Cell Phones, the New Cigarettes
Elizabeth Barris, director of The Peoples Initiative Foundation, a new non profit organization, is on a mission to change the law and inform the public about the devastating health effects from EMR (electromagnetic radiation), which is emitted from cell phones and Wi-Fi.
Her most recent actions include a letter of request to Governor Schwarzenegger, First Lady Maria Shriver, Department of Health Services (CDHS), and Office of Environmental Health hazard Assessment (OEHHA) to mandate that all wireless product packaging carry a warning label, as well as the buildings, which carry the signals.
She has also submitted legislation on both the state and federal level entitled The Children’s Wireless Protection Act calling for the warning labels but also addressing Wi-Fi in schools and the need to replace this infrastructure with hard wired cable or DSL.
“The ill health effects from the current wireless infrastructure effects both the students and teachers who are forced to work in a highly charged EMR environment. A hard wired cable or DSL environment would give the same benefits of fast Internet access but without the ill health effects,” she says. Ms. Barris has also been working on an as of yet to be completed documentary film on the subject for the past two years.
“It (warnings) should be on the packaging just like cigarettes so that parents know that this product could potentially give their child a brain tumor. Anyone who uses a cell phone should be informed of these findings, but they’re not. The labels should also be on industry’s dime rather than the taxpayers,” says Barris.
Back in the 1990’s, Dr. George Carlo, former lead epidemiologist of Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), spearheaded a six-year, $25 million study on cell phones and public health. In a clip from the trailer of Barris’s documentary on the subject, Dr. Carlo asserts, “There are over 300 statistically significant findings showing an increased risk of tumors [from cell phone use]. There are about three or four statistically significant findings showing no increased risk. So it’s like 300 to four. Now how do you reconcile that with what you see in the news media? We have never had an exposure like this before. We’ve never had an exposure that’s dangerous that’s being sustained by four billion people (cell phone users worldwide). We’ve never had it in history.”
Carlo’s not alone. The recently published BioInitiative Report contains a compilation of damning studies from around the world of top oncologists, scientists, and public health experts attesting to the harmful effects of EMR.
Included in this report are findings from Dr. Lennardt Hardell, a world renowned leader in neurology from Sweden, who in 2006 authored an article published in World Journal of Surgical Oncology, stating, “In our series of studies on tumor risk associated with use of cellular or cordless telephones the consistent finding for all studied phone types was an increased risk for brain tumors, mainly acoustic neuroma and malignant brain tumors.”
In a more recent study presented at the Radiation Research Trust conference in London last year on EMR and health effects, Dr. Hardell presented an unpublished study which found a 5-fold increase in childhood brain tumors when the child begins to use the cell phone before the age of 20.
The enormous and recent increase in use of cell phones by children is of particular concern.
In 2007, there was a 46 percent increase of cell phone use in children between 8 and 12, according to Dr. Devra Davis, Healthy Child Advisory Board member, and director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh.
Carlo is also deeply concerned about cell phone use among children. “When you start talking about a child 8 or 9-year-old beginning [cell phone] use, by the time they are 18 or 19 years old, they will have used the phone for 10 years. The projections that we do have indicate that we are putting these children in unbelievable danger,” he says.
Barris’ proposed legislation addresses wireless technology in schools. “There is a great misconception that Wi-Fi in the public school system helps learning. Wi-Fi disrupts learning. Wi-Fi causes ADD and ADHD in children. Wi-Fi in schools means that these children and teachers are sitting for eight hours a day in a field of electro magnetic radiation with fields strong enough to carry the Internet.” says Barris.
Charles Graham, Ph.D., physiologist at the Midwest Research Institute in Kansas City, Mo., has conducted studies indicating that electromagnetic radiation alters hormone levels. When women were exposed to elevated levels of EMR overnight in the laboratory serum estrogen levels increased. Studies have shown that elevated estrogen levels are a risk for cancer development.
“The ratio of female to male births is already being thrown [off] (in favor of females), but will be much more extreme in the years to come from putting our children in EMF all day long and exposing their young and still developing bodies to this EMR. It is a problem we have never in the history of evolution encountered. Also, EMR is genotoxic, so any amount of exposure changes the cell and can compromise the immune system,” says Barris.
In France there are ad campaigns regarding the ill health effects of cell phones, and France has now even banned advertising cell phones to children under 12. In addition, 11 other countries including the U.K., Japan, India, Israel, and Russia have issued either public health warnings regarding children and cell phones or placed restrictions on their sales to minors and advertising to minors. Why hasn’t the United States followed suit?
Conflict of Interest?
Barris considers it peculiar that the FDA delegated the responsibility of creating safety standards for EMR to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), which regulates the telecommunications in the United States and internationally, to set standards related to acceptable levels of radio frequency (RF) exposure.
“There are two problems [with this]. The FCC is not a health organization, and is therefore not qualified to make health assessments. Second, the FCC resorted to allowing the telecom industry and its paid industry scientists to set the current standards. Would you trust the tobacco industry to tell you about the safety of their product or would you prefer the U.S. Surgeon General to do it,” asks Barris.
Another conflict of interest could be the fact that frequency bandwidth is auctioned off by the government to the telecom industry. Barris doubts the FCC would compromise its financial interests by doing anything to adversely affect the industry’s profits, thereby biting the hand that feeds it.
Additionally, the Center for Public Integrity has found that FCC officials are bribed by the telecom industry with such perks as expensive trips to Las Vegas.
Even more interesting is that in the past few years it has been brought to light that the telecom industry has been attempting to change the acceptable Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of EMR emitted from cell phones tenfold from 1.6 watts per kilogram to 16 w/Kg. This would enable wireless technology consumers to watch movies and television on their cell phones. Barris believes that this is an example of industry safety standards being based on protecting industry profits rather than human health. “Have our bodies changed so much recently that we can now absorb 10 times the amount of radiation? Or has something else changed? Like the need to sell more product,” she asks.
It should also be noted that FCC’s acceptable standards of RF exposure are based on the obsolete theory that the only risk from RF and microwave exposure is excessive heating of tissue (thermal effects).
Dr. Carlo is also deeply concerned that the cell phone industry’s history might be analogous to that of tobacco, of which he states, “The power of the industry to influence governments and even conflicts of interest within the public health community delayed action for more than a generation, with consequent loss of life and enormous extra health care costs to society.”
A constructed epidemic curve projection shows, according to Carlo, that a massive increase in cases of brain and eye cancer attributable to cell phone use will occur in the coming years. “Those numbers are unprecedented.”
“There are not enough brain surgeons in the world to address [this issue]. This is a rabbit hole that, when you go down into it, it opens up into a black hole. I’m continually shocked at what I find. It goes from unconscionable to downright criminal,” said Barris.
What Does Industry Say?
The telecommunications industry claims that the scientific findings reveal no link between cell phone use and harmful health effects and that further testing is needed. Indeed, many of industry’s scientific findings are inconclusive or find no causal relationship between RF and EMR and negative health effects. “The industry considers studies related to the adverse health effects on children and adults as a public relations problem as opposed to an actual problem that needs to be dealt with,” says Barris.
Barris expects a “tsunami” of both brain tumors and lawsuits in the very near future. “The industry’s objective is to have more studies to refute the studies which show ill-health effects from cell phones and EMR,” she says, adding that this is the strategy designed to keep the money rolling in for as long as possible and head off protective legislation.
What’s Being Done by the U.S. Government?
Congressman Dennis Kucinich of (D-Ohio) is chair of the subcommittee for the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which held a hearing regarding cell phones and cancer last September. Because of the disparate findings and interpretation of findings by scientists, concrete measures to warn people of the effects of cell phones have not been made. Barris hopes that with the election of President Obama and his approach of “preventative measures” regarding health care, these health and safety factors with cell phones and Wi-Fi will be addressed.
What’s the Solution?
With scientific studies yielding different results, coupled with an increasing usage and dependence on wireless technology, what should the public do?
Dr. David Carpenter and Cindy Sage, co-authors of a portion of BioInitiative Report (bioinitiative.org), suggest continued research is necessary, but we shouldn’t wait for the results—precautions and substantive changes should be established now. They recommend “wired alternatives to Wi-Fi be implemented, particularly in schools and libraries so that children are not subjected to elevated RF levels until more is understood about possible health impacts.
Barris suggests that parents get active in having Wi-Fi removed from schools. They can do so by calling or writing their school representatives and public officials to express their concerns. One can also sign an online petition: thepetitionsite.com/5/the-children39s-wireless-protection-act
She has the following suggestions for parents whose children use cell phones:
• Invest in a $10.00 landline and use it! Do not use cordless phones. “It’s better to have the
inconvenience of a landline than the inconvenience of a brain tumor.”
• Limit cell phone use to emergencies only, including texting.
• Don’t let them sleep with their cell phones under their pillows at night so they can text their
• Turn off all cell phones when not in use.
• Use a speakerphone whenever possible.
• Start trying to break your own habit of using a cell phone by setting a good example for your
children, and tell them why you’re doing it.
• Use a headset, preferably the old fashioned kind that wraps around the head, as opposed to
sticking a wire inside the ear if you do have to use your cell phone in an emergency situation.
• Get an “air tube headset” online, as it is currently one of the better alternatives to sticking
a hard wired signal right inside your ear
• Last but not least, INVEST IN A LANDLINE!
Carpenter and Sage add, “For emissions from wireless devices [cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and so on], there is enough evidence for increased risk of brain tumors and acoustic neuromas now to warrant intervention with respect to their use.
“Redesign of cell phones and PDAs could prevent direct head and eye exposure, for example, by designing new units so that they work only with a wired headset or on speakerphone mode,” says Carpenter and Sage.
“If industry is requesting further tests, then why don’t we have warning labels in the meantime, erring on the side of caution rather than ignorance?” asks Barris.
If you or someone you know has a story related to this subject and thinks it should be considered for the documentary Barris is currently working on, please contact her at [email protected]