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A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

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2010 Articles

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December 21, 2010

It's only a short letter buried in the back pages of a journal, but it could change the entire cell phone–cancer controversy.

A group at Hebrew University in Jerusalem has reported a sharp increase in the incidence of parotid gland tumors in Israel over the last 30 years. Rakefet Czerninski, Avi Zini and Harold Sgan-Cohen found that these tumors have quadrupled since 1970, "with the steepest increase" after 2001 (see plot below). Their letter appears in the January 2011 issue of Epidemiology; it's a free download. They are with the Hadassah School of Dental Medicine at the university.

December 15, 2010

John Snow is known as the father of modern epidemiology, best remembered for helping end the 1854 cholera epidemic in London. At the time no one yet knew that cholera is caused by bacteria, but Snow had long suspected that it was transmitted by food or water. In the hard-hit neighborhood of Soho where hundreds had died, Snow mapped the location of the homes of the victims and could see that most lived near the Broad Street water pump (see image below). Snow was able to persuade local officials to remove the handle of the pump and soon the epidemic subsided.

December 1, 2010

The acoustic neuroma story is becoming quite compelling.

Researchers in Tokyo have reported that they too found more of these tumors of the acoustic nerve among long-term cell phone users —the third group to see this link. Those who used cell phones for more than 20 minutes a day for at least five years had three times more acoustic neuromas than expected. The Japanese team also saw a strong suggestion of a dose-response relationship: The longer people used cell phones —both in terms of minutes of daily calls and years of use— the greater their risk.

October 20, 2010

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public," H.L. Mencken, the American journalist, famously said years ago. And so it continues today, not only in the U.S. but most everywhere else. The continuing EMF controversy, stimulated by three new books —Sam Milham's Dirty Electricity, Devra Davis's Disconnect and Ann Gittleman's Zapped, — has fueled the demand for quick fixes. (None of these authors recommends them.) Just about every day, someone contacts us, pitching a new product or, on the consumer side, asking if they do any good.

October 1, 2010

We just learned that David Eisen, the former Director of Research and Information at the Newspaper Guild, died on September 16 at the age of 85. (A notice appeared in today's New York Times.) We got to know Dave Eisen back in the early 1980s when we were reporting on the possible health risks associated with video display terminals (VDTs), cathode ray tube (CRT) displays for computers. (From 1984 to 1995, Microwave News also published VDT News.) We'll let the obituary that ran in Maine's Kennebec Journal recount his life story, but we wish to salute him here.

September 28, 2010

Who offers better scientific advice: Lady Gaga or Scientific American ? Okay, it's a trick question. Sometimes Lady Gaga does make more sense.

Two items crossed our desk this morning. A dispatch from Next-Up, the European EM activist group, under the title "Lady Gaga Says No to Radiation from Mobile Phones." That in turn was based on an August 31 story in the U.K. Sun newspaper —admittedly not one of the most reliable sources of news, but then again this is not a complicated story. "Mobiles Send You Gaga," warned the headline (don't miss the Sun's accompanying photo of Lady G. in her retro phone hat). Citing a "source close to the star," the Sun reported: "Even though there's no firm evidence, it's really freaked her out. One of her team has to hold the phone so it isn't too close to her head. She then listens on the phone loudspeaker." That's one way to practice precaution, at least for those lucky enough to have an assistant always at the ready.

June 30, 2010

Users of cell phones have another reason to be cautious. An Austrian team has found that the risk of developing tinnitus, a ringing in the ears, doubled after four years. This is one of the first epidemiological studies to investigate the long-term effects of mobile phones on hearing.

Hans-Peter Hutter of the Institute of Environmental Health at the Medical University of Vienna, and coworkers report that the observed association is "unlikely" to be spurious and could have important implications for public health. Their new epidemiological study, based on 100 cases and 100 controls, will appear in an upcoming issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

June 9, 2010

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has recruited Joachim Schüz to lead its Section on Environment. Among his duties in Lyon, Schüz will supervise the still-unfinished work of theInterphone project. He will also play an advisory role in next year's IARC review of the possible cancer risks associated with RF radiation. Schüz, who begins at the agency on August 2, will report to Christopher Wild, the director of IARC.

May 17, 2010

An essential part of the Interphone story is Appendix 2. Although not included in the paper, it offers a way to look at the risks free of some of the bias that so muddled the published results. It also provides a window on the controversy that deadlocked the Interphone group for four years.

There is a general consensus that the large number of abnormally low risks observed in Interphone is a sign of a systematic problem —selection bias— in the way that the study was carried out. As the Interphone group acknowledges, it is "unlikely" that cell phones could immediately provide protection against brain tumors (see main Interphone Story).

May 17, 2010

The Paper — E. Cardis et al. (The Interphone Study Group), "Brain Tumour Risk in Relation to Mobile Telephone Use: Results of the Interphone International Case-Control Study," International Journal of Epidemiology, 2010 (open access)
Supplementary DataAppendix 1 and Appendix 2 (open access)
Commentary— R. Sarraci & J. Samet, "Call Me on My Mobile Phone … Or Better Not? — A Look at the Interphone Study Results," International Journal of Epidemiology, 2010 (open access)
Press Releases:
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) — "Interphone Study Reports on Mobile Phone Use and Brain Cancer Risk"  May 17
International Union Against Cancer (UICC) — "Interphone Study Reports on Mobile Phone Use and Brain Cancer Risk" undated
Audio of Press Conference, held at WHO Headquarters, Geneva,  May 17

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