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A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

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2008 Articles

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October 20, 2008

A spate of spurious stories that were in the news last week needs to be aired and corrected. They also provide yet another reason to get the Interphone study out as soon as possible.

Le Soir, one of Belgium's leading French-language newspapers, kicked it off on the 15th. "GSM Is Carcinogenic" ran the headline at the top of its front page. The paper based its scoop on what it called the first results of the Interphone study, adapted from the latest project update, which had been posted on IARC's Web site the previous week. In fact, they were really old news. The last update, issued in February, had already included those results that point to a tumor risk —they were far from conclusive, however. As Elisabeth Cardis, the coordinator of Interphone, later confirmed to Microwave News, "There is nothing new in terms of risk in that [October] update." In two follow-on stories in its inside pages, Le Soir took a more measured tone, noting that these new "disturbing" results need to be confirmed. Cardis, now at CREAL in Barcelona, told the paper: "We must remain cautious in the interpretation of the Interphone results." Her words stand in contrast to the less than cautious warning on page one.

September 30, 2008

In many ways, last Thursday's Congressional hearing on cell phone cancer risks, called by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), brought few surprises. David Carpenter and Ronald Herberman made the case for precaution, especially for children, while National Cancer Institute's Robert Hoover countered that he is not persuaded that there's anything to worry about.

One piece of compelling news did emerge, however —though it never made it into the mainstream press: Brain cancer appears to be on the rise among young adults. Herberman testified that, on looking at government statistics, he was "struck" by the fact that the incidence of brain cancer has been increasing over the last ten years, particularly among 20-29 year-olds. If the latency for brain tumors is more than ten years and cell phone are in fact responsible for the increase, cancer rates might not peak for at least another five years, according to Herberman.

September 28, 2008

Are you confused about cell-phone tumor risks? Need a roadmap to the epidemiological studies? Want a handle on their strengths and weaknesses? Then read Michael Kundi's new review, "The Controversy About a Possible Relationship Between Mobile Phone Use and Cancer," in Environmental Health Perspectives. (EHP is an open access journal and all its papers are available for free.)

Kundi, an epidemiologist and the head of the Institute of Environmental Health at the University Medical of Vienna, is not totally convinced that there is such a link, but he is persuaded that it's looking that way. So far, Kundi finds, the epidemiological evidence points to an association of "moderate strength," similar to the one for passive smoking and lung cancer, and that there are as yet "no valid counterarguments and no strong evidence" to shake his confidence in a causal relationship.

September 26, 2008

This week's Economist features the harshest criticism of the Interphone project to date. Under the headline "Mobile Madness," the article charges that the "massive" study "has ended in chaos" —even before the final paper has been submitted for publication.

The magazine goes on to say that, because nine of the 13 participating countries have reported their findings individually, the public has been assaulted with a "farrago of misinformation." Nic Fleming, who wrote the unsigned piece, cites an anonymous source as saying that the relations among the Interphone researchers are "strained" (see our June 19 post). Indeed, except for a couple of quotes from Elisabeth Cardis, the head of Interphone, most of the story is presented without attribution.

September 23, 2008

The latest issue of the NCI Cancer Bulletin, released today, presents the National Cancer Institute's outlook on the cancer risks associated with cell phones. It is based largely on the views of NCI's Peter Inskip.

September 22, 2008

Peter Inskip, an epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute, has been added to the witness list for Thursday's Congressional hearing on "Tumors and Cell Phone Use: What the Science Says." He was invited by the Republican members of Rep. Denis Kucinich's (D-OH) subcommittee.

In a paper published in 2001, Inskip reported finding no increased risk of brain tumors or acoustic neuromas among cell phone users. Because the NCI study began in 1993 when phones were relatively new, it could not shed much light on possible long-term risks. Inskip is a member of the advisory panel for the Interphone study.

September 18, 2008

"Where is Interphone?" asked Ian Gibson, a member of the U.K. Parliament, at last week's Radiation Research Trust (RRT) conference in London. "Whose desk is it on?" No one offered an answer, not even Anders Ahlbom, a member of the Swedish Interphone group, who earlier that morning had given a talk on EMF epidemiology.

September 13, 2008

A number of mainstream newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal and the Seattle Post Intelligencer, have picked up the NIEHS–EPRI story on their Web sites (see our September 5 post). The PI's Andrew Schneider reports that some at NIEHS are "outraged" by the tie-in with EPRI.

September 5, 2008

In an unprecedented move, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the research arm of the utility industry, will sponsor a public information booklet on EMFs for a unit of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is working out an arrangement whereby EPRI would pay for the writing and printing of a new edition of the NIEHS booklet, EMFs: Questions & Answers.

September 3, 2008

Making sweeping statements about scientific knowledge is always challenging, especially when writing about an unfamiliar field of research. Take, for example, this opening sentence from an article, "Fraud Charges Cast Doubt on Claims of DNA Damage from Cell Phone Fields" by Gretchen Vogel in this week's Science magazine:

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