Expert Claims Cover-Up On Cell Phone Cancer Risk
Journalist: Dominique Jackson
October 26, 1999
TELCOS have been accused of hiding evidence that shows mobile phones may cause cancer. The claim comes from George Carlo, whose company was paid $US25 million ($40 million) over the past five years to conduct research for the Cellular Telephone Industry Association (CTIA).
Dr Carlo, once seen as an industry mouthpiece who denied any cancer risk, has written to 30 industry leaders, saying he is “extremely frustrated and concerned” that his findings of potential health risks were being ignored.
He has urged chief executives of the telecommunications companies, including AT&T’s Michael Armstrong, to fund further research.
“I’m concerned the CTIA is not sharing all the information,” Dr Carlo said.
His research shows the risk of benign tumours of the auditory nerve is 50 percent higher in mobile users of six years or more, he says.
The risk of rare neuro-epithelial tumours on the outside of the brain is more than doubled among mobile phone users, his research shows.
A correlation between right-side brain tumours and use of the phone on the same side was also found. Phone radiation could cause functional genetic damage.
Dr Carlo’s now disbanded group, Wireless Technology Research (WTR), was paid $US25 million over five years to uncover health risks from mobile phones. He said his team made this latest research breakthrough only this year. In his letter to the carriers’ CEOs, Dr Carlo said: “While none of these findings alone are evidence of a definitive health hazard from wireless phones, the pattern of potential health effects evidenced by different types of studies, from different laboratories, and by different investigators, raises serious
He urged the carriers to conduct public education campaigns so mobile phone users were aware of the possible dangers. But he complained to The Australian that “the CTIA is doing what it does best — handling the problem through politics and pressure”. “Taking an approach that goes towards misleading the public that wireless phones are safe is absolutely ridiculous,” he said.
Dr Carlo said when his results first emerged, CTIA members had verbally agreed to publicise the work, but never took action. He also accused carriers of trying to mislead the globally influential US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The industry risked a backlash of lawsuits similar to the tobacco industry if it continued to ignore the issue, he said.
Dr Carlo decided to speak out only after his contract with the CTIA expired, which has not endeared him to his hundreds of critics in the scientific community who have long regarded him as an apologist for the carriers.
He was once accused of conducting research “without ever getting a test-tube wet”. Industry observers are unconvinced by Dr Carlo’s latest statements. Stewart Fist, an analyst and columnist for The Australian, said Dr Carlo had spoken out to protect himself from potential lawsuits. What Dr Carlo is doing now “is covering his own back so he can’t get sued”, Mr Fist said. “He is advising the companies that make up the CTIA that he has found evidence that there are health effects. That then gets him off the hook.”
Mr Fist said Dr Carlo had in the past made statements in court that there was no evidence of any danger. Dr Carlo responded to Mr Fist’s claims, saying: “I don’t believe writing those letters protects me from being sued.”
He said he already faced a suit for conspiring with the CTIA to conceal information. “As a public health person, I’m trying to follow through my obligation to let the public know what we’ve found,” he said. “We’ve done some ground-breaking work.
“I want to make sure the legacy of the WTR is not one of being a PR agent for the industry.”