Russian Roulette, sued his employer after developing
a brain tumor. He alleged the tumor was caused by exposures from a
prototype phone he tested. His case also was dismissed.
issue really is what happens to a cell phone user 10 years from now.
There are more than a billion people using these phones, and a fairly
strong body of literature that says there could be a problem," Kane
testing has been done that indicates biological damage than with other
products that have been removed from the marketplace," Kane said, "but
this is an economy-driven society, and the device is not going to be
taken out of the hands of the public."
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