Cell Phone Cover-Up – Firms Shelve Scientist’s Warning
Journalists: Ian Gallagher and Dennis Rice
October 16, 1999
A Scientist who was paid millions by mobile phone companies to investigate health risks has bitterly criticized them for failing to act on his findings.
Dr. George Carlo found that the rate of death from brain cancer is higher among mobile phone users and the risk of contracting a rare tumor on the outside of the brain is more than double.
In an astonishing attack on the industry for which he once acted as a spokesman, he accused firms of not taking safety seriously.
“The companies are now spending millions trying to discredit me because, basically, they didn’t like what I told them”, he revealed to The Express last night. “I feel angry and let down”.
His research body, which was handpicked by the industry was given £15 million 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. Carlo, 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. Carlo wrote of his extreme frustration and concern. His study showed that there “appeared to be some correlation between brain tumors on the right side of the head and use of the phone on the right side of the head.” Laboratory studies also looked at the “ability of radiation from a phone’s antenna system 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 its great”.
Alasdair Phillips, of the consumer group Powerwatch, said: “To have someone like him, who has even acted as a spokesman for the industry come out and say this is quite amazing. There is a definite 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 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 alone, with the number rising daily. But a spokesman for the British cellular industry insisted last nigh 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 use hands-6.00 phones which do not come into direct contact with the ear. Last night the Federation of the Electronics Industry, which represents the UK cellular phone companies, said it understood public concern. “In particular, the industry is supporting and will continue to support independent research in this area, and will share information in an open and honest way. All mobile phones and masts operate on strict exposure guidelines established by expert bodies. The consensus of scientific opinion is that there is no consistent evidence that mobile phones and phone masts operating within these 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.
No one from the CTIA, which represents US mobile phone companies, was available for comment last night. But writing in response to Dr. Carlo’s letter, president Thomas Wheeler said that when he presented his findings he said “they did not pose a public health threat”. He added, “We are certain you have never provided the CTIA with the studies you mention”.