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It seems a bit of a no-brainer (no pun intended) to be concerned about putting a microwave transmitter right next to one's head for long periods of time.  There are known deleterious effects, cancer notwithstanding, of such exposure at higher intensities.  And I don't know of anyone arguing against caution regarding radiation leakage from microwave ovens.

Date: Sun, 10 Aug 2008 16:58:19 +1200From: [log in to unmask]: unusually good article on harm from cellphonesTo: [log in to unmask]



From: Contra Costa Times (Contra Costa, Calif.), Jul. 30, 2007[Printer-friendly version]CELL PHONES ON THE HOOK FOR HEALTH CONCERNSUnsettled research has doctors hung up on recent advisoryBy Suzanne Bohan
Cell phones are back on the hook as possible health hazards, leaving apuzzled public wondering what to make of years of flip-flopping overmedical dangers of the ubiquitous gadgets.Headlines in 2007 proclaimed that a large study from Denmark
exonerated cell phones from any connection to brain tumors -- anagging worry linked to the low-energy radio waves passing to and fromthe devices.  And previous news stories on mobile phone health studiesreported either hints of risk or, in many cases, an absence of danger.But a precaution issued last week by an academic cancer instituteadvising against heavy cell phone use triggered a fresh round of alarmand concern over the long-term effects of that electromagneticradiation, a precaution repeated worldwide by the media.The advisory included particularly strong advice for protectingchildren from cell phone radio waves, due to children's small size,rapidly growing bodies and brains, and potential for long-term
exposure.  Even cordless phones are included in the statement, sincethey also emit radio waves."Our motive is making prevention the cure for cancer," Devra Davis,director of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for EnvironmentalOncology, said in a telephone interview.She and 22 other scientists, most notably Dr. Ronald Herberman,director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, signed theprecautionary statement, which listed 10 measures for loweringexposure to electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones.During a Tuesday evening appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live," Davisadded, "We don't want to frighten people.  We want them to takeprecautions."But to many health experts, the scientists' advisory is far too lighton data and too heavy on alarm to justify the attention and concern."It's almost paranoid," said Dr. Paul Fisher, director of the BrainTumor Program at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto."It's an overly precautionary statement," Fisher continued.  "The thingthat's a little disappointing to hear from the head of a cancerinstitute is that we can't wait for the science.  It's astounding tohear that from a scientific person."But therein lies the heart of the debate -- whether concerns overemerging technologies and new products should be tempered untilscientific evidence accumulates verifying safety or harm, or whetherto adopt a precautionary approach while uncertainty abounds."I don't think we have to wait for the scientific evidence to come inbefore taking precautions that are low-cost or no-cost," said LeekaKheifets, an epidemiologist with the University of California, LosAngeles.  She previously directed electromagnetic field research at theElectric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, and headed the WorldHealth Organization's radiation studies program."I'm a big believer in informing the public, in telling them what wedo know and don't know," Kheifets continued.  "I don't think we shouldtake a protectionist attitude.  This is not for a free society."In Europe, this "precautionary principle" is more widely followed withpublic health issues, and governmental groups in the U.K., France andGermany have issued advisories to limit exposure to cell phone radiowaves.Also called electromagnetic energy or electromagnetic radiation, radiowaves are created by the movement of electrical charges through anantenna.High levels of electromagnetic radiation, such as that found in X-
rays, are strong enough to potentially damage DNA, which may triggercancer formation.  But radio waves from cell phones aren't strongenough to create that kind of cellular havoc.  So thus far, noplausible biological explanation exists for how cell phones couldcause tumor formation.But cell phone radiation can heat up tissue, potentially damaging it.And Kheifets said that it's possible that new mechanisms for cancerdevelopment from low-energy radio waves could be discovered."Just because we don't understand it doesn't mean it isn't true," shesaid.  "We didn't understand how cigarette smoke caused lung cancer fora long, long time."The chief problem with the state of research on the potential healthhazards of phone radio waves rests in the design of studies thus farconducted, Kheifets explained."All the studies have methodology problems.  They have lots oflimitations," she said.A review of the health effects of radio waves, published inEnvironmental Health Perspectives, which she co-authored, put it morebluntly: "Most of the studies suffer from severe imprecision."To date, there have been about 40 significant studies on the healtheffects of cell phones, Kheifets said.  They typically include too fewpeople to accurately catch an increase in often-rare brain cancers,for example, or they rely on memory of cell phone use years earlier,which is prone to error. Another significant flaw, Kheifets said, isthat none of the studies ran long enough to monitor the emergence oftypically slow-growing brain tumors.But the most egregious oversight, in her view, is the paucity ofresearch on cell phone use and children's health."Given the amount of youth using cell phones, a lot of things have notbeen looked at," Kheifets said.A study in the July 7 issue of Physics in Medicine and Biology,Kheifets said, reported that the brains of children under the age ofeight absorb twice as much radio waves from cell phones compared withadults.The National Cancer Institute, adopting a middle-of-the-road stance,noted in a prepared statement that while studies haven't shown aconsistent link between cell phone use and cancer, "additionalresearch is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn."The U.S. Food and Drug Administration concurred, noting that "researchhas produced conflicting results." In its "Cell Phone Facts" report,the agency added: "There is no proof, however, that wireless phonesare absolutely safe."The FDA also noted that three large studies have been published since2000 on the link between cell phone use and brain cancers -- such asglioma, meningioma or acoustic neuroma, as well as leukemia and othercancers -- and none found an association. But since the researchlasted no longer than three years, "none of the studies can answerquestions about long-term exposure," according to the FDAMuch more support for independent research on health effects of mobilephone radio waves is needed, emphasized Davis of the University ofPittsburgh."The issue is this: We have something that everybody is exposed to,"she said. "So why don't we make a more serious effort to study it?"As a start in that effort, Davis said that her colleague, Herberman,is requesting cell phone records from companies to analyze whetherlong-term users are at greater risk of health problems such as brainand neck tumors.Fisher, the brain tumor expert with Lucile Packard Children'sHospital, however, emphasized the rarity with which these kinds ofcancers typically emerge."Even if we thought there was a very, very tiny risk (with cell phoneuse), the risks are miniscule already," he said.And there are far more immediate dangers from cell phone use, he said,such as increasing the risk of injury by using them during otheractivities, or other pressing health issues to focus on, like risingobesity rates in youth.Still, given that more than 2 billion people worldwide are estimatedto use cell phones, even a tiny health hazard from electromagneticradiation could add up, said Kheifets."We're dealing with a very, very large exposure," she said. "Even a
very small effect could have a big impact."
Reach Suzanne Bohan at [log in to unmask] or (650) 348-4324.Copyright 2008 -- Contra Costa Times
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