Dr. George Carlo has described the marketing strategies aimed at children as “grotesque,” and says it’s a perfect example of the industry’s institutional arrogance.
He should know because he used to work for the cell phone industry, but now is its most outspoken critic.
In a widely distributed interview for a New Zealand news show in May, Carlo said there are currently 30,000 to 50,000 new cases of brain and eye cancer attributable to cell phone use being diagnosed every year. Based on current epidemiological studies, that number will reach half a million cases by 2010.
“We have never had this kind of impending risk to society,” he said during the interview (attempts to reach Dr. Carlo for this story were unsuccessful, but you can see the interview at:
From 1993 until 2000, Carlo was the handpicked chief scientist in an industry-funded research program, an initiative announced one week after a Florida man appeared on “Larry King Live” to explain why he had filed suit against the cell phone industry for the brain tumor that killed his wife.
In 2001 Carlo chronicled his seven frustrating years running – or trying to run – the $28 million research program in a book called “Cell Phones: Invisible Hazards in the Wireless Age” that he wrote with journalist Martin Schram.
While the industry said upfront it wanted straight scientific results, to Carlo’s disappointment he soon learned that many high-powered people were on hand to put a positive spin on whatever came from the research, even if that meant denying results.
During his time in office, two different research projects found genetic damage in human blood caused by cell phone emissions. Another project found an increased risk of cell phone users suffering from acoustic neuroma, a rare non-cancerous tumor that affects hearing. Another found a breakdown in the blood brain barrier in the brains of rats exposed to radio waves. Four others found evidence of an increased risk of brain tumors among cell phone users. Another found an increased risk of lymphoma with prolonged radio wave exposure.
And the industry sold more phones.
Since 1973 Dr. Om Gandhi had been quietly publishing the results of his research into the biological effects of electromagnetic energy. He was particularly interested in the absorption rate in human tissue, which is quaintly known as coupling.
“Nobody bothered me,” said the much-honored professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
That all changed with the October 1996 issue of the journal IEEE Transactions of Microwave Theory and Techniques, which contained a paper called “Electromagnetic Absorption in the Human Head and Neck for Mobile Telephones at 835 and 1900 MHz,” results of a study conducted by Gandhi and two doctoral students, Gianluca Lazzi, now a professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering at the North Carolina state University in Raleigh, and Cynthia Furse, now a colleague of Gandhi’s at Utah.
“I think Om’s assessment is dead on,” Furse said. “It was quite an eye-opener as a grad student/post doc to be sort of ‘dropped’ into the politics of the situation when we were just doing interesting science. There is still an active debate internationally about the interpretation of the analysis included in that paper on cell phones and children.”
Furse currently works on finding faults in aging aircraft wiring.
“The truly professional way in which Om balanced the research and debates has provided a very valuable basis for me to manage similar challenges in this line of research,” she said.
That 1996 study showed an alarming rate of electromagnetic penetration in the form of radio frequency from cell phones coupling with the brains of children, compared to the already disturbing amount of radiation entering an adult’s brain while using a cell (see accompanying graphic).
“Nobody bothered me all these years until I stumbled onto this,” Gandhi said. “I didn’t know at the time industry was targeting children as the next growth segment. Boy, they really got after me.”
The cell phone industry got after one of the pioneers in the research of electromagnetic fields because he found that the thinner outer ears and skulls of children allow more energy from the cell phone antenna to couple with brain tissue. The industry got him by trying to discredit his work through studies disputing his findings.
“The reason industry doesn’t like it. They don’t want to lose this part of the market. They don’t want to cast doubts,” he said. “They started to publish that ‘he cannot be right because we don’t find that.’ We have published three or four more papers since then, which more or less showed the same thing, but it is the original publication they continue to attack.”
Does anyone else smell tobacco smoke, as in the tobacco industry denying and obfuscating the fact that cigarettes are harmful to the human body?
“One of the papers shows how every millimeter closer (the cell phone is) to the body, increases the coupling to the body,” Gandhi said. “And here we are with a child’s much thinner earlobe and much thinner skull. Every millimeter changes the energy couple to the tissue by 7 to 12 percent.”
Now, what it means for greater coupling in children, or for anyone, for that matter, remains a matter of whose study you choose to believe. U.S. industry studies continue to show no harmful effects from cell phone radiation, whereas European studies, as some pre-industry crackdown studies from the 1990s that were actually funded by the industry, have found everything from nervousness and headaches to brain tumors and even genetic damage as a result of cell phone radiation.
Great Britain has for several years been cautioning against cell phone use by children.
“Unfortunately, there has been very little research on long-term effects of cell phones and radiation,” Gandhi said. “These days, because of the insistence of the European Union, it’s funding all the research in Europe. There is no research being done in the United States at the present time, even though we started this field back in the early 1970s. All of that research has been stopped because of industry.”
Which is a shame, because it appears to be in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, which requires federal agencies to evaluate the effects of their actions on the human environment, and that includes the Federal Communication Commission, which regulates the transmitters and facilities that expose humans to RF energy.
“I am a professor. I have no axe to grind,” Gandhi said, still seemingly baffled by the reception of that paper 10 years ago. “I’ve written over 200 papers. They never objected to anything, but they didn’t like this one. They went out and hired other scientists that they funded to say my research was not correct.”
Despite the spin the cell phone industry tried to put on Gandhi’s work, he soldiers on in the interest of science, humanity and truth.
Has latest paper appeared in the July issue of IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques, and is titled “Thermal Implications of the New Relaxed IEEE RF Safety Standard for Head Exposures to Cellular Telephones at 835 and 1900 MHz.”
It looks at the relaxed RF exposure standards set by the professional advisory group, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, compared to earlier standards Gandhi helped establish and standards followed by the European Union as established by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.
“These days in the committee (that sets the standards), one co-chair is from Motorola (C.K. Chou) and the other is from the Navy, the military-industrial establishment (Dr. John D’Andrea), and they are suddenly loosening their standards. I compared the three standards to show the new standards are out of line. Too loose.”