Cell Study: Hazards Are Real
by Chris Oakes
LONG BEACH, California -- The cellular phone industry probably didn't pay researchers US$27 million dollars hoping they'd produce bad news about the health effects of cell phones.
Nonetheless, an industry-funded study has done just that.
"These data are the first data that are directly relevant to the human-exposure situation," said Dr. George Carlo, chairman of Wireless Technology Research, or WTR. "Prior to this, the studies were largely speculative."
A set of results from a variety of studies were presented at a WTR-sponsored colloquium Saturday and Sunday. The latest findings suggest a correlation between cell phone emissions and a slightly higher incidence of human brain tumors, cell growth in human blood micronuclei, and DNA breakage in rats.
While the findings are far from conclusive, they are the first from an organization like the industry-supported Wireless Technology Research.
"You would come to the [possible] conclusion that RF [radio frequencies] causes genetic damage," Carlo said. "That is a huge surprise."
The findings represent a need for coordinated public health action while there is more investigation into the hazards, he added. "When you have 200 million people who are being exposed to cell phones, you can't wait around for the slow scientific process to work."
Some of the conclusions are roughly parallel to studies that have found DNA breakage caused by microwave emissions, which are near cell phones on the radio frequency spectrum.
Another group of researchers funded by the industry organization suggested that a cell phone's "non-ionizing" radiation could cause the growth of cells in the micronuclei of human blood samples.
Washington-based Wireless Technology Research was established in 1993 to address the public health risks from wireless communication technologies. The organization is also creating a scientific database for use in making public health decisions related to cell phone manufacturing and use. Its US$27 million budget comes from the cellular phone industry.
Paul Joseph Morrissey, the head of Motorola's biological research program, sought to downplay the findings.
"We saw both effects and no effects, and we need to replicate [the studies] to assess the results," said Morrissey. The findings were just a few among a far greater number of studies showing negative results -- or no effects -- when examining the effects of cell phone radiation on everything from rats' brains to in vitro human tissue.
"The results of genotoxicity studies using radio frequency exposure at nonthermal levels continue to be predominantly negative," Morrissey said during his presentation. "Any new positive genotoxic finding must be carefully and independently replicated by another laboratory before it can be considered as a genuine nonthermal effect."
The findings weren't surprising to critics and activists, who've been pointing to studies dating as far back as 1995.
DNA breaks were found in an oft-cited study conducted by University of Washington researchers Dr. Henry Lai and Dr. Narendra P. Singh. In 1994, the researchers say they tried to alert the WTR in 1994 to their experimental data showing DNA damage in live rats from microwave exposure. In March of this year, they charged in a letter published in Microwave News that these attempts were met with stonewalling and foot-dragging.
Given this history, critics charge the WTR data is too little and too late.
"You spend $25 million, and you have two reports? Where did the money go?"
He said no one knows conclusively whether or not there are negative health impacts of cell phones -- and that's the problem. "No one really expected to really know whether cell phones are safe with $25 million," he said. "But we should know a lot more."
By now the industry and government should have implemented more conclusive research and precautionary public health measures, he said.
In Switzerland, for example, the government recently approved precautionary rules for cell phone exposure. The restrictions set limits for cell phone power levels that are substantially lower than US standards.
The WTR's Carlo was among the most vocal public health advocates at the colloquium, calling for immediate steps to begin tracking and coordinating all cell phone research. Slesin called Carlo's comments ironic, but nonetheless seconded his demands.
Carlo admonished one panel, "This would be just a scientific issue -- but for the
200 million people around the world using this technology."
Cell Phones: The Risk Is Real
Wired News Report
Cell phone manufacturers have acknowledged for the first time that their products pose a health risk to users, according to a story in London's Independent. Lawyers claim that the admission will pave the way for civil suits against manufacturers, for conditions ranging from tumors, damage to the immune system, and memory loss.
The newspaper bases its story on patents filed by leading cell phone manufacturers -- including Ericsson and Alcatel - which are developing new equipment that's designed to minimize the health risks associated with using mobile phones.
"These companies deny there is any health risk, yet they are -- all the time -- applying for patents to reduce the level of [microwave] emissions," biologist Roger Coghill told the newspaper.
Hitachi, for instance, is developing an antenna that is designed to prevent "the health of the user from being injured," the report said. Other patents refer to the "safe distances" between the user and "radiating systems." Scientists have found that up to 70 percent of mobile emissions could be absorbed by the head to create "hot spots" in the brain.
A spokesman for Alcatel countered that the patent applications are a response to current and future health guidelines. "We could have chosen better wording on these patents," he said. "We take them out so we are ready to bring products to the market to comply with standards should they change. But as far as we are concerned, there is no scientific research which proves any damage could be done."
Britain's biggest personal injury law firm, Thompsons, is pursuing that country's first claims against cell phone manufacturers, the Independent said.
"The mere fact these companies are producing modifications with a reduced risk must mean there was an increased risk with the product they were marketing at the time," an attorney at the firm told the Independent.
That Cell-Phone Jolt
Wired News Report
Could your cell phone give you a coffee-like lift, making your reactions speedier?
That seems to be the conclusion of the first official study into the effect of cell phones on humans, reported on in a British science journal. But it's just another clue in the mystery surrounding cell phones.
The New Scientist poured cold water on widespread fears that cell phones could cause cancer, but said Wednesday that recent studies showed the emissions from such phones did appear to have strange effects on living tissue.
Using a headset device that mimicked the microwave emissions of analog or digital mobile phones, researchers found that people reacted quicker to words flashed on a screen when the device was on. The effect could be due to a slight warming of the brain leading to increased blood flow, or a change in protein synthesis caused by a reaction of the body's defense mechanisms, the researchers added.
More grist to the cell-phone rumor mill was provided by David de Pomerai and a group of nematode worms at Nottingham University. They found that larvae exposed to an overnight dose of microwaves wriggled less but grew five percent faster.
A Call for Public Cell Studies
by Chris Oakes
TIBURON, California -- It's time to stop squabbling about the possible health risks of wireless communication and to start doing credible public research, health advocates say.
"We are stuck in a rut," said Gordon Miller, one of the speakers at a weekend forum on the effects of microwave radiation on humans. "Fifteen years ago, we were saying the research is inconclusive, we need more research.... We're still saying that."
Pockets of researchers worldwide have been examining the health effects of "nonionizing radiation," the kind generated by signals from cell phones and wireless transmitters. But, so far, no publicly funded studies have produced definitive results.
"Research, and their regulation, are heavily influenced by 'mission agencies,'" said Miller, who is chairman of the California EMF Stakeholders' Group. "So long as that continues, people are going to doubt the research, they're going to doubt the regulations, and this controversy will go on indefinitely."
As the market for cell phones has grown in the United States, wireless providers have targeted schools and churches as sites for wireless antennae. Annual payments to churches -- attractive for their high steeples -- can reach US$100,000 per year.
Saturday's forum was held at Westminster Presbyterian Church, where plans had been made to allow the installation of a wireless transmitter in its steeple. Church member Libby Kelley approached church leaders suggesting research to demonstrate the potential health effects. Her questions prompted the church to reverse its decision, and an activist was born.
Kelley sits on the steering committee of the California Council on Wireless Technology Impacts, which sponsored the forum. She is also trying to pressure the Federal Communications Commission into researching the public health effects of wireless phones and transmitters.
Miller said that after years of alarming findings and counterfindings by the wireless industry, it's time for research that will enable government bodies to address wireless issues at the national level.
Publicly funded research and oversight are key, according to Miller, "so the researchers and their agencies can understand where the money is coming from."
Last week, England's Minister for Public Health ordered an inquiry into health effects of mobile phones. The move followed a report in Britain's New Scientist, which detailed the wide-ranging effects that cell-phone signals have on living tissue.
At Saturday's forum, researchers from the United States and New Zealand summarized current findings regarding the neurological effects of wireless communications, which have prompted worldwide initiatives supporting more research.
Neil Cherry, a biophysicist who is a member of New Zealand's parliament, said studies showed that nonionizing radiation causes everything from cancer in lab rats to neurological changes in humans.
Ideally, for Cherry, telephone users would rely on land-line communications alone.
"We [humans] are very good conductors [of cellular transmissions], so most of the cell-phone signal goes through us, and very little actually goes to the cell site," Cherry said. "That's why we should design cell phones not to radiate into us, but to radiate toward the cell site."
Forum moderator Linda Evans said it's regrettable that, unlike Europe, the United States has no system for informing consumers about the risks inherent in cell-phone use.
"The European Parliament has said we need to carry a warning label [of health risks on cell phones] because it's part of the process of informed consent," Evans said. "If you don't know the risks, that's not informed consent."
Cell Phones Get Your Blood Up
Mobile phones, an essential accessory for millions of business people and trendy techies, can significantly increase blood pressure, German researchers say.
In a letter to be published in Friday's edition of The Lancet medical journal, Dr. Stephan Braune of the University Neurology Clinic in Freiburg, Germany, said radio-frequency electromagnetic fields (EMF) emitted by the telephones pumped up the blood pressure of 10 young volunteers who took part in a study.
Braune and his team attached the phones to the right side of the volunteers' heads and switched them on by remote control at various intervals.
They measured their heart function and blood pressure while they were standing and lying down. There was no sound so the volunteers did not know when they were exposed to the EMF.
The researchers found that 35 minutes of radio-frequency EMF caused "increases in resting [blood pressure] between five and 10 mm."
The finding could have adverse effects on people suffering from high blood pressure or hypertension, an important risk factor for heart disease and stroke which are leading causes of death in most developed countries.
The researchers said the increase in blood pressure probably resulted from constriction of the arteries by the radio-frequency electromagnetic fields.
Cellular telephones have been linked to a variety of health problems ranging from fatigue, headaches, and burning skin to brain tumors, but there is still no proof that the devices pose any serious health risks.
Chip Blocks Cell-Phone Emissions
by Polly Sprenger
A new chip claiming to neutralize the effects of cell-phone radiation emissions could, if proven effective, alleviate fears of long-term health problems.
The chip, conceived by a professor at Catholic University of America, designed by Onchip Systems, and manufactured by EMX Group, entered production in April and will be available to the public in June.
"The fact that cell-phone radiation can cause neurologic effects has been studied now for some years," said inventor Theodore Litovitz, professor emeritus at the bio-electromagnetics research group at Catholic University. "You can't get a health effect, but you can show a biologic effect."
Litovitz, who began research in 1992 on the effects of electro-magnetic frequency radiation, concluded that the long-term effects of radiation could be mitigated by introducing noise to a cell phone's electromagnetic signal.
Since the brain was no longer exposed to a steady signal, Litovitz reasoned that the long-term biologic impact of the radiation would be reduced.
In 1997, Litovitz published his findings, suggesting the development of a chip that would cause an electromagnetic signal to fluctuate.
Although some experts are quick to say that there's still no conclusive evidence that electromagnetic radiation causes damage in humans, 10 years of research shows patterns of neurological disturbance.
"Right now, there's quite a lot of data to show that exposure to EMF can cause biological effects, but we still have a long way to go before we can concur that there's a health effect," said Henry Lai, a biophysics professor at the University of Washington.
Researchers have found EMF radiation damage in DNA cells, as well as evidence that radiation causes memory loss and changes the chemical makeup of the brain. But biological changes don't necessarily equate to a health risk.
The chip was originally conceived to be incorporated directly into the cell phone, but it is now being manufactured for cell-phone batteries alone. Anxious to avoid any hint of liability, phone manufacturers quickly squashed the idea that the chip be put into their phones.
"The [phone manufacturers] have been in contact with us, and their lawyers recommend that they don't do anything about this product," said Thomas Magnussen, CEO of the British-based EMX Group. "They have been selling phones for many years and they might be afraid of potential lawsuits."
Magnussen said he has been careful to point out that no one has yet proven the health risks of cell phones, and in the company's literature, they only point out the evidence of a biological effect.
Incorporating the chip into cell-phone batteries has the same effect Magnussen said. The company is producing about 10,000 batteries per month, the first of which will be available to the public by June. Mass distribution of the new batteries will begin in July. The chip will add about $37 to the price of cell-phone batteries.
The batteries will be compatible with about 80 percent of cell phones initially, but Magnussen says the company plans to service all phones eventually.
"You can take an attitude that for a few dollars you can forget about the problem and not think about potential effects."
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