I woke up this morning to a remarkable front page story on Yahoo.com, featuring Dr. David Carpenter, former Dean of Public Health at Albany and Cindy Sage, electromagnetic(EMF) health expert, co-editors of the major report on EMF, www.bioinitiative.com NEW HEALTH WORRIES ABOUT MOBILE DEVICES Can Cause DNA Damage Quoting each of them at some length, the story noted the growing evidence that cellphone radiation from smartphones can cause irreparable genetic damage, even though it is non-ionizing. The absence of a brain cancer epidemic from phones today is hardly proof that phones are safe, the article explained. After the atomic bombings ended World War Two, no detectable increase in brain cancer occurred until forty years later. By 8:30, the story was gone. Perhaps I’d been dreaming?
The reluctance to acknowledge that this handy essential device should be used cautiously was something I once shared with much of the world. I wrote my book Disconnect–the truth about cell phone radiation–only after a painstaking review of other national actions revealed the case for precaution. The only indication I have that this YAHOO story was not a dream is this screenshot of its front page from early this morning.
What happened? I guess that’s for Yahoo to know and the rest of us to wonder. The story cannot be found anywhere on its site.
Something similar occurred with TIME magazine, where the online edition of October 26, 2010, featured
this story entitled “Pocket Watch” by Michael Scherer which as of the writing of this blog, December 3, 2010, 6:00 P.M. included this opening section http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2027523,00.html:
“We are a nation grown numb to the seemingly endless fine print that accompanies our purchases. But every now and then a product is sold with a warning that should command attention. Consider the little-noticed bit of legalese that comes in the safety manual for Apple’s iPhone 4: “When using iPhone near your body for voice calls or for wireless data transmission over a cellular network, keep iPhone at least 15 mm (5/8 inch) away from the body, and only use carrying cases, belt clips, or holders that do not have metal parts and that maintain at least 15 mm (5/8 inch) separation between iPhone and the body,” the warning reads.
Similar warnings against carrying cellular and smart phones in a closely sewn pocket show up throughout the industry. The safety manual for Research in Motion’s BlackBerry 9000 phone tells users that they may violate Federal Communications Commission (FCC) guidelines for radio-frequency energy exposure by carrying the phone outside a holster and within 0.98 inches (2.5 cm) of their body. The safety manual of the Motorola W180 phone tells users to always keep the active device one full inch away from their body, if not using a company-approved “clip, holder, holster, case or body harness.”
“Skeptics of the safety of cellular phones have seized upon these warnings as evidence that the ubiquitous devices may be exposing Americans to far more radiation than regulators measure. “Nobody is watching,” says Devra Davis, the author of a new book called Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family. “Is the law broken if something is so complicated that nobody notices?”
“The answer, like the fine-print warnings themselves, is complicated, and likely has as much to do with corporate concerns over legal compliance as it does with health, given the current body of scientific knowledge. “The companies want to legally protect themselves,” says Robert Cleveland Jr., a former FCC official who worked on setting the current cellular-phone radio-frequency standard.”
“The warnings stem from an odd quirk in federal testing procedures designed to ensure the safety of cellular phones. In 2001, the FCC released a set of guidelines for manufacturers that required all cell phones sold in the U.S. to emit a specific absorption rate (SAR) of not more than 1.6 watts of radio-frequency energy per kilogram of body tissue, a standard deemed safe given the state of scientific knowledge about thermal harm from radio-frequency waves. The standard was considered a so-called worst-case scenario, accounting for the energy emitted when the phone was transmitting at full power all of its various signals — such as Bluetooth, wi-fi and cellular.”
“But the FCC testing regulations notably chose not to simulate a situation in which the phone was broadcasting at full power while inside a shirt or pants pocket flush against the body, an odd oversight given the known habits of many cellular-phone users. As a matter of physics, radio-frequency energy generally increases sharply as distance is reduced. “The exposure is definitely related to distance,” says Cleveland.”
“According to the 2001 FCC guidelines, testing of the device in a “body-worn” configuration should be done with the device in a belt clip or holster. If a belt clip or holster was not supplied with the phone, the FCC told testers to assume a separation distance of between 0.59 inches and 0.98 inches (1.5 cm to 2.5 cm) from the body during a test.”
“Clearly if it’s tested in a holster, it’s only guaranteed to be compliant if it’s used with a holster,” says one current FCC official familiar with these issues, who asked not to be identified by name. “Clearly a lot of people weren’t aware of this, and it probably does need to be addressed.”
But the printed edition of this same headlined story by the same author that appeared part in the print edition November 15, 2010, took a very different tack in its opening.
“FIRST, AN ADMISSION: I didn’t read the safety manual after I bought my Blackberry Bold 900. I was too dazzled by the device–my first 3G, afterall–to be distracted by legalese. The phone promised easy Web browsing and cameloaded with Texas hold’em games. And so, like millions of other cell-phone users, I carried it in my pants pocket all day long, everyday. After more than a year, I finally got around to reading the manual. That’s when I found out that I had been in violation of not only BlackBerry’s safety warnings but also my desire for self-preservation.
“When you carry the BlackBerry device on your body, use only accessories equipped with an integrated belt clip,” the manual stated on page 17. If not using a belt clip, the warning continued, “Keep the BlackBerry device at least 0.98 inches (25 mm) from your body” when sending or receiving data, in order to “maintain compliance” with the radiofrequency radiation standards set by the FCC.
Similar directives against carrying phones in body hugging pockets are common throughout the industry. Apples iPhone4 manual tells users to keep the phone “at least 15 mm (5/8 inch) away from the body.” Motorola cautions that an active W180 should be a full inch (25mm) from the user’s skin–unless it’s paired with a company-approved “clip, holder, holster, case, or body harnass.”
“Skeptics of cell-phone safety have seized on these warnings as evidence that the ubiquitous devices may be exposing Americans to far more radiation than regulators measure. And sure enough, it turns out these provision stem from an odd quirk in federal testing procedures. For some reason. . . .”
Of course, there could be many reasons for these editorial changes. Any writer worth her salt can tell you that editing is the bane of our lives. I remember one famed literateuse confessing that when she got her editor’s final comments on a book, she dared not look at them. She would put them into a drawer, waiting a week for the courage and the right vintage to be able to open them. Perhaps TIME has especially stringent editing of its print edition,compared to online. We may never know.
But, we can be glad that despite what may or may not have happened with YAHOO and TIME, the story is getting out. The New York Times Business section piece by Professor Randall Stross on Sunday was the most emailed story of the week:
Should You Be Snuggling With Your Cellphone?
By RANDALL STROSS
Published: November 13, 2010
WARNING: Holding a cellphone against your ear may be hazardous to your health. So may stuffing it in a pocket against your body.
One of the earliest stories on the subject was that of the award-winning, take-no-prisoners science reporter, Sharon Begley formerly with the Wall Street Journal, now with Newsweek. This serious piece by a serious journalist never made it into print at all. It appeared only online right under a large banner ad for a new 4G smartphone.
The First Amendment provides for freedom of the press, but when traditional media are under attack and commercially sponsored “media” are ascending press freedom cannot be taken for granted. Knocking stories off pages and even off line has become a contact sport. In a day when telecom related firms provide much of the advertising revenue and political contributions to both parties, the modern variant of the golden rule applies. He who has the gold rules.
Dr. Devra Lee Davis, PhD, MPH
Founder of Environmental Health Trust