Clowns And Cell phones
The Australian Newspaper
June 24, 1997
Journalist: Stewart Fist
Imagine for a moment that the Australian government decided to prohibit the consumption of sugar. It allows three chemical companies (one owned by the government) to offer a sugar-substitute called glyco-saccharine-metagunk (GSM).
Imagine that a few years later, the government-owned chemical factory finally caved into pressure from health activists, and funds a test on GSM’s safety, using 200 mice housed at Adelaide Hospital.
After 18 months of feeding half the mice with a tablespoon of GSM a day (the other half getting normal sugar), the researchers find that the GSM-fed mice have a tumour rate 2.4-times that of the sugar eaters.
Think of the consequence if no one released these results for two years; imagine if the chemical companies didn’t even fund another study to confirm the first.
What would happen when that story broke?
I’d bet, for starters, that GSM would disappear from supermarket shelves overnight. I’d bet there would be an uproar in parliament at the delay in reporting – and I’d hazard a guess that the responsible Ministers’ job would be on the line over the government’s handling of the whole affair.
This is a direct parallel to the Adelaide Hospital study which showed that 18 months of exposure to standard GSM digital cellphone handset radiation more than doubled the tumour rate in transgenic mice.
This was not an isolated finding as the industry propaganda would have you believe; it is just another (although vitally important) piece in a jigsaw puzzle which has been developing for about 20 years. Now we are beginning to see the whole picture – and that picture is very disturbing.
Our Communications Minister, Senator Richard Alston, however, sees it differently. He donned his red nose, polka-dot pants and oversize boots to entertain the Senate on May 7 with this reaction:
“I think about the most one can say at this stage is that if there are mice in the community who are genetically predisposed to developing lymphoma they would be well advised not to use mobile phones …. That applies to rats as well, I should say!”
It’s nice to see the Liberals turning the clock back, but I hadn’t realised that they also aimed to revive the great Australian cultural cringe.
Alston’s comic remarks have now circulated around the world through *Microwave News*, the key global publication reporting on biomedical research into radio-related problems. The May/June issue of this publication was largely devoted to the Adelaide Hospital study and its implications.
Given this frivolity in parliament, you probably don’t realise how important these findings are in confirming the fact that low-level pulsed radio signals can promote tumours.
Three major animal study now show low-level microwaves have a cumulative effect on cancer promotion. There are also literally hundreds of cell-culture studies looking for possible mechanisms. At the molecular level, radio waves can disrupt the growth patterns, controls, and functioning of cells – particularly brain cells and nervous tissue.
For many years, biomedical scientists have been claiming that these dangers exists with cellphones; now they have confirmation. The Adelaide study shows with absolute certainty that the oft-repeated claims of ‘proven safety’ are now totally untenable (and have been for some time).
Around the world, there’s also widespread fury at the delay in releasing the information.
At the Swiss Institute of Technology, Dr Neils Kuster, probably the world’s expert in how cellphone radiation focus in brain tissue, said in a newspaper interview (*SonntagsBlick*) that: “It is incomprehensible to me that industry did not replicate this study 18 months ago when the preliminary results became known.”
Dr John Goldsmith, probably the leading epidemiologist in such environmental exposure problems was reported in the *Jerusalem Post* as saying the Adelaide results “present startling new evidence that must be carefully evaluated”, and Dr John Stather, of the UK’s National Radiological Protection Board agrees, “this needs to be investigated thoroughly.”
So, far from being an “isolated study” of “no direct relevance to humans” as the cellphone industry has been claiming, this is widely seen around the world as a major finding of immense significance.
Israel, which has a high dependence on GSM mobiles, is proposing to mount an inquiry into safety, and a committee of the European standards body CENELEC has recommended a substantial reduction in their exposure standards.
In his 1995 report to the Australian government, Dr Stan Barnett of the CSIRO’s Radio Physics Laboratory noted the absurdity of cellphone exemption from national exposure standards: “It is odd that cellular telephones should be exempted when they represent a unique device that operates with its transmitter placed against the user’s head.” he writes.
In reference to the Adelaide study, Dr Barnett says “the effect reported in this paper appears to be substantial”, and, in the USA, Dr Gregory Lotz of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health agrees: “I think the findings are very significant,” he says. “They used a sizeable number of animals and it appears to be a clear effect.”
It’s important to note that most of these findings appear to specifically implicate the GSM digital handsets – not the analogue AMPS. It is the strobe-like pulsed nature of the power-output of GSM that appears to be the main problem – although some scientists still don’t exonerate the non-pulsed technologies.
The dangers posed by pulsed transmissions were well-known in radio-research areas for years, yet no health research was ever undertaken on GSM handsets, over their decade of development and sale. The Adelaide Hospital study is the first animal study to look specifically at these frequencies – and it came ten years too late.
Many years ago research conducted for the US Airforce showed that rats exposed to long-term pulsed microwave radiation (they were worried about radar) had a statistically significant increase in general cancers. In other countries, later studies confirmed this in military personal, and one in the US, established that police radar operators had a level of testicular cancer (they sat with the device between their legs) about seven times the normal rate.
The dangers were evident to anyone who cared to look.
In the last ten years the pace of research has increased. The veteran virtuoso of cellphone/brain research, Dr Ross Adey of Loma Linda in California, has been studying these mechanisms for a few decades, and he believes strongly that it is the pulsed nature which causes the problems. Adey has published hundreds of papers dealing with the ways in which cell growth and functions are disrupted by fluctuating magnetic and electrical fields.
He notes that the Adelaide findings match his own: “We now appear to have two nonthermal effects, both linked to pulsed fields, and once again we must investigate the possibility that it is the low-frequency modulation that is the essential element,” he says.Dr Henry Lai, whose years of research at the University of Washington first revealed double-strand DNA breaks in rat brain tissue following brief exposures to pulsed microwaves of a level comparable to cellphones, sees the Adelaide study as confirmation of his work also. Double-breaks in DNA strands are widely held to be precursors of tumour-growth or genetic mutations.
“The main point [established by the Adelaide findings] is that RF radiation promotes cancer”, he says. Lai also has some harsh words to say about the release of the results: “I think it is very irresponsible and unwise to keep the data secret for two years, knowing their implications. The secrecy only reinforces the suspicion of the public that the industry is trying to cover up.”
Dr Lai and his associated Dr Singh, have now shown fairly conclusively that the cause of the DNA breaks lies with 6.00-radicals. These are generally modified by anti-oxidants and hormones, including melatonin, but melatonin inhibition appears to be a common finding in cellphone exposure research.
So I’d suggest that, in the last few years, the responsibility has shifted from the critics’ need to establish that there are possible adverse health effects, to the cellphone industry’s need to establish that their products are safe.
In my opinion the situation has changed from questions about the “possibility of cancer promotion” to one of “probability”, with the major research now seeking to understand the mechanisms and to gauge the likely community health implications. It is distinctly possible that the dangers are in the same order as cigarette smoking – but it is too early to judge accurately.
When you get a doubling of the tumour rate in mice with only 18 months of handset-level exposure, it must be regarded as probably that, over an 80 life-span, the more susceptible members of the human population will experience a substantial promotion of their genetic and environmental cancer rate.
Over the years I’ve been writing and speaking about this subject, I’ve tried successively to fence-sit, then warn, they cry out for more research – while not initiating a scare campaign. But when the clowns and circus come to town and take over the management of our affairs, such obvious risks need to be articulated loudly.
Independent biomedical scientists are, virtually to a man, convinced that the potential long-term adverse health effects of GSM are serious.