- October 7, 1999
- Mr. C. Michael Armstrong
- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
- AT & T Corporation
- 32 Avenue of the Americas
- New York, New York 100313-2412
- Dear Mr Armstrong:
- After much thought, I am writing this letter to you,
personally, to ask your assistance in solving what I believe is an emerging
and serious problem concerning wireless phones. I write this letter in
the interest of the more than 80 million wireless phone users in the United
States and the more than 200 million worldwide. But I also write this letter
in the interest of your industry, a critical part of our social and economic
- Since 1993, I have headed the WTR surveillance and research
program funded by the wireless industry. The goal of WTR has always been
to identify and solve any problems concerning consumers' health that could
arise from the use of these phones. This past February, at the annual convention
of the CTIA, I met with the full board of that organization to brief them
on some surprising findings from our work. I do not recall if you were
there personally, but my understanding is that all segments of the industry
- At that briefing, I explained that the well-conducted
scientific studies that WTR was overseeing indicated that the question
of wireless phone safety had become confused.
- Specifically, I reported to you that:
- The rate of death from brain cancer among handheld phone
users was higher than the rate of brain cancer death among those who used
non-handheld phones that were away from their head;
- The risk of acoustic neuroma, a benign tumour of the
auditory nerve that is well in range of the radiation coming from a phone's
antenna, was fifty percent higher in people who reported using cell phones
for six years or more, moreover, that relationship between the amount of
cell phone use and this tumour appeared to follow a dose-response curve:
- The risk of rare neuro epithelial tumours on the outside
of the brain was more than doubled, a statistically significant risk increase,
in cell phone users as compared to people who did not use cell phones;
- There appeared to be some correlation between brain tumours
occurring on the right side of the head and the use of the phone on the
right side of the head;
- Laboratory studies looking at the ability of radiation
from a phone's antenna to cause functional genetic damage were definitively
positive, and were following a dose-response relationship.
- I also indicated that while our overall study of brain
cancer occurrence did not show a correlation with cell phone use, the vast
majority of the tumours that were studied, were well out of range of the
radiation that one would expect from a cell phone's antenna. Because of
that distance, the finding of no effect was questionable. Such mis-classification
of radiation exposure would tend to dilute any real effect that may have
been present. In addition, I reported to you that the genetic damage studies
we conducted to look at the ability of radiation from the phones to break
DNA were negative, but that the positive finding of functional DNA damage
could be more important, perhaps indicating a problem that is not dependent
on DNA breakage, and that these inconsistencies needed to be clarified.
I reported that while none of these findings alone were evidence of a definitive
health hazard from wireless phones, the pattern of potential health effects
evidenced by different types of studies, from different laboratories, and
by different investigators raised serious questions.
- Following my presentation, I heard by voice vote of those
present, a pledge to "do the right thing in following up these findings"
and a commitment of the necessary funds.
- Today, I sit here extremely frustrated and concerned
that appropriate steps have not been taken by the wireless industry to
protect consumers during this time of uncertainty about safety. The steps
I am referring to specifically followed from the WTR program and have been
recommended repeatedly in public and private for and by me and other experts
from around the world. As I prepare to move away from the wireless phone
issue and into a different public health direction, I am concerned that
the wireless industry is missing a valuable opportunity by dealing with
these public health concerns through politics, creating illusions that
more research over the next several years helps consumers today, and false
claims that regulatory compliance means safety. The better choice by the
wireless industry would be to implement measured steps aimed at true consumer
- Alarmingly, indications are that some segments of the
industry have ignored the scientific findings suggesting potential health
effects, have repeatedly and falsely claimed that wireless phones are safe
for all consumers including children, and have created an illusion of responsible
follow up by calling for and supporting more research. The most important
measures of consumer protection are missing: complete and honest factual
information to allow informed judgement by consumers about assumption of
risk; the direct tracking and monitoring of what happens to consumers who
use wireless phones; and, the monitoring of changes in the technology that
could impact health.
- I am especially concerned about what appear to be actions
by a segment of the industry to conscript the FCC, the FDA and The World
Health Organization with them in following a non-effectual course that
will likely result in a regulatory and consumer backlash.
- As an industry, you will have to deal with the fallout
from all of your choices, good and bad, in the long term. But short term,
I would like your help in effectuating an important public health intervention
- The question of wireless phone safety is unclear. Therefore,
from a public health perspective, it is critical for consumers to have
the information they need to make an informed judgement about how much
of this unknown risk they wish to assume in their use of wireless phones.
Informing consumers openly and honestly about what is known and not-known
about health risks is not liability laden - it is evidence that your industry
is being responsible, and doing all it can to assure safe use of its products.
The current popular backlash we are witnessing in the United States today
against the tobacco industry is derived in large part from perceived dishonesty
on the part of that industry in not being forthright about health effects.
I urge you to help your industry not repeat that mistake.
- As we close out the business of the WTR, I would like
to openly ask for your help in distributing the summary findings we have
complied of our work. This last action is what always has been anticipated
and forecast in the WTR's research agenda. I have asked another organization
with which I am affiliated, The Health Risk Management Group (HRMG) , to
help us with this public health intervention step, and to put together
a consumer information package for widespread distribution. Because neither
WTR nor HRMG have the means to effectuate this intervention, I am asking
you to help us do the right thing.
- I would be happy to talk to you personally about this.
- Sincerely yours
- George L. Carlo Ph.D, M.S., J.D
- Wireless Technology Research LLC
- 1711 N. Street, NW, Suite 400, Washington DC 20036-2811
- (202) 785 3939 telephone (202) 785-3940 facsimile
- firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail