As of June 2009, there were an estimated 4.3 billion cell phone (mobile phones) users worldwide. In the United States, it is estimated that more than fifty percent of children own their own personal cell phones. A growing body of scientific evidence shows that there are significant health hazards to their use, including brain tumors; damage to DNA, an undisputed cause of cancer; blood-brain barriers (BBB) leakage (BBB protects the brain from many molecules that are toxic to the brain; and male fertility damage by cell phone use because men, especially teenagers, put their cell phones in their pockets when not in use, causing a deleterious effect on sperm count and sperm motility.
On May 6, 2010, the President’s Cancer Panel reported that “the true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated” and named cell phones and other wireless technologies as potential causes of cancer that demand further research and precaution.
On June 15, 2010, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to require retailers to post in their stores notices on the level of radiation emitted by the cell phones they offer. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said he would sign the legislation once it reaches his desk. The proposed ordinance would not ban the sale of certain cell phones, but would require retailers to provide the "specific absorption rate" - a measurement of radiation registered with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) - next to phones displayed in their shops. Consumers also would be notified about where they can get more educational materials.
On June 30, 2010, U.S. Representative Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) stated that he will introduce a bill for a federal research program on the affects of cell phone radiation on users. The bill will also call for a warning label on cell phones.
Telecommunications Act of 1996
The telecommunications industry helped write Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (Act), 47 U.S.C. § 332, Under the Act, communities have rights over the general placement, construction, and modification of cell phone towers, but cannot ban them altogether. Nor can they set zoning regulations based on "the environmental effects of radio-frequency emissions, to the extent that such facilities comply with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations concerning such emissions." It is still in dispute as to whether Section 704 covers the environmental (health) effects. It will ultimately be up to a federal court to decide whether a city or town can refuse a request to build a tower or other installation based on the health effects of radio-frequency (RF) emissions.
As of now, the FCC standards are based only on the thermal effects or the RF's ability to heat tissue, not on non-thermal effects. The FCC has neither the money, manpower nor inclination to properly monitor radiation output of tens of thousands of commercial wireless installations and admits that it does not have the ability to physical test radiation output.
A plaintiff seeking to challenge an industry member's non-thermal health hazards of a cell phone or cell phone tower faces a Catch 22 situation. All the industry member has to prove is that it complies with FCC regulations concerning thermal emissions. The FCC has no regulations concerning non-thermal emissions. As there is seemingly contradictory research on whether non-thermal emissions are hazardous to health, the courts so far have ruled for the industry.
However, an August 25, 2009 report, Cellphones and Brain Tumors: Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern. Science, Spin and the Truth Behind Interphone (Report) www.radiationresearch.org/pdfs/reasons_us.pdf, endorsed by more than 40 scientists and officials from 14 countries, found that: studies that are independent of the telecom industry consistently show there is a "significant" risk for brain tumors from cell phone use; the electronicmagnetic field (EMF) exposure limits advocated by industry and used by governments are based on a false premise that a cell phone's EMF has no biological effects except for heating; and the danger of brain tumors from cell phone use is highest in children, and the younger a child is when he/she starts using a cell phone, the higher the risk.
The Report persuasively argues that if there is any inconsistency among the research, it is between industry-funded research with flawed design study protocols and independent research. The industry-funded research tends to underestimate the risk of brain tumors from cell phone use while the independent research tends to show a significant risk of brain tumors from cell phone use. In addition, the Report points out that there are thousands of studies showing biological effects -- non-thermal effects from EMF -- at exposures far below the thermal effects authorized by FCC regulations.
The Report further points out that Dr. George Carlo, leader of the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association's (CTIA) $25 million research project found a statistically significant doubling of brain cancer risk.
In addition, independent studies conducted by Professor Lennart Hardell in Sweden found significant increased risk of brain tumors from ten or more years of cell phone use with the risk of brain cancer increasing by 5 percent; for every year of cell phone use the risk of brain cancer increases by 8 percent; after ten years or more years of digital cell phone use, there was a 280 percent increased risk of brain cancer; and for digital cell phone users who were teenagers or younger when they first started using cell phones, there was a 420 percent increased risk of cancer. This suggests that the two highest risks are ten or more years of cell phone use and the cell phone was held on the same side of the head where the tumor was diagnosed.
Finally, the telecommunications industry, on the one hand, disputes the non-thermal risk of cell phones, but yet, their user manuals warn customers to keep cell phone away from the body even when the cell phone is not in use. Are these industry members erring on the side of caution or are the warnings an implicit admission that a health hazard exists? For example, Nokia 1100 warns: "This product meets RF exposure guidelines . . . when positioned at least 1.5 cm (about 1 inch) away from the body . . . and should position the product at least 1.5 cm away from your body." Similarly, Motorola V195 GSM manual warns to keep the mobile device 2.5 cm from the body. And the BlackBerry 8300 manual warns to keep the device at least 0.98 from the body and "should not be worn or carried on the body." But how many owners read their manuals? If the warnings were meant to be read, they should be on the device itself. And if these companies were truly concerned about safety, the device could be manufactured so it cannot be used closer than the "safe" limits.
Children's Use of Cell Phones
In April 2009, the European Parliament by a vote of 559 to 22 (8 abstentions) voted for a set of changes based on the health concerns associated with EMF. Among the actions called for are a review of the scientific basis and adequacy of the EMF exposure limits, finance a wide ranging awareness campaign aimed at young people to minimize their exposure to cell phone radiation, to increase research funding, condemnation of marketing campaigns for the sale of cell phones designed solely for children, require labeling requirements on all wireless operated devices, and expressing concern that insurance companies are tending to exclude coverage for the risk of EMF liability insurance.
There have also been numerous governmental warnings about children's use of cell phones. France is about to make it illegal to market cell phones to children and recently banned cell phones in elementary schools, is requiring manufacturers to develop a new kind of cell phone for children under eight, which would allow only the receipt and sending of text messages so the cell phone would not be placed at the side of the head. Russian officials have recommended that children under the age of 18 not use cell phones at all. Similarly, the United Kingdom, Israel, Belgium, Germany, and India have discouraged the use of cell phones by children. Toronto's Department of Public Health has advised that children under eight should only use cell phones in emergencies and teenagers should limit calls to ten minutes.
The Report recommends a number of personal actions parents can take to reduce their children's exposure to cell phone radiation. Children should use a wired headset (not a wireless headset like Bluetooth), or use the speaker-phone mode, or only send text messages. The cell phone should be kept away from the body or use a belt holster designed to shield the body from cell phone radiation when not in use. Avoid cell phone use in a moving car, train, or bus, or in buildings -- particularly with steel structures -- as this will increase the power of the cell phone's radiation. Keep the cell phone off until you want to see who called. Whenever possible, use a corded land-line phone instead of a wireless phone. Do not allow children under 18 to use a cell phone except in emergencies. I do not underestimate the difficulty parents will have in enforcing this last recommendation.
Shifting the Burden of Proof
Who should have the burden of proof on the health hazards of cell phones: the industry or the individual user? Assuming for argument's sake that the scientific evidence is insufficient, inconclusive or uncertain, if there are reasonable scientific grounds for concern about the potentially dangerous effects on the environment, human, animal or plant health, the burden should shift to the industry. After all, a drug cannot be sold without proof that it is safe, nor can a food be launched without prior approval. Yet, we can use mobile telephony, including masts, and introduce WiFi and cell phones, without restrictions around our children, a double-standard gone insane.
The Report recommends the following:* Ban marketing campaigns of cell phones designed solely for children. * Require proof of liability insurance coverage for potential health risks associated with cell phones and similar wireless devices prior to their being offered for sale. * Review the scientific basis and adequacy of the EMF exposure limits. * Allocate research funding independent of industry funds and influence, to evaluate long-term effects from cell phones and other harmful effects from different sources of EMF, particularly where children are involved. * Finance a wide-ranging awareness campaigns aimed at young people to minimize their exposures to cell phone radiation. * Require warning labels on all wireless devices. * Make available maps showing exposure to high-voltage power lines, radio frequency and microwaves from telecommunications cell towers, radio repeaters, and telephone antennas.
The following is a quote from L.Lloyd Morgan, the main editor of the Report:
"Exposure to cell phone radiation is the largest human health experiment ever undertaken, without informed consent, and has over 4 billion participants enrolled. Science has shown increased risk of brain tumors from use of cellphones, as well as increased risk of eye cancer, salivary gland tumors, testicular cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and leukemia, The public must be informed."
San Francisco's proposed legislation and Rep. Kucinich's proposed bill requiring retailers to post in their stores notices on the level of radiation emitted by the cell phones they offer is a modest beginning to warn the public about a serious health problem. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Finally, I highly recommend reading the Report; it is a sobering read.