From the Washington Post:
“After a weeklong meeting on the type of electromagnetic radiation found in cellphones, microwaves and radar, the expert panel said there was limited evidence cellphone use was linked to two types of brain tumors and inadequate evidence to draw conclusions for other cancers.”
This whole issue is totally gummed up by conflicts of interest. The telecoms industry has sponsored much of the research. But several weeks a go a paper out of China provided powerful epidemiologic evidence for cell phone use and parotid gland tumors. (This salivary gland is located just below and in front of the ear.) Other tumors that have been linked to cell phone use include acoustic neuroma (a common, benign tumor of the cranial nerve to the inner ear), glioblastoma multiforme (a very malignant brain tumor seen most often in older ages) and meningioma (usually benign tumors of the brain and spinal cord lining). Although benign, these tumors still require very delicate brain surgery, and may still kill the patient.
The Interphone study, a multicountry many year study of the effects of cellphones has suffered from hidden data and other issues. Louis Slesin’s well-regarded Microwave News has detailed the backstory of this very expensive project.
Another important, recently published piece of this puzzle is an NIH paper that showed exposure to radiofrequency radiation similar to that from a phone antenna significantly increased brain glucose metabolism in areas experiencing highest signal strength.
It appears the tide has turned on this contentious issue.
On May 27 the Council of Europe adopted Resolution 1815 (2011):
The potential dangers of electromagnetic fields and their effect on the environment
What to do? Luckily, there are easy fixes. Keep the phone away from your body, with an earpiece/headset or bluetooth device, since exposure is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from your tissues. (Even the package inserts tell you to keep the phone away; do you still have the information that came with your cell phone?) Use landlines (even better if they are not wireless). Or texting. Or email.
A peculiarity of US law: citizens are not allowed to reject the siting of cell phone towers on the basis of health risk for anything other than thermal effects.* Let me restate that. The law is a pre-emptive strike against the kinds of scientific research that now point to adverse effects of radiofrequency radiation (including microwaves) in addition to, and different from, the effect of heating up tissue. The law basically assumes such effects cannot exist, and prevents citizens from using such effects to fight cell tower installations.
With this law in mind, the local school superintendent recently announced that a cell tower would be placed at our high school, currently a dead zone for cell phones. If it doesn’t cook you, the US Government has made it safe, by decree.
Unlimited service may give us new freedoms, but it has its own price.
UPDATE: The August 18, 2011 NY Times carried an article from San Francisco on the paradoxical warnings required by federal regulation in areas where radiofrequency antennae are installed as cell towers, while federal law prohibits any consideration of health effects in local decisions about siting of the towers.
* 1. Federal law prohibits state and local agencies, including zoning boards, from basing tower/antenna
siting and construction permits on the harmful environmental effects of radiofrequency (RF) radiation
emissions “to the extent that facilities comply with” the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC)
regulations. [47 USC Sec. 332( c)(7)(iv)]. Courts and the FCC have interpreted this law to apply to
2. FCC RF safety standards are based on protection of humans against thermal effects from high
power levels of RF radiation. The FCC radiation limits do not protect people from adverse
biological effects of long term RF exposure or take into account the impact on children
or other especially vulnerable citizens.
3. Legal advocates argue that FCC RF safety standards do not extend to harmful effects on animals or
wildlife. Test cases to determine this are pending in the courts.