Category Archives: Right to Know

The Story of One Women’s Quest to Save Lives

At age 56 my husband was diagnosed with a malignant and lethal brain tumor. Before his diagnosis we had no idea that some researchers had linked prolonged cell phone use with brain tumors. I couldn’t stand idly by—the world needed to know what I had discovered.

Read more.

Addicted to your cell phone? You may be harming your health

New studies by the acclaimed chief of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, psychiatrist Nora Volkow show that just 50 minutes of cell phone radiation excites the brain. This important finding strengthens the need for a major research program on cell phones and health, for revamping approaches to setting standards, and for putting warning labels on cell phones.

Writing in the February 23 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, a team of researchers led by Dr. Volkow, found that cell phone radiation significantly affected brain function and metabolism of glucose–the brain’s main fuel–in those parts of the brain that received the most cell phone radiation.

These findings raise serious health concerns
Ronald B. Herberman, M.D., chair of EHT’s Board and a renowned cancer biologist and physician, indicated that this work offers an important clue about the ways that cell phone radiation can alter the brain and also shows why it is appropriate to take special precautions with cell phones today.
“This stunning report indicates that even short-term exposure to nerve cells from cell phones can increase glucose in the brain,” said Dr. Herberman. “We know that increased glucose also occurs with infections and other inflammatory processes, and leads to the production of potentially damaging reactive oxygen radicals that can alter the ways that cells and genes work.”

According to Lloyd Morgan, Senior Science Advisor to EHT, anything that disrupts the natural metabolism of such critical areas in the brain is worrisome. “The areas of the brain that had increased glucose in the JAMA study are involved in thinking, sensing and decision making, including repression of antisocial behavior,” he explained.

Sharing Morgan’s concerns, EHT scientific advisor Richard A. Stein, M.D., Ph.D., said, “As glucose is the sole energy source in the brain under normal dietary conditions, and there is an absolute requirement for glucose during synaptic transmission in the nervous system, the results of the current study emerge as even more significant,” Dr. Stein said. “Of course, we do not know whether the changes in glucose metabolism represent the primary perturbation, or whether they occur secondarily, as a response to some other disturbance–such as the activation of heat shock pathways, which was reported to occur by several independent groups in response to non-ionizing radiation.”

Cell phones may change more than just glucose
Previous work from Prof. Dariusz Leszczynski‘s group at the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, published in 2008 in BMC Genomics, involved a human study where punch skin biopsies were taken from the forearm of 10 human volunteers who were exposed for 1 hour to cell phone radiation. Study has revealed that the expression level of 8 proteins was changed upon exposure, and 2 proteins were changed in all volunteers, suggesting that protein expression changes might occur in response to RF exposure.
Writing in the journal Nature Neuroscience last month, neurobiologists at the California Institute of Technology showed that very weak varying electric fields affect the thinking, resting or sleeping brain.
We need better cell phone standards

This new work, combined with studies carried out by Henry Lai, Allan Frey and others in the past three decades and documented in my new book, Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family (Dutton, 2010), reinforces the need for revamping our current approach to cell phone safety.
Cell phone standards assume that no biological impact of microwave radiation from cell phones can occur without a detectable change in temperature. In fact, this JAMA study used phones with a Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of less than 1 W/kg for 50 minutes and found significant increases in brain glucose–the sugar that provides the brain’s main source of energy.

The current study shows, along with other studies, that there are additional concerns related to cell phone use, besides tumors. Tumors are just the tip of the iceberg, but their development is preceded by years of other biological perturbations that have profound medical relevance–and this study confirms that significant biological changes occur after relatively brief exposures such as those that take place daily with the world’s five billion cell phones.

Repeat after me: more research is needed

Could the stimulating impact of cell phone radiation to boost brain energy explain some of the growing addiction many of us feel for our phones? That is one of the many research questions that should be addressed.

Dr. Herberman adds that the JAMA study “should stimulate many biologists to perform in-depth studies to determine the consequences of such changes in nerve cells or other bodily cells in the region of the radiation. We need to develop a better understanding of how radiofrequency radiation might contribute to increased risk for brain tumors as well as other alterations in brain functions.”
Dr. Stein echoes Dr. Herberman’s call for more research: “One thing is certain–the current study clearly reveals changes in a pathway that is essential for brain energy metabolism and synaptic transmission, and is intimately interconnected with other pathways that fulfill fundamental roles in biological systems. The Volkow study is an important contribution to public health.”
EHT is working with experts and governments in a number of U.S. cities and states, and in Finland, France, Israel and other countries around the world, to encourage a major independent research program on cell phones.

In the meantime, follow safe phone practices

While that research is being carried out, EHT encourages simple precautions to reduce microwave radiation to the brain and body, such as those recommended by EHT chair Herberman in 2008 and now endorsed by a number of governments and experts around the world. Phones should be used with headsets or speakerphones and not kept directly on the body, and children should take special care not to have direct exposures.

EHT is not alone in this. Based on the growing evidence from laboratories and epidemiologic studies, two leaders of the WHO Interphone study on cell phones have recently broken ranks and are now calling for such precautions to be taken broadly. They note the growing biological evidence that microwave radiation from phones has impacts and that epidemiologic studies find increased risks of brain cancer after a decade of heavy use.

Professors Elisabeth Cardis and Siegal Sadetzki have urged that it is prudent to reduce exposure by simple means at this time, ranging from using speakerphones and headsets to reducing call time and children’s use of phones generally.
“There are now more than 4 billion people, including children, using mobile phones,” they write. “Even a small risk at the individual level could eventually result in a considerable number of tumours and become an important public-health issue…until definitive scientific answers are available, the adoption of such precautions, particularly among young people, is advisable.”
Reports concluding that cell phones are safe are premature
A recent widely publicized piece in the journal BioElectromagnetics concluded that because the U.S. and U.K. do not currently have a brain tumor epidemic (from 1998-2007) and cell phones have been in use for a decade, therefore cell phones are safe and there is no need for precaution.

Regarding this study, Allan Frey, a well-known expert in the field of bioelectromagnetics, noted the fallacy of the argument:
“It is well established in the scientific literature that generally a cancer is not seen until 10 to 30 years after the exposure to an agent. In addition, the radio frequency-biological literature shows that cancer is not seen until at least 10 years after the exposure, which is consistent with the rest of the scientific literature.”

In criticizing this study, Frey points out, “The authors analyzed data on brain tumors gathered before most of their study population owned a cell phone. Also, most of their population did not have a cell phone for more than five years. Thus, the authors knew or should have known, that if cell phones induced or promoted brain cancer, that their study would not have shown it. Yet they did the study and concluded in their paper that their study showed that there was no need for ‘…interventions to reduce radio frequency exposure from mobile phones’ that are used today.”

To conclude that cell phones are safe misreads the science and misleads the people.

Devra Davis, PhD, MPH
Founder and President of Environmental Health Trust

Has The Fox Been Caught in the Henhouse?

The Cozy Relationship Between the FCC and the Cell Phone Industry

Cell phones emit small amounts of microwave radiation that can be harmful over the long run, and the cell phone industry would rather the public not know it.  But the story behind cell phones and health is not simple.  Recent maneuvers make it clear that the cellular industry wants to keep people in the dark about the fact that cell phones are two-way microwave radios.  This is a key part of the marketing strategy for these ubiquitous devices.

Light was shed on this confusion on June 15, 2010, when San Francisco passed the nation’s first law mandating that consumers have a right to learn from retailers the amount of radiation emitted (Specific Absorption Rate, or SAR) from cell phones.  This “Right to Know” ordinance gives consumers rapid access to data needed to make informed choices.

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), the organization that has represents the wireless communications industry responded by filing a lawsuit against San Francisco to block this legislation.

Buttons worn at the San Francisco protest featured in the New York Times

They also threatened to pull future conventions–that bring in millions– from the city.  Mayor Gavin Newsom did not back down, and told this industry the city was not for sale. People have a right to know that cell phones emit radiation.

Subsequently, the city of Burlingame, CA held discussions about its own Right to Know legislation.  City councilperson Michael Brownrigg, three of whose friends died from brain tumors, believed that their regular heavy cell phone was to blame.  With the consent of the mayor he arranged for presentations by the CTIA and the San Francisco Department of Environment to be held at a meeting on September 20, 2010.  My colleague, Senior Science Fellow Lloyd Morgan, and I, Director of Government and Public Affairs, spoke on behalf of Environmental Health Trust (EHT).

I helped educate Brownrigg prior to the meeting.  On September 19, the day before the meeting, I recalled having seen an FCC website page about “What You Can Do” to reduce cell phone radiation that said:  “Buy a wireless device with lower SAR.”  I pulled up that page on September 19 and sent it to Burlingame city attorney Guinan and the city council.  My email asked:  “How can the CTIA sue San Francisco for posting SAR when the FCC, who supposedly regulates the CTIA, tells consumers to buy a lower SAR phone?”

The next night, at the Burlingame city council meeting, CTIA Vice President Snowden gave his presentation.  At one point he stated that the email I had sent, which he admitted seeing earlier in the day, was incorrect.  YES!  Now it was incorrect because the FCC website had been shut down after he saw my email and relaunched WITHOUT the line “Buy a device with a lower SAR”.  That line had vanished!

As a former FCC chief of public affairs, Snowden appears to have had remarkably quick access to those in charge of the FCC website. Literally one day the site advised to buy a lower SAR phone, and the next day that advice had disappeared.

At the Burlingame hearing, Snowden also said, “I have not told you once, not once, that cell phones are safe. The FCC is telling you they are safe.” Snowden further stated,  “Consumers are scared of the word radiation!”

I kid you not.

Let’s connect the dots.

  • June 15, 2010:  San Francisco passes cell phone legislation.
  • July, 2010:  CTIA sues San Francisco saying consumers do not have right to see the amount of radiation emitted from each phone at point of sale.
  • Sept. 19, 2010:  I send an email to Burlingame city attorney with text that I pulled from the FCC website that day.  That text included the line, “Buy a wireless device with lower SAR.”
  • Sept. 20, 2010:  Snowden admits to seeing my email.
  • Sept. 20, 2010:  FCC website shut down.
  • Sept. 20, 2010 :  FCC website comes back up without recommending buying a lower SAR phone.

Why would such a huge industry pay attention to a small California town?

The CTIA folks know their history.  They know that California was the battleground for actions to get lead out of gasoline, to prevent asbestos from being used in schools and to ban smoking in public buildings.  All of these crusades began when citizens and workers banded together to say “Enough!”

Further revisions were made to the FCC website that also played into the hands of the CTIA  lawsuit against San Francisco’s Right to Know legislation–in an attempt to  discourage other cities from considering legislation.

What’s going on here? How is it possible that a multi-trillion dollar global industry has the capacity to alter a government website overnight? These changes in the website are not merely inside baseball. What’s happened here will have serious consequences for cell phone users.

I should know;  for years, my husband has been battling brain cancer.  Glued to his cell phone as a real estate broker and agent, neither Alan nor I ever dreamed that the device that made his work so successful would eventually kill him.  Many people, many younger than my husband, have attributed brain cancer to their cell phone use.  Sadly some died as early as age 25.  We are now finding that other cancers are developing in other areas of the body—like a rare cancer of the cheek that Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys developed right under the area where his cell phone was held.

Who is responsible for the growing numbers of young people with rare tumors?  It is not just bad luck that my husband got a brain tumor on the same side of his head where he held phones for 20 years.  I’ve heard the same story from so many people, it’s hard to keep track of all of them.

Cell phones are ubiquitous and can be lifesavers, but we need to get smart about how we use them and understand that other nations are ahead of us.  Check out what Israel and other countries advise. Find out why the French government passed a law banning cell phones from children and requiring that all phones be sold with headsets. Find out why Israel, a nation that relies on microwaves and radar, has issued a number of warnings about safer use of phones.

The truth will come out, hopefully sooner than later.  And when it does, this will be shown to be the largest cover-up in history.  Walls, Snowden, Keegan, Ory and other CTIA staffers have run from Maine to California misleading the public with assurances of safety that ignore the fact that some governments have issued warnings, and bullying governments large and small with threats of lawsuits.

Andrea Boland, a courageous Maine legislator, attempted to legislate for warning labels on cell phones in March 2010.  The industry threatened Maine’s governor with a lawsuit, and the bill was defeated.  At a hearing on this bill, Larry Brown, the son of the 50-year-old Fresno state football coach Dan Brown who died from brain cancer attributed to his thousands of hours of cell phone use, held up his iPhone manual and asked the Maine legislators why it stated in tiny print that the device should not be held to the body. That was and still is a very good question.

The senator in charge turned to Snowden and asked him.  Snowden scratched his head and said, “I have not seen that document, I do not know and I will have to get back to you on that.”  At the Burlingame hearings some six months later, I asked why Snowden still had no answer.

Snowden told the Burlingame city council that he did get back to the Maine legislators.  However, on September 21, Boland asked the members of the Health and Human Services committee of the Maine Legislature whether they had ever heard from the CTIA,  and was informed that no one ever did hear back from Snowden.

After the Burlingame meeting, Snowden angrily accused me of defamation.  He stood uncomfortably close in a threatening posture and made it clear he was not happy with my repeating the question that he had yet to answer. Why do all smart phones come with fine print warnings labels?

How dare he speak to me in that manner!  My husband will die because no one ever told him not to use his phone close to his head or body. Snowden refuses to answer the question, and he is angry with me?  I will wear his anger as a badge of honor. The truth about all this will come out someday. But in the meantime, we must stop the madness of spreading use of this technology and minimizing public access to information about its hidden dangers.

How many more people must be stricken like my husband or die early death like Dan Brown? Sadly, the body count is growing.  It’s time for Mr. Snowden to stop bullying me and city governments and start answering some important questions.  

If the CTIA is selling products that they do not believe to be safe, then who is responsible for our safety?

It is too late for Alan, me and our children.  But it may not be too late for billions around the world today.  The public has a right to know that cell phones are small two-way microwave radios.

Please help me get the word out about this.  Help us at Environmental Health Trust promote our programs of public education, research, and legislation on this issue.  Our website is full of downloadable information that you can share with young parents who are often unaware that cell phones should not be used near infants and toddlers and never be  held with their antennas close to a pregnant woman’s abdomen.

We do not have all the answers.  But we know to take simple steps to prevent cell phone-related cancer.  Our goal is stop the suffering.  Please err on the side of safety and don’t hold your cell phone to your head or keep it on your body while on.  Please protect your children.  And please look at our website now, where you can find the original FCC position of SAR and the current one, as well as fine-print warnings that come with all phones and simple clear advice about lowering your risks.  The new Blackberry states that one should keep the device at least .98 inches from the lower abdomen of a teenager.  I think that is problematic.  Don’t you agree?

At this time of year, we become numb to all the requests for help.  But take a minute.  Think about what you know now about what we are still going through with tobacco, and help us at EHT reach out to cities, schools and health professionals worldwide.

We need donations to help us help you, your children and your grandchildren.  Please give to the Environmental Health Trust today to help us save lives.  Seventy-five percent of children age 7 use a cell phone in the US.  Yes, children text, but they also sleep with their phones on, positioned near their heads.  Just like secondhand smoke, there is secondhand radiation.  Please make this donation a priority.

We at EHT do not advocate abandoning this technology.  We demand the “Right to Know”.

THANK YOU.

Ellen Marks
Director of Government and Public Affairs
Environmental Health Trust