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Evidence linking head tumour risk from
mobile phones is taken very seriously by the European Environment Agency (EEA).
The evidence has grown progressively stronger since 2007 and 2009, when EEA
issued successive “early warnings” based on the precautionary principle.
reviews of the evidence concluded that those with longer than 10 years of
exposure are 1.5 to 2.0 times as likely to have head cancer, particularly on
the side of the head where the phone is most used. And the risk is much greater
for the young - under 20 - where there is a 5-fold risk.
McGlade, Director, and David Gee, Senior Adviser on science, policy and
emerging issues of EEA, made a joint statement to the European Council Hearing
on EMF on 25 February 2011 .
They reiterated the
2009 EEA warning that the evidence, though “still very limited, and much
contested”, was nevertheless strong enough (even then), on the basis of the
precautionary principle, to justify taking all reasonable measure to reduce
exposure to EMF, especially to radio frequencies from mobile phones, and
particularly, the exposures to children and young adults. These measures would
include stopping the use of mobile phone by placing it next to the brain, which
can be achieved by texting, using hands free sets, and adopting phones with an
improved design that could generate less radiation and make it convenient to
use hands free sets.
called for a reconsideration of the scientific basis for the present EMF
exposure standards, which have serious limitations such as reliance on the
“contested thermal effects paradigm” and other simplistic assumptions. It
recommended effective labelling and warnings about potential risks for mobile
phone users. Across the European Union, 80 percent of citizens do not feel they
are informed; and 65 percent say they are not satisfied with the information
they receive. The agency also suggested that funds needed to finance and
organise the “urgently needed research into the health effects of phones and
associated masts”. Such funds could include grants from industry, and possibly,
a small levy on the purchase and or use of mobile phones, like the one US pioneered in the rubber industry for research on rubber in the 1970s when lung and
stomach cancer was emerging as a problem.
serious and largely irreversible nature of the brain tumour risk from mobile
phones, it would be appropriate to take action on relatively weak evidence for
an effect.” McGlade and Gee stated.
As a result
of their 2009 submission and widespread public concern, the European Parliament
passed a resolution on EMF in 2009, which among other things, called for
lowering exposure to electromagnetic fields, and for lower exposure limits to
better protect the public from health hazards. A similar resolution was again
passed in May 2011 (see  Wireless
Phone Radiation "Possibly Carcinogenic"
Recent evidence on mobile phones and
McGlade and Gee drew attention to two
recent reviews [3, 4] of major studies that appeared to be conflicting: the
Hardell studies from Sweden that had consistently found links between head
cancers and mobile phone use, and the Interphone studies that did not. The
reviews found consistency when analysis is correctly focussed on the mostly
likely at risk group – those with longer than 10 years of exposure – where
there is a 1.5 to 2-fold risk of head cancers compared to controls, especially
on the side of the head where the phone is most used.
The second review ,
published in February 2011, is particularly significant as the lead author Elizabeth
Cardis was the Interphone study coordinator, while her co-author Siegal
Sadetzki is another Interphone study participant. They examined both the
Hardell and Interphone results and concluded that overall, the findings suggest
“the existence of possible association” between mobile phone use and head
cancers, and recommended simple and low cost measures to reduce exposures as a
precaution particularly among young people.
A new paper from Japan , not included in the review, also found an increased risk for acoustic neuromas
in the longer exposed groups.
McGlade and Gee made special
reference to non-thermal effects of EMFs monograph published by the Ramazzine
Institute  (see  Quantum
Coherent Water, Non-thermal Effect, & Homeopathy, SiS 51), which
provides a “wealth of evidence” to counteract the claim that there are no
biologically significant effects from non-thermal EMFs, these well-documented
thermal EMF effects are further grounds for heeding the early warnings and
taking the precautionary measures.
Lack of transparency in reporting
McGlade and Gee criticised the lack of
transparency in reporting controversial data in the Interphone study , a
research programme set up in 2000 to investigate the association between mobile
phone use and cancer risk, particularly brain, head or neck. It has been
coordinated by the international Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of
the World Health Organisation. The study involves research in 13 countries; Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the UK.
The study was
completed in 2006 but only finally published in 2010, the delay apparently
caused by the 13 scientists who were unable to agree on interpretations of the
results. However, these differences were not made explicit in the published
report, despite request from the EEA in 2009 to make these differences of
interpretation transparent, in order to help decision makers and the public
better understand how different scientists can come to very different
conclusions about the same data.
make things worse, media reports were contradictory. Cardis, the coordinator
of the Interphone study, thought that “overall…the results show a real effect”,
in line with report co-authors Armstrong, who thought that the results show “some
indication of a risk of gliomas”, but could not be said “with certainty” and
Sadetzki, who thought the results consistently indicate a risk that while not
“strong enough for a causal interpretation,..are sufficient to support
precautionary policies.” However, co-author, Feychting was reported saying:
“the use of mobile phones for over ten years shows no increased risk of brain
Feychting and Ahlbom, another
Interphone co-author, took part in a press conference at their institute in Sweden a day before the IARC embargo release date, which compounded the confusion. Ahlbom
has since been exposed for serious conflict of interest through links to a
lobbying company for the telecoms industry .
Lack of independent research
If the public and environment are to be
adequately protected from hazards of new technologies, there needs to be
sufficient independent research into potential risks early enough for
preventing them, McGlade and Gee stated. “We are concerned that over the last
three decades there have been large reductions in independently funded
scientific research on environmental and related health risks compared to
privately funded research on developing the new technologies.
Here they widened their
criticism to other areas. For example, £220 m was spend on applications of
nanotechnologies by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
compared with less than £2m on the potential environment, health and
safety hazards of nanotechnology. They also drew attention to some areas such
as EMFs and GMOs (genetically modified organisms), where “significant barriers
to independent research have also been created.”
“Early warning” scientists should be
Finally, McGlade and Gee said “It is
important for society, science and public health that scientists who bring
early warnings of possible later harm are encouraged, rather than harassed.” Harassment
of scientists is widespread, and include those studying climate change, GMOs
and EMFs, and “scientific associations, lawyers and politicians should consider
ways in which societies could provide greater protection for them.”
Unfortunately, the harassment
and victimization of honest scientist continue even as the WHO’s IARC was
forced into admitting EMFs associated with wireless phones are “possibly
Li Kangmin Comment left 19th June 2011 12:12:50 Dear Mae-wan:
Could you permit me to translate this article for J. of World Environment? If permitted please send Note 1 to me by email.