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01 March 2018

National Toxicology Program: Extracts from Transcript of Telephone Press Conference Given by NTP Scientist Dr. John Bucher on 2 February 2018

National Toxicology Program (NTP) Draft Conclusions for Radiofrequency Radiation Studies in Rats and Mice
Extracts from Transcript of Telephone Press Conference given by Dr. John Bucher, 2 February 2018

Maggie Fox (NBC): I’m wondering if you can characterize if there’s much new that you’ve learned since 2016. I remember the last time we asked you if you in particular had changed your cellphone use and I would like to ask you that again. Have you changed your cellphone use or what you recommend to your family based on these findings? Thanks.

John Bucher: So in finishing these studies, we have evaluated the entirety of the tissues. We have come up with a number of what we were terming equivocal findings but in general, the only positive finding that we’d really been able to have confidence in I think is the malignant schwannomas in the heart, which is what we described in the 2016 report. I think that it’s important to be able to put all of the content or all of the findings in the report in the context of understanding what happened across the entire body of animals throughout the experiment. So we’ve done that. We’re reasonably sure we understand what’s going on in these studies at this point and the reports that you can see on the web outline the full findings. That said, I think that the reports don’t go much further than what we have reported earlier and I have not changed the way I use the cellphone, no.

Ryan Knutson (Wall Street Journal):  Great. Thanks. Just quickly, just a follow up on that previous reporter’s question. Did you recommend anything for your family whether that’s change...

John Bucher: So the first question was have I recommended changes to my children? No, I have not recommended changes to my children in the way that you… 

Ryan Knutson: Changes like tell them to use the headset or anything like that or just you don’t tell them to do anything? 

John Bucher: I have not really addressed that issue with them.

Todd Shields (Bloomberg) : I’m interested in the take away for people/for humans. Do people need to be afraid of their cellphones? What should we say to the man on the street?

John Bucher: So as I indicated before, the typical cellphone has radio frequency radiation emissions that are very, very, very, very much lower than what we studied. We studied, as I indicated, the maximum that one could achieve during a call in a poor connection situation and we studied it over nine hours a day for over two years. So this is a situation obviously that people are not going to be encountering when utilizing cellphones but again, it’s a situation that allows us to express potential biological events or find potential biological events if one is going to occur. So I think that the message is that typical cellphone use is not going to be involved, is not going to be directly related to the kind of exposures that we use in these studies.

Brenda Goodman (WebMD): I know this is going to be difficult because there have been so many different studies but can you put these findings into context a little bit for us of other major cellphone studies like interphone? How do we assess all this information taken together? Are you telling us really we have to consider this as its own discrete piece of information? 

John Bucher: No, actually I’m saying that this is part of a much larger set of information that has to be considered with respect to determining risk to human health. The interphone studies and a number of other earlier epidemiology studies still have produced conflicting evidence as to whether there are increases in brain tumors as well as tumors called acoustic neuromas or vestibular schwannomas of the 8 th cranial nerve in humans using cellphones in a very heavy rate. One of the things that we found most interesting about our findings was that the malignant schwannomas, even though they occurred in the heart and not in the head of these animals, were in fact schwannomas and schwannomas are the same type of tumor that’s found on the acoustic nerve in humans in the earlier epidemiology studies. So I’m not saying that our studies should be taken only in isolation in effect. I think that as I indicated in my remarks, we need to take into consideration the entirety of the epidemiology literature. You need to take into consideration the number of animal studies that have been done in the past and they number almost 20 now - animal studies of cellphone radiation with the vast majority of them coming up negative with respect to cancer. We have, in the report, pointed out a number of the technical difficulties with some of those earlier studies that actually led us to do the study we’re reporting today because of what we felt were some technical improvements that we can make in the study designs. But again, I think that absolutely one needs to take into consideration all evidence before reaching conclusions about public health implications over a study.

Todd Shields (Bloomberg):  I’m told by a reporter who knows more about this stuff than I do to ask was the increase in malignant schwannoma in rats statistically significant? 

John Bucher: Yes, it was. By trend test in one case and pair-wise as well as trend in the other. 

Todd Shields: Okay, and if I could have a quick follow up. In the news release you say you caution against drawing/extrapolating to humans but then you also say the following, “We know however the tumors we saw on these studies are similar to tumors previously reported in some studies of frequent cellphone users.” So do they buttress these earlier reports of tumors in cellphone users and doesn't that say we should indeed draw a link to human cautions? I’m a little confused by the direction of that. 

John Bucher: The association - I mean one of the things that drew our attention to this particular tumor type was the earlier reports of schwannomas and I indicated that. There has been sort of an evolution I think in the way cellphones are used and in the technologies, I think that they’re moving more and more towards lower power exposures, lower power exposures to humans. One of the big pushes is to prevent the rapid battery decline that happens in a high power situation from cellphone. So I think the technologies are really moving us away from some of the exposures that would’ve been happening when they were moving from the 2G especially the 1G, the analog systems to the 2G/early 2G systems where there were fewer base stations or base towers and potentially higher phone powers being used at that time

Ed Friedman (Friends of Merrymeeting Bay): A few quick questions. You said that this is an unlikely exposure that these test animals have underwent. On the other hand, clearly there’s a great deal of ambient exposure that people have beyond just being glued to a cellphone. Can you relate one to the other i.e. does the period of exposure time with your test animals maybe compensate somewhat for the other exposures that people receive? ...

Michael Wyde (NTP scientist): So in answer to your first question, we’re kind of living in this wireless environment where we’re exposed to wifi and cellphone radio frequency radiation and electromagnetic fields. The way that I understand it is that the exposure from the cell towers themselves is negligible unless you’re very close or working on those particular towers. So primarily human exposure is through use of handsets that you use, the wireless communications technologies that we researched. 

Ed Friedman: Okay. Thank you. Of course people have smart meters and tablets and all these other things that are fairly close.

Michael Wyde: Right. So that’s one of the concerns and so our research, depending on what types of frequency use and modulation used, these studies would be [unintelligible] one of those technologies and again, we’re not experts on the exposure side but it’s my understanding from discussing with experts that the exposures are rather minimal from these other sources but again, these are sources of exposure and those need to be further investigated.

John Bucher: So I’d like to add to that. One of the things that you mentioned is that there are different frequencies used in different technologies and we acknowledge that. One of the things that I think will come to of these studies that’s a great advantage to us is that we, through continuing some of these molecular studies into the tissues of these animals and knowing what happens with the particular frequencies and modulations that we’ve used, we can design short term studies to be much more flexible and try to keep up with the changing technologies, by monitoring some of the molecular changes that we’ve seen in these studies, in newer studies, and hopefully we’ll be able to do something about keeping up with the rapidly advancing technologies with respect to assuring cellphone safety in the future.

Melissa Chalmers (Epic): You mentioned about the exposure in rats and mice not being typical for regular exposure people have during the day. I was just a little concerned about that just because there are many people that don't realize that they are increasing their exposures by doing things like making a cellphone call from inside a metal building or their basement or in a moving car. Then on top of that, there are a great many people who don’t know what the distances that these phones need to be from their body or their head and they don’t look in their user manual and they exceed the safety code recommendation for their phone. So I just didn’t want people going away with thinking that they’re not usually actually getting to these levels that would’ve been experienced in your study. 

John Bucher: Well, we’ve tried to indicate what those levels are so that the community can evaluate this information and put it in the context of everyday use. I think that when we started these studies, there were not great measurements in the literature of sort of the ambient exposure level and we’re hoping that we actually believe that some of that work is being done. So we’ll have more of a database on which to put these studies into context moving forward.

Melissa Chalmers: Okay. Thanks. I was just concerned because there were a couple of people from the media that had called in and were trying to get a firm answer as to whether or not it’s safe or not and how this relates to the world and most people don’t realize what they phones are doing. They’ve never measured them or done anything with them to know. So with my experience with helping people who are having problems with this technology, often nobody realizes the exposures were as high as they were until afterwards. So thank you very much.

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