Environmental Health Trust

How the NY Times and CNN Bungled a Basic Cell Phone Safety Story

Consumers have the Right to Know about Tested Distances for Cell Phones Says Environmental Health Trust


Teton Village, WY -- (SBWIRE) -- 07/30/2015 -- Next month, citizens of Berkeley will see warning labels at point-of-sales at their mobile phone retailers. Under the Right to Know ordinance—passed unanimously in May, 2015 by the Berkeley City Council—retailers must notify customers via a sign or handout that "consumers may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure" to radio frequency radiation by carrying a cellphone in their pants, shirt pocket or bra. The warning adds: "The potential risk is greater for children."

This seems simple enough but the subsequent coverage of this story by some influential media outlets has confused and misdirected this important issue says Environmental Health Trust, a non-profit group conducting both cutting edge research on cell phone radiation and public health campaigns to raise awareness of the health risks of wireless radiation. In an article dated July 21 ('Cellphone Ordinance Puts Berkeley at Forefront of Radiation Debate'), New York Times writer Carol Pogash says Berkeley "passed a measure—not actually backed by science—requiring cellphone stores to warn customers that the products could be hazardous to their health, presumably by emitting dangerous levels of cancer-causing radiation."

The second article, 'Cell phone and the risk of brain tumors,' came from CNN. Here, the focus was on brain tumors, a non-sequitur to the actual ordinance which requires only that consumers be informed before purchase about the distances with which devices are tested. Contrary to the article, the Berkeley ordinance does not reopen a decades-old debate about whether mobile phones cause brain tumors. In fact, it only requires sellers give consumers the right to know information currently buried within all smart phones about the distance from the body with which phones are tested. That buried information can easily be found at http://www.showthefineprint.com.

Environmental Health Trust's Senior Medical Advisor, Dr. Robert Morris, MD, Ph.D says the issue of brain cancer is not the basis of the Berkeley ordinance, "If industry does not want to advise people about the fact that phones are not tested next to the body, then they should get the FCC to change its requirements for radiation testing. They cannot do this because, if phones were tested next to the body, they would be found to emit too much radiation to pass current standards."

Phones today come with information about tested distances because the FCC requires them. According to University of Utah Professor, Om Gandhi, the developer of some of the original FCC testing procedures, "If cell phones were tested for children, or in the shirt or pants pocket, they would be illegal."

Dr. Morris adds, "Over the past twenty years, cell phone use has exploded to the point where they it is almost universal, but have limited understanding of the potential risk caused by these devices. This may well be the largest uncontrolled public health experiment in human history. Although we can't be certain about health risks related to cell phones, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, part of the World Health Organization) has concluded that the radiation they emit is a possible cause of cancer. Those cases might take decades to develop. So, if there is a risk, we won't know for sure until tens of thousands of people have died. In the meantime, it seems prudent to reduce exposures, especially when doing so can involve something as simple as using headphones. Improving consumers' access to warnings about potential risks, warnings that are already in the phones, is a no brainer. Why is industry fighting this?"

The Science
Regarding the scientific backing for this industry advice, a number of other serious health impacts have been established by currently-used cell phones. For instance, Prof. Stanton Glantz of the University of California, San Francisco testified before the City Council that scientific studies from the Cleveland Clinic and the governments of Australia and India found that the heaviest cell phone users have the lowest sperm counts.

Since the IARC warning in 2011, several new studies have suggested that the type of radiation emitted by cell phones is associated cancer of the brain and the auditory nerve.

Protecting Consumers and the Right to Know

Additionally, in its amicus brief supporting the Berkeley ordinance, the Natural Resources Defense Council noted that the Right to Know about public health or environmental risks is fundamental to democracy, writing "An individual cannot choose whether to minimize her exposure if she does not know that it is occurring."

Dr. Devra Davis, Founder of the Environmental Health Trust added: "The Berkeley ordinance simply gives the public its constitutionally protected right to information currently buried in fine print."

Another in support of the ordinance is Ellie Marks, the founder of the California Brain Tumor Association, one of several groups working in Berkeley.

"As the wife of a man whose life is threatened by a cell phone induced brain tumor, I want an answer," she said. "What right does the industry have that allows them to bury FCC required distance information about how phones should be used but then object to a proposal to make that hidden advice public at the point of sale? Our family has been deprived of our constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness because we were never aware that the way in which he used his cell phone could lead to this awful disease," she added.

"If industry objects to making manufacturers' hidden advice public, they should simply remove that advice," Dr. Davis said. "Prof. Gandhi has shown that the reason they cannot do so is simple: phones emit more radiation than is permitted under current tests when used next to the body."

About Environmental Health Trust
The Environmental Health Trust (EHT) is the only organization in the world conducting both cutting edge research on cell phone radiation and public health campaigns to raise awareness of the health risks of wireless radiation. EHT educates individuals, health professionals and communities about controllable environmental health risks and policy changes needed to reduce those risks. Currently, EHT is raising health concerns about wireless in schools and recommending safe hardwired internet connection installations. More information about EHT and its programs is located at http://www.EHtrust.org and on our Facebook page.