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What the Cellphone Industry Doesn't Want You to Know About Radiation Concerns

A leading expert on health effects from cellphone radiation goes to battle against a multi-trillion-dollar industry.
 
 
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In her 2011 book Disconnect, National Book Award finalist, former senior White House health advisor and internationally regarded epidemiologist Devra Davis revealed that the cellphone industry is knowingly exposing us to dangerous levels of electromagnetic radiation. No small problem when you consider that of the roughly 7 billion people on this planet, about 6 billion of us now use mobile phones.

In a recent analysis for the Huffington Post, Davis examined the cellphone industry's long-term strategy, devised in the early '90s, to deal with studies showing cellphone radiation damages DNA: "war-game the science." Noted in a 1994 Motorola memo, this strategy, wrote Davis, "remains alive and well" today, the latest example occurring just last month. When the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published newly detailed documentation for its yearlong 2011 expert review—which declared cellphone radiation a "possible human carcinogen" (same as lead and DDT)—the multi-trillion-dollar cellular industry responded by citing a new dubious report out of Taiwan.

Davis, the founding director of the Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology of the U.S. National Research Council, pointed out that the online abstract concludes "with some highly unscientific language that sounds as though it was crafted for the PR section of Foxconn, the Taiwanese producer of phones for Apple, Motorola, and Sony:

'In conclusion, we do not detect any correlation between the morbidity/mortality of malignant brain tumors and cellphone use in Taiwan. We thus urge international agencies to publish only confirmatory reports with more applicable conclusions in public. This will help spare the public from unnecessary worries.'"

In a recent phone interview with AlterNet, Davis, founder and president of the Wyoming-based Environmental Health Trust, discussed the cellphone industry's longstanding covert battle against inconvenient science, strategies it has learned from the tobacco industry, our chemical addiction to mobile devices, and simple ways we can limit our exposure without losing touch with civilization. 

Brad Jacobson: You've written that the cellphone industry's long-term strategy for responding to studies showing its products damage DNA is to "war-game the science." What exactly does this strategy entail?

Devra Davis: The example in the 1990s, which is documented in my book, was that [University of Washington researchers] Henry Lai and Narendra N.P. Singh found significant evidence of DNA damage caused by cellphone light radiation comparable almost to the damage you would get from X-rays, which is ionizing. At the time, it was generally believed by some people that non-ionizing radiation, which comes from a cellphone, could not possibly be physically damaging because it was so weak.

Well, it's true that non-ionizing radiation lacks the power to have damage. But its damage seems to come from its modulated signal. So every 900 milliseconds, if you have a cellphone in your pocket, it's getting half of that radiation which is getting into you as it seeks the signal from the tower.

So the industry understood this could be of enormous consequences, so they did three things. First, they wrote to the university and tried to get the scientists fired for violating the rules of the contract that they were working under at the time. They then wrote to NIH [National Institutes of Health]—and all of this has been documented in my book and there's been no lawsuits filed about any of the statements I'm making to you—and they accused the scientists of fraud for misusing funds to do the study. Then, when that didn't work they actually had somebody meet with the journal editors to try to get the article accepted for publication unaccepted.

 
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