Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

12 August 2016

Radiating Corruption: The Frightening Science and Politics of Cell Phone Safety

Radiation from cell phones is more easily absorbed by
children than adults.
Radiating Corruption: The Frightening Science and Politics of Cell Phone Safety
by Gary Null Ph.D, Guest Writer for Wake Up World, 1st August 2016

In an article published in the New York Times in January 2016 entitled “At C.D.C., a Debate Behind Recommendations on Cellphone Risk”, author Danny Hakim discusses the controversy surrounding the potential health risks of using cell phones. Hakim writes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines recommending “caution in cellphone use”, due to the potentially harmful effects of radiation emitted by the wireless devices on human health. Included in the guidelines was information about reducing exposure among children. Just a few weeks after the CDC’s publication, and amid rising concerns about cell phone safety, the CDC rescinded the advisory completely.

Today, the CDC website takes an ambiguous stance on the issue, stating: “Can using a cell phone cause cancer? There is no scientific evidence that provides a definite answer to that question. Some organizations recommend caution in cell phone use. More research is needed before we know if using cell phones causes health effects.” (1)

Hakim notes several agencies and individuals that have drawn stronger conclusions on the potential risks of such radiation. Among them is the International Agency for Research of Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, which listed the radio frequencies emitted by cell phones as a “possible carcinogen” in 2011.(2) Hakim identifies several countries’ health authorities, including, Finland, the United Kingdom and Israel issuing public warnings about the potential hazards of non-ionizing radiation from cell phones.

As one of the foremost organizations tasked with ensuring the health and safety of Americans, it is troubling that the CDC has failed to warn us of the potential dangers of these devices. We find that even a cursory review of the scientific literature reveals a significant body of research that points to the harmful effects of cell phone radiation.

A list of some of the most compelling evidence is provided below, which links cellphone radiation with increased rates of cancers and tumors, infertility and neurological issues, and shows that young children are most at risk of exposure.

Why then, has the CDC – an institution with more than enough resources to thoroughly investigate such issues – failed to take into account the preponderance of evidence suggesting a link between cell phone use and health problems? And how can we explain the CDC’s quick retraction of their guidelines urging the public to be cautious with cell phones 18 months ago? Surely they wouldn’t have created such guidelines unless there was a scientific basis. Right?

The CDC and FCC: Kowtowing to the Wireless Industry

An investigative report published by the watchdog group Environmental Health Trust (EHT) digs deeper into the circumstances surrounding the CDC’s retraction of their guidelines on cell phone radiation exposure. The report, based on 500 pages of internal CDC documents released through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), illuminates key information left of out the New York Times article and points to a cover-up by the CDC. Among the most startling revelations detailed is that immediately after publishing the new guidelines in June 2014 the CDC hired Kenneth Foster as a consultant to assist in the creation of future materials related to “non ionizing radiation matters”. (3) Foster has an established record of conducting research funded by the private wireless industry and has authored a number of studies with results that contradict the notion that children are more susceptible to cell phone radiation than adults.(4)

One such study published by Foster was recently scrutinized by EHT Senior Medical Advisor Robert Morris, MD PhD, and his peers in the journal IEEE. In the paper, the authors highlight the dubious and unscientific methodology used by Foster and his colleague in drawing their conclusions about children absorbing cell phone waves, pointing out “what appears to be a deliberate distortion of the science and a boldfaced effort to downplay potential risks to children using mobile devices.” (5) In addition, the CDC’s internal communications reveal that the agency considered including in their guidelines information about the potential hazards of cell phone towers located near schools, but chose to omit that information.(6)

By all indications, CDC officials aren’t immune to the influence of the cell phone industry, even when the health of Americans is at stake. The role of special interests in shaping government policy on wireless devices seems to extend beyond the CDC. An exposé by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released in 2013 documented a disturbingly similar case of federal regulatory agencies buckling under pressure from private industry.

The controversy began after the FCC, presumably in response to research demonstrating the dangers of cell phone radio waves, updated their website in November of 2009 to recommend that people “buy a wireless device with lower SAR”, referring to cell phones which emit less radiation.(7) Upon Reviewing FCC documents secured through FOIA, the EWG team discovered that over the next nine months, three meetings were held between FCC staff and wireless companies such as Nokia, AT&T and Motorola as well as Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), which lobbies on behalf of cell phone giants including Verizon, Sprint, TMobile and Cricket. The topic of discussion at the meetings revolved around the issue of Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), a measurement of how much radiation the body absorbs from wireless devices. (8)

In September 2010, less than a year after the cautionary advice was first posted on the FCC website, the agency revised its language and adopted a dramatically different position on the issue. The revised text stated that:
  • Accordingly, some parties recommend taking measures to further reduce exposure to [radiofrequency] energy. The FCC does not endorse the need for these practices.
  • Some parties recommend that you consider the reported SAR value of wireless devices. However, comparing the SAR of different devices may be misleading. (9)

Once again it appears that our bureaucratic institutions prefer to submit to the whims of corporate lobbyists rather than protect citizens from scientifically-established health hazards. A closer examination of the FCC turns up further evidence of a revolving door between the organization and the telecommunications industry. A prime example of the conflicts of interest within the organization can be found in the current president and CEO of the aforementioned cell phone industry trade group CTIA, Meredith Attwell Baker. Baker served as a commissioner for the FCC from 2009-2011 and before that worked as the CTIA’s director of congressional affairs from 1998-2000. Remarkably, while acting as FCC commissioner in January 2011, Baker voted in favor of Comcast acquiring NBCUniversal, and left the agency just five months later to become Comcast-NBCUniversal’s senior vice president of government affairs.(10) Baker’s long history of hopping the fence between industry insider and government regulator raises serious questions about her loyalties.

Baker isn’t an isolated case. The current chairman heading the FCC, Tom Wheeler, previously worked as the president of the influential lobby group known as National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and served as the CEO of CTIA for more than a decade. And in a stunning role reversal, former FCC chairman Michael Powell is now President and CEO of NCTA.

A Global Push for Cell Phone Safety

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