By Jim Turner, Chair of Citizens For Health
Today I participated in a teleconference unveiling a new report on the dangerous proximity of cell phone towers to schools. The BRAG™ Ranking report is the result of a multi-year study of school children’s potential exposure to cell phone antennas and base stations in U.S. state capitols. It assesses exposure metrics for approximately 6,000 public and private schools, and ranks them according to proximity to the nearest cell phone antenna. The report recommends that schools, school districts, municipalities and states call upon the FCC to require a 1,500 feet setback for any/all wireless infrastructure near schools. The searchable 173-page report can be viewed at www.magdahavas.com.
The substance of my talk was that if one Googles “cell phone dangers” you will find significant assertions of harm caused by cell phones. The harm alleged ranges from damage to nerves in the scalp, to brain tumors both “benign” and cancerous and include impairing the blood brain barrier, interfering with the effectiveness of pharmaceutical drugs, memory loss and mental confusion, extreme fatigue and joint pain, muscle spasms and tremors, asthma, stress on the pancreas, thyroid, ovaries, testes.
There is scientific data connecting each and all of these serious harms to cell phone use. The cell phone industry argues that none of the data is “conclusive” and most if not all of it is based on flawed science that is on poor studies or improperly analyzed studies. In 1993 faced with its first law suite alleging brain cancer from cell phone use (dismissed two years later) the cell industry trade association launched a $25 million research program. To this date data generated by this effort remains inaccessible to the public and the scientist hired to manage the project has assailed it as a sham.
FDA approved cell phones as safe, critics of the agency and cell phones allege, because they do not emit heat the way microwave ovens do. For this reason, critics allege, the agency said cell phones could not be harmful. However the low radiofrequency (RF) energy radio of cell phones has caught the attention of a number or researchers leading to studies identifying the laundry list of potential hazards created by cell phone use—especially after ten years of use and especially in children.
This record of the scientific debate is following the same trajectory as the debate about cancer and smoking. Finally, after more than one hundred years and more than 50, thousand studies connecting smoking and cancer the heath community and the nation have concluded that smoking does cause or contribute to cancer many other diseases. This is not a story that we wish to see repeated.
Citizens for Health places cell phone dangers high on its list of health concerns for three reasons:
First, claims that evidence is not “conclusive” raise a red flag. If individuals, the pubic at large and regulators wait for evidence of harm to be conclusion before taking defensive action the amount of death and disability when the connection is finally accepted as conclusive will be astronomical. It is a fact that the evidence establishing that cell phone safety is also not conclusive.
Second, when powerful economic interests such as the cell pone industry are ranged on one side of a health debate it is virtually impossible to find out what the actual health consequences of the money generating product are. Standing by mute as both industry and government under industry sway are dong launches us onto another hundred year scramble where money trumps health.
Third, the public has the right to be informed about the risks and benefits of products they buy so that they can make effective choices of safer products. The public also has the right to expect that the products they buy are safe—or at least that they are fully informed about the risk they take when buying the product and the public has the right to have its concerns treated properly, not swept aside, by industry and government.
Cell phone markers and their supposed regulators violate each of these three principles. The pubic is in the dark about the nature and degree of danger created by cell phones. The cell phone industry is powerful and has virtual control—including veto power—over research on cell phones. And the fact that data is piling up raising issues that must be dealt with seriously underscores the magnitude of the problem being swept under the rug by the cell phone industry and government.
One researcher critical of cell phone as unsafe—and dismissed by the industry as scientifically unsound–Dr. Vini Khurana, an Australian neurosurgeon says he anticipates “that this (cell phone) danger has far broader public health ramifications than asbestos and smoking”.