A scientist, who was paid millions by mobile phone companies to investigate health risks, has bitterly criticised them for failing to act on his findings.
While the cell phone industry has assured consumers for years that cellular phones are completely safe, the industry’s former research director has now come forward to say this can no longer be presumed.
In an interview with Brian Ross on ABC NEWS 20/20 on October 20, 1999, Dr George Carlo said, “The industry had come out and said that there were thousands of studies that proved that wireless phones are safe, and the fact was that there were no studies that were directly relevant.” For the past six years, Carlo ran the cell phone industry’s $25 million research program, which has studied the effects of microwave radiation from cell phones. “We’ve moved into an area where we now have some direct evidence of possible harm from cellular phones,” Carlos says in an interview with ABC’s 20/20.
Dr George Carlos found that the rate of death from brain cancer is higher among mobile phone users and the risk of contracting a rare tumour on the outside of the brain is more than double. In an astonishing attack on the industry for which he once acted as spokesman, he accused firms of not taking safety seriously. “The companies are now spending millions trying to discredit me because, basically, they don’t like what I told them,” he revealed to The Express, “I felt angry and let down.”
His research body, which has handpicked by the industry, was given 15 million pounds to carry out a six-year study into the health effects of mobile phones. But after presenting its results to the phone companies in February, he claims they failed to take the “appropriate steps to protect consumers.” Dr Carlos, a leading public health scientist based in Washington, said: “They have shown total disregard for mobile phone users.”
In a damning letter to the heads of each of the 26 US firms that funded the research, Dr Carlos wrote to his extreme frustration and concern. His study showed that there “appeared to be some correlation between brain tumours on the right side of the head and use of phone on the right side of the head.” Laboratory studies also looked at the “ability of radiation from a phone’s antenna to cause genetic damage.” These studies proved positive.
Dr Carlo said: “Following my presentation, I heard by voice vote of those present, a pledge to do the right thing in following up these findings. But since I presented my findings, which they found surprising, they have failed to do anything. In that time there have been another 15 million users in the States and thousands more in Britain. From a consumer point of view the delaying tactic is not good but from a business point of view it’s great.” Alasdair Philips, of the consumer group Powerwatch in England, said: “To have someone like him, who has even acted as spokesman for the industry, come out and say this is quite amazing. There is a define link between mobiles and brain cancer which the companies can’t continue to ignore.”
In his letter, Dr Carlo said: “Alarmingly, indications are that some segments of the industry have ignored the scientific findings suggesting potential health effects.” He said some companies had “repeatedly and falsely claimed” that mobiles “are safe for all consumers including children.”
His findings add to concern over the safety of mobiles – used by 13 million in Britain and 80 million in the US, with the number rising daily. But a spokesman for the Britain cellular industry insisted that it was committed to addressing health concerns. Dr Carlo warned of a consumer backlash and said customers should be given all the information they need to make up their own minds about the health risks. He advised people to cut the time they spend on their mobile or hands-free phones, which do not come into direct contact with the ear.
The Federation of the Electronics Industry, which represents the UK cellular phone companies, said: “The consensus of scientific opinion is that there is no consistent evidence that mobile phones and mass (towers) operating within the guidelines have any adverse health effects.”
Earlier this year, British researchers found that mobile-type radiation created mysterious hot spots, which could damage children’s developing brains. The Government promised a rigorous investigation. Days later a study of 11,000 volunteers, the largest so far, found a link with headaches, dizziness and concentration lapses.
The $200-billion-a-year cell phone industry maintains the devices are safe. “There is a preponderance of evidence that there is not a linkage between the use of wireless phones and health effects,” says Thomas Wheeler, president of the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, the industry’s trade group. The industry has announced that it supports and will sponsor follow-up research.
What many of this country’s 80 million cell phone users may not know is that cell phones send electromagnetic waves into user’s brains. In fact, every cell phone model sold in the United States has a specific measurement of how much microwave energy from the phone can penetrate the brain. Depending on how close the cell phone antenna is to the head, as much as 60 percent of the microwave radiation is absorbed by and actually penetrates the area around the head, some reaching an inch to an inch-and-a-half into the brain. “This is the first generation that has put relatively high-powered transmitters against the head, day after day,” says Dr Ross Adey, who has worked for industry and government for decades studying microwave radiation and is one of the most respected scientists in the field.
Tests conducted by 20/20 found that some of the country’s most popular cell phones can – depending on how they’re held – exceed that radiation limit. 20/20 reported that government testing guidelines are so vague that a phone can pass the FCC’s requirements when tested in one position and exceed those maximum levels when held in another position. Along with the test results, the 20/20 story showed how users can significantly reduce their exposure by using hands-free phones which do not directly contact the ear.
“Cell Phones Connected to Cancer” is reprinted with permission from Options, The Newsletter of People Against Cancer, P.O. Box 10, Otho, Iowa 50569.