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Some Scientists Criticize Media Coverage of Cellphone Study

A group of experts on cellphone radiation is speaking out in support of a new government study linking radiation to cancer in rats. (D3Damon/iStockphoto)
A group of experts on cellphone radiation is speaking out in support of a new government study linking radiation to cancer in rats. (D3Damon/iStockphoto)
May 31, 2016

BERKELEY, Calif. - Experts on cellphone and brain tumor science say they're disappointed some media outlets downplayed last week's government study that found a small but significant percentage of rats exposed to lifelong cellphone radiation developed cancerous or precancerous cells.

The $25 million study from the National Toxicology Program prompted a skeptical New York Times video, saying overall brain tumor rates have not skyrocketed along with cellphone use.

But Louis Slesin, editor of Microwave News, notes a major Times shareholder is a global wireless magnate.

He points to a USC report that said the same types of tumors rats developed in this study have increased in humans. Slesin says he's glad to see other influential groups changing their stance.

"The American Cancer Society and Consumer Reports, which have been deeply skeptical for the last 15 years, have done a 180," he says. "And now, they're saying that this is a paradigm shift that needs to be taken seriously, and we need to do more."

Slesin recommends people moderate their cellphone use, use earbuds, store cellphones away from their bodies and limit children's access to wireless devices.

L. Lloyd Morgan, a research fellow with the nonprofit Environmental Health Trust, says cellphone companies could issue warnings, or make the phones safer - but won't, because that could trigger consumer lawsuits.

"If you recognize there's a hazard, you have immediate liability for that," says Morgan. "So, they refuse to admit there's a problem. In fact, they continue to say there's absolutely no evidence."

Dr. Joel Moskowitz, a researcher with the University of California-Berkeley, thinks the government should issue clear warnings about cellphone use and revise current regulations, which are only based on the risk of overheating and not other known effects of radiation.

"We need to carefully review the current limit on what a cellphone or cellphone tower is allowed to emit," says Moskowitz. "And we need to develop safer guidelines or standards. We should also be encouraging industry to develop technology that uses less radiation."

CTIA, the wireless industry association, has said it's reviewing the study and emphasized previous studies that showed no established health effects from radio-frequency signals used in cellphones.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA