- Remember the Larry King Live show in 1993 on cell phones?
David Reynard was the guest. He had filed a lawsuit against NEC, a cell
phone operator, and other companies, alleging that his late wife's brain
tumor was caused in part by her use of a cell phone.
- The Reynard's lawsuit was dismissed in 1995, but Reynard's
appearance on the show created nationwide concern. At the time, there were
15 million Americans using cell phones.
- The day after the Larry King Live show, the Cellular
Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) went on the offensive. Industry
executives said that there were thousands of studies that proved that wireless
phones were safe. In fact, there were no such studies about cell phone
- But CTIA understood the basic reality of the situation,
and so it decided to spend $27 million over the next six years on health
- They hired George Carlo, figuring he would be a perfect
fit. Carlo is a public health scientist, who had a good track record as
an industry researcher. Most of his clients over the years have been industry
clients, and few have been disappointed with his work.
- In 1994, Carlo began conducting studies to determine
whether cell phones pose a health risk to consumers. Four times a year,
Carlo would trudge over from his Dupont Circle office in Washington, D.C.
to the offices of CTIA to debrief the CEOs of the major telephone and electronics
firms that make up the $40 billion a year mobile phone industry. And things
went well, until 1995.
- In 1995, Carlo found that digital phones were interfering
with cardiac pacemakers.
- "We then conducted about $2.5 million worth of research
to quantify that problem, and as a result, I had somewhat of a falling
out with the industry," Carlo told us this week. "They didn't
like that finding." The industry cut off Carlo's funding.
- But through a process of negotiation, Carlo got back
in. The industry would again fund his studies, but only if he agreed not
to research the questions of defibrillators and digital phones, and of
cell phones and automobile safety, and he could no longer work on a very
extensive program to standardize the methodology for testing whether or
not cell phones met industry-defined standards.
- Carlo said that it took him two months to decide that
he needed to continue the work, even under CTIA's conditions, and so he
- What he found may prove to be the cell phone industry's
- He found that the risk of acoustic neuroma, a benign
tumor of the auditory nerve that is well in range of the radiation coming
from a phone's antennae, was 50 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 tumor appeared to follow a dose-response
- He found that the risk of rare neuro epithelial tumors
on the outside of the brain was more than doubled, a statistically significant
increase, in cell phone users as compared to people who did not use cell
- He found that there appeared to be some correlation between
brain tumors occurring on the right side of the head and use of the phone
on the right side of the head.
- And, most troubling, he found that laboratory studies
looking at the ability of radiation from a phone's antenna to cause functional
genetic damage were definitely positive, and were following a dose-response
- Carlo said that he has repeatedly recommended that the
industry take a pro-active, public health approach on the issue, and inform
consumers of his findings. He says that he uses a cell phone, but only
with a headset.
- "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,"
Carlo wrote in a letter to top industry CEOs this month. "The most
important measures of consumer protection are missing: complete and honest
factual information to allow informed judgment 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."
- Carlo is also troubled by a recent agreement between
Elizabeth Jacobson, the person in charge of cell phone regulation at the
Food and Drug Administration, and Thomas Wheeler, executive director of
the CTIA. Under the agreement, CTIA will fund the FDA to do additional
- Carlo says that in 1994, Jacobson refused such a cooperative
research agreement, because she didn't think she could both collaborate
with the industry and regulate it. (Jacobson, through a spokesperson, denies
taking this position.)
- "This arrangement is wrong, plain and simple,"
Carlo told us. "The FDA's behavior is appalling to me. The FDA seems
to be more than willing to jump in bed with the industry. It is a blatantly
arrogant attempt to join in a relationship that is a conflict of interest
on its face. The reason it has not been criticized is that people don't
know about it. Consumers are being left out to dry."
- The FDA's Russell Owen says that the FDA has not regulated
cell phones because "we don't have sufficient evidence to determine
that there might be adverse health effects from cell phones."
- Sorry Mr. Owen, but in this instance, we agree with the
industry's guy. (That's a scary thought.)
- Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based
CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington,
D.C.-based MULTINATIONAL MONITOR. They are co-authors of "Corporate
Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits" and "the Attack on Democracy"
(Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999; http://www.corporatepredators.org)
- (c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman