Guardian: "Mobile Phone Warning Creates Confusion"
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 21 May 2000 08:31:02 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Roy L. Beavers" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: emfguru <email@example.com>
Subject: Guardian says "Mobile phone warning creates confusion"
The following news story points-up very well the problem that the Stewart Group created for themselves when they wrote their "but" style of a report...... Please recall guru's words in his editorial (on the homepage of website): "We find such and such, BUT ... we also find" -- and with what follows in their text the IEGMP group delivers the important conclusions. (Guru has also written that the pre-"but" conclusion was not well supported by their evidence......)
The press -- and certainly the vested interests (telecom companies AND government) -- are only going to read the part before the "BUT."
Yet, as guru also wrote in his editorial, it is the nature of these mass-exposure health situations that the early stage of the learning curve is "confusing." So, it was with tobacco, lead, dioxin, etc....
If society -- as implied below -- is ONLY going to seize upon the "before the but" judgment, the "known" reality in ALL of these situations, then we are doomed to repeat the tobacco, lead, etc., kind of tragedies ad infinitum..... Because we will always ignore the "alarm bells" which Mother Nature provides us ... as we predicate our actions on what is "known" -- rather than a judicious, forward looking, projection based on where the evidence is pointing us. (Also, see guru's "An Open Letter" that can be reached via a link on his homepage,)
Good, solid pro-people, pro-public health policy will ONLY come when we learn NOT to rationalize a continuation of our exposure ... simply because we "are not sure".....
We must, instead, learn that the learning curve in these cases can lead us to that level of "conclusive proof certainty" (which our present self-indulgent society seems to insist must first be demonstrated) ... ONLY if we are willing to accept a public policy that leads to much delay and many more lives adversely impacted......as, for example, society did in the tobacco case.....
The precautionary policy which is being suggested by many in Europe - as well as by Sir William's group - is the sound recommendation.....
Cheerio...... Please go and read guru's "Current Editorial" if you have not already.....
Roy Beavers (EMFguru)
It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness
People are more important than profits!!
May 12, 2000
Mobile phone warning creates confusion
Radiation hazard inquiry - No evidence of danger found but 'precautionary approach' is recommended, especially for children and drivers
Tim Radford, science editor
Friday May 12, 2000
An official inquiry into the safety of mobile phones only added to the confusion with its report yesterday.
After more than a year of deliberation, the committee of scientists found no evidence that mobiles damaged human health - and no evidence that they did not.
But Sir William Stewart, head of the inquiry, did say that the widespread use of mobiles by children should be discouraged, but left it to parents to make an "informed choice" as to the extent of their children's usage.
The government promised to act immediately on the report - and did so by calling for further research and for a leaflet to be issued with each phone sold.
"We are acting immediately on the findings of the report," said the government's response. "Some of its conclusions and recommendations can be actioned straight away. Other issues will require more time for consideration and consultation, and we will be issuing further information in due course."
The mobile phone industry - about to launch a new generation aimed at, and likely to be popular with, teenagers - reacted with alarm, because the report failed to define what was meant by "children".
Overall, the report called for a "precautionary approach" to mobile phone technologies until "more detailed and scientifically robust information becomes available".
It said there was no evidence that the transmitter masts of base stations necessary to relay cellphone calls could threaten residents or children in schools - but nevertheless called for tougher planning restrictions on their siting.
Archie Norman, shadow environment spokesman, challenged the government to back the report, but his statement dealt with the masts more as planning "eyesores" than as health hazards.
Only one group was found to be clearly at risk from mobile phones: drivers. Whether motorists used hand-held phones or the hands-free versions, there was a slowing of responses and a substantially increased risk of accident.
This was because talking on the phone was inherently more distracting than talking to a passenger in the next seat, rather than because of any effect of the phone as such. But the report called only for their use to be "discouraged".
Last Christmas, 4m mobile phones were sold, bringing the total in Britain to 25m, one for every two people.
But the revolution that their use has brought has been accompanied by a groundswell of worry about possible long-term health hazards, and eruptions of local concern about the siting of radio masts near schools and hospitals.
After a series of inconclusive or disputed reports, the national radiological protection board, a government agency, sponsored an independent group of scientists and lay people, chaired by Sir William, a former government chief scientific adviser, to look at all the evidence and all the issues. Yesterday the committee said that it had found no evidence mobiles damaged human health but did raise the spectre of "subtle biological effects" which might follow from a mobile phone pressed against an ear.
It said the radiation dose from cellphone masts would be hundreds or even thousands of times less than the international guidelines - but for fear of "indirect" health risks, an anxiety about possible dangers from the transmitters that could affect wellbeing, the report called for all such masts to be subject to planning restrictions, for there to be an ombudsman to resolve disputes about their siting, and for greater levels of information to be given the general public.
Sir William said yesterday: "I don't want you to go away with the impression, whatever you do, that mobile phones are responsible for ill effects all over the place."
The committee, which included lay people, an astronomer, radiation experts, neuroscientists and doctors, was not worried about fears that microwaves from mobiles could "cook" brains, but they did concede that there could be subtle, unknown effects which might have long-term consequences.
One neuroscientist, Colin Blakemore of Oxford, studied more than 300 papers on effects of radio frequency radiation; many were done in Russia under Soviet rule and predated the mobile revolution. "Frankly, the literature is very muddy and I think it was more politically determined, than determined by the quality of the science," he said.
"However, since the 1970s onwards there has been a number of studies in reputable laboratories in the US and Europe, suggesting subtle biological effects."
The risks: Why scientists cannot answer all the questions
Surely all radiation is potentially harmful? In theory. High energy, short wavelength gamma rays and x-rays can burn cells and trigger cancers. Until now, long wavelength, "microwaves" used for mobile phone signals have been held to be safe. But mobiles are held closer to the ear, so more radiation penetrates the skull.
What is the safe level? Nobody knows where the dangers start. "We know if you go and sit in a microwave oven, you will do yourself a lot of harm, but if you put a mobile phone against your head, we don't know yet whether there is any level of harm at all," said one expert yesterday.
Do mobile phones heat the brain? Yes, at the most by about 0.1C. Sunbathing warms up the brain by 10 times as much. So does jogging.
Might they damage the brain in some way that won't show up for years? That question cannot be answered finally until millions have used them for many years. The experts want more studies of the workers most at risk, and more studies of the effects of radiation. But at the moment, they don't think so.
So why are they worried about children? The human brain continues growing and developing after birth, and goes on doing so till puberty. Children's skulls are thinner and heads are smaller, so radiation would go deeper. So the experts say: err on the safe side.
Why don't they call for a ban on child use? Because there are real risks and merely possible risks. Most people would want a child to be able to call home if lost, or to dial 999 in an emergency.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2000