A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

News Center: Short Takes Archive

June 9, 2011

The Interphone RF–brain tumor location paper from Elisabeth Cardis's group was posted today on the Web site of Occupational & Environmental Medicine (OEM). This is the paper that was given to the IARC RF group just in time for the meeting.

Here's the key conclusion: "Our results suggest that there may be an increase in risk of glioma in the most exposed area of the brain among long-term and heavy users of mobile phones." It goes on to caution that these results are "uncertain" and need to be replicated. The authors come from five of the 13 countries participating in the Interphone project. Another paper from seven of the Interphone countries has also just appeared —it finds no suggestion of a brain tumor risk.

OEM also released a second paper from the Cardis group today. This latter work details the factors that influence total RF dose at the location of the brain tumor. They are: the communication system and frequency band of the phone, tumor location and, of course, the amount of actual use. Interestingly, other factors that have long been thought as being important, for instance differences between urban and rural as well as between indoor and outdoor use were found to have "a relatively minor influence."

June 7, 2011

"No one should overreact to the word 'possible'," Jonathan Samet said in an interview with the New York Times on the IARC decision to label radiation from cell phones and other RF sources as "possible human carcinogens." Samet, who chaired the panel, said that the discussion among the committee members about cellphone safety was "at times contentious," but that the group eventually reached consensus on "possible." And David McCormick, who chaired the subgroup on animal studies, told WTTW, Chicago's public TV station, that his "entire" animal panel was "right on the border" of categories "2B" and "3," that is between "limited evidence"  that RF is a possible carcinogen and "insufficient evidence" to make a call. As for himself, McCormick said that he was just over the line into the limited category.

June 5, 2011

Here are some statistics on how the public sees the IARC warning that cell phone radiation may cause brain cancer. A break down of 19,000 posts on Twitter and Facebook, between May 30 and June 3, found that 22% expressed skepticism ("This is crazy and whoever believes this is crazy too."); 32% made jokes ("Cell phones cause that kind of cancer that makes you drive like a spaz."); and 46% indicated concern ("I'm getting a landline."). The analysis was cone by an outfit called Crimson Hexagon and was reported in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal.

May 29, 2011

The May 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association has three letters critical of Nora Volkow's study showing changes in glucose metabolism due to cell phone radiation, together with a reply from Volkow and associates.

One of the letters is from two well-known members of the EMF community, Chris Davis and Q. Balzano. "We believe this study is flawed, as there is no mechanism other than heating by which [cell phone RF radiation] could affect human tissue," they write. Balzano is a former senior executive at Motorola and Davis was an expert witness for the defense in the Newman
 brain tumor lawsuit (see MWN, M/A02, p.8).

May 27, 2011

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe today called on European governments to "take all reasonable measures" to reduce exposure to EMFs, especially for RF from mobile phones and particularly for children "who seem to be most at risk from head tumors." The adopted text also calls for ICNIRP to "reconsider" its exposure standards, which, it notes, have "serious limitations." The Council advises ICNIRP to follow an ALARA approach to reduce exposures. Two years ago, the European Parliament adopted its own resolution, which, among many other recommendations, called on ICNIRP and the WHO to be "more transparent."

May 27, 2011

Alasdair Philips, a founder of Powerwatch, the U.K. activist group, is calling for "urgent action" to protect children from an epidemic of brain and other tumors in 10-30 years. He says that it's now "morally irresponsible" to allow youngsters to use mobile phones. Philips's call to arms follows word that two new Interphone studies point to a significant tumor risk, as well as
his own analysis of U.K. data that show a general increase in temporal and frontal lobe tumors. A few months ago, a British group reported that they could see a rise in these tumors but then dismissed the trend as being of no importance. Philips also decries the fact that the U.K. researchers did not share their Interphone data with Elisabeth Cardis, the project leader, for the analysis of tumor location relative to a phone's radiation plume. Philips's appeal has already been translated into French by Teslabel, a partner group in Belgium.

May 26, 2011

Niels Kuster may not have realized just how right he was when he warned that the Bioelectromagnetics Society (BEMS)  was "threatened" by its "biased scientific culture." It's threatened no more. BEMS has succumbed. In an interview today following IARC's decision to classify cell phone radiation as possibly carcinogenic,  New Zealand's David Black, BEMS' president-elect  told a New Zealand reporter that he believed the question of radiation exposure risks from handsets had been settled. "There was never a good reason to think there was a problem in the first place." He said that he knows what's really going on: "There's a lot of people in academic careers whose futures depend on there being a continued problem, so there's a great deal of talking up of a continued problem." We doubt that this will help drum up interest in going to BEMS' annual meeting in a couple of weeks. We hear the early registration numbers are way down.

Sources say that Black was the hand-picked candidate of the U.S. Air Force. He beat Maren Fedrowitz of the School of Veterinary Medicine in Hannover, Germany.

June 2
For more on Black's outlook, take a look at this news clip adapted from an upcoming New Zealand doumentary, "Is Your Cell Phone Killing You?"

April 18, 2011

A system to treat brain cancer with 100-200 kHz electric fields has been approved by the FDA. The device is made by Novocure. Here is the company's press release announcing the news. And here is a link to a story about the the device, we ran in Microwave News close to four years ago.

April 15, 2011

Siddhartha Mukherjee was a guest on this morning's Today show. He reiterated his view that "as of now the evidence that moderate cell phone use has any link to cancer is very weak" (see next item). The other guest, NBC's Nancy Snyderman, the network's chief medical editor, was even more insistent. "We have, at least for now until something conclusive comes in, put this cell phone thing to rest" because, she said, "The science over and over and over again has not shown a link." Sounds clear, doesn't it.

April 14, 2011
Updated December 16, 2023

Next Sunday, the New York Times Magazine will feature a long piece titled “Do Cell Phones Cause Brain Cancer?” by Siddhartha Mukherjee (it’s already on the Times’  Web site). It’s a well-written article, as might be expected by his well-received book, Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Yet an important part of the story is missing: the politics of cell phone research, or more precisely the heavy hand of industry that controls much of what goes on and what gets done.

A few examples: Mukherjee cites, at some length, a 2005 review that concludes that a link between RF and cancer is “weak and unconvincing.” But he does not identify the actual paper or its four authors, other than calling them “experts” and noting their professional training (e.g., epidemiologist, radiation biologist, etc.).

Who are these people? Two are industry consultants who make money testifying that there are no hazards: The epidemiologist is Linda Erdreich of Exponent, an industry-friendly consulting firm. A second is John Moulder, the radiation biologist, who for many years has testified that all types of EMFs and RF radiation have no connection to cancer (see Radiation Research and The Cult of Negative Results”). A third is Ken Foster, a biomedical engineer, who has long pooh-poohed RF health risks and who argued, back in 1987, that it was time to stop microwave health research (hardly a prescient call!). The fourth is James McNamee of Health Canada.

That 2005 paper was really little more than an ad for Erdreich’s and Moulder’s services to refute claims of possible risks: Come hire us if you get into an RF jam. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of RF radiation risks would have found a more reliable source. In fact, the editors at the Times were warned about the authors’ industry connections and that the paper was out of date, but they ran with it anyway.

Another example: Mukherjee points out that the work on RF-induced DNA breaks at the Medical University of Vienna was likely to have been “fraudulent.” Here again, no mention of any specifics. The uncited paper is from Hugo Rüdiger’s lab which has been the target of a nasty smear campaign, perpetrated by industry allies. In fact, the study has been exhaustively investigated and no proof of fraud has ever come to light. 

And another: Mukherjee refers to six animal experiments that failed to show a link between chronic radiation exposure and brain cancer. Once more, no details are given, but many of these studies were part of an industry project that used equipment that put the animals under so much stress that, even if there were a cancer risk, those exposure experiments could not have detected it. The crew running the project knew about this confounding, but hushed it up (see “Wheel on Trial”).

We could go on, but the point's been made. We offer Mukherjee that good advice from Watergate’s Deep Throat, “Follow the Money.” Too bad he didn’t. If he had, he might have seen the other complexities of the cell phone cancer problem and would not have been so quick to suggest that it's time to move on to more convincing health risks.

April 15, 2011

Siddhartha Mukherjee was a guest on this morning’s Today show. He reiterated his view that “as of now the evidence that moderate cell phone use has any link to cancer is very weak.” The other guest, NBC’s Nancy Snyderman, the network's chief medical editor, was even more insistent. “We have, at least for now until something conclusive comes in, put this cell phone thing to rest” because, she said, “The science over and over and over again has not shown a link.”

Sounds clear, doesn’t it.


Mukherjee on Cancer Promotion

December 16, 2023

In this week’s New Yorker, Siddhartha Mukherjee offers a more sophisticated look at cancer agents. His article, titled “Sleeper Cells” focuses on cancer promotion.

Here’s the headline on the New Yorker’s website:

Mukherjee Headline