Page 10 - the Noise December 2017
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In July, Arizona Senator John McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive . form of brain cancer that is usually fatal. The senator had undergone surgery to remove a clot above his left eye. Additional testing revealed a primary brain tumor. In the wake of his diagnosis, the question of whether cell phones and other wireless technology present health hazards has resurfaced.
Technically speaking, cell phones aren’t really phones at all. They are sophisticated radio transmission devices that use and emit radiofrequency energy (RF), a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation. Devices that use these electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) in- clude not only cell phones and their requisite towers and antennae but also Wi-Fi comput- ers and hubs,“smart”utility meters, radar, radio, television, cordless home phones, and wire- less baby monitors. The safety of RF exposure is something that has been hotly debated amongst scientists, wireless equipment manufacturers, utility companies, and cell phone service providers and users.
A 2003 study by Swedish neuro-oncologist Leif Salford and his colleagues showed that cell phone radiation damaged neurons in lab rats. The damaged neurons occurred par- ticularly in the cells associated with memory and learning. One of the potential outcomes noted in the report is dementia. Another study published in the International Journal of Cancer Prevention in 2004 indicated that people who lived for more than 10 years within 1⁄4 mile of a cell phone tower were four times more likely to develop cancer.
A study from Australia National University published in 2009 concluded that “using a cell phone for greater than or equal to 10 years approximately doubles the risk of being diagnosed with a brain tumor on the same (ipsilateral) side of the head as that preferred for cell phone use.”
In May 2010, the World Health Organization concluded a fairly ambiguous study on the risks of cell phone use. Published in the Journal of Epidemiology, the Interphone study found people with the highest level of cell phone use, averaging about 30 minutes a day over a 10-year period, had a 40% higher risk for gliomas (a form of brain cancer), compared with those who used cell phones less frequently. Many politicians and public officials would certainly fall into this category of user. Data related the glioma to the same side of the head as the cell phone was generally used on. But the study was criticized for its limi- tations, bias, and contradictory findings. It also concluded that “overall,” cell phone use did not increase cancer risk. In a statement to the press, a WHO representative said, “the results really don’t allow us to conclude that there is any risk associated with mobile phone use, but ... it is also premature to say that there is no risk associated with it.”
In May 2011, after reviewing existing research from multiple sources on the issue, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a WHO specialty agency, declared RFs to be a “possible human carcinogen.” This put cell phone use into the same category of health hazard as lead, the DDT insecticide and engine exhaust.
Because of the ever-evolving nature of cell phone and wireless technology, pinpoint- ing the dangers and researching the effects is difficult. For example, the size and type of the phones we use, the quality of voice transmission, and the type of information we send
82-85°F 72-81°F
with our phones all has an impact on the type and strength of the RF radiation to which we are exposed. Rapid changes in technology make it hard for epidemiological studies, which look at the causes and distribution of illness and disease, to make accurate predic- tions about the future.
Another complication of these studies is people with brain tumors tend to die within 6-12 months of diagnosis. Once they are gone, researchers are unable to get accurate in- formation about their cell phone usage patterns. This keeps them from providing reliable evidence that a victim’s illness and use of cell phones may have been related.
In Sen. McCain’s case, data from the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) put him in the prime demographic for glioblastoma, technology considerations aside. The frequency of this type of tumor increases with age, and men are diagnosed more often than women.
Shortly after his diagnosis, in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes, Sen. McCain said his prognosiswas“very,veryserious.”In2008,SenatorEdwardKennedy(D-MA)diedlessthan 15 months after receiving a glioblastoma diagnosis. Still, there has been little definitive, incontrovertible research that conclusively ties brain tumors to cell phone use. Scientists continue to disagree but research is ongoing.
In 2012, Dr. David Carpenter, a Harvard-trained physician who was the head of the New York State Department of Public Health for 18 years said, “we have evidence ... that expo- sure to radio frequency radiation ... increases the risk of cancer, increases damage to the nervous system, causes electro-sensitivity, has adverse reproductive effects and a variety of other effects on different organ systems.”
Research from Israel published in 2013 showed that malignant tumors of the salivary gland in the cheek were much more common in people who used cell phones heavily.
In 2016, a study from the National Toxicology Program exposed rats and mice to EMF radiation similar to what’s produced by cell phones. Researchers found that male rats with exposure averaging about nine hours a day over two years had an increased risk of de- veloping malignant brain tumors (gliomas) and also a specific type of tumor of the heart (schwannomas).
Complications from the study include a difference in the occurrence of cancers between the male and female rats and the authors’ conclusion that cancers in the male rats resulted from “full body exposure,” not more targeted exposure. In addition, the incidence of tumors was relatively low but that is considered expected because the types of cancers studied are rare in and of themselves.
The scientists did discover that the presence of malignant tumors increased with greater levels of exposure to radiation. The full results of this study are expected to be published in 2018; data on the effects on mice has not yet been analyzed. But a connection between cell phones and cancer is supported by its results so far.
Another 2016 study funded by the ABTA and published in the journal Neuro-Oncology found that malignant brain tumors are the most common cancer occurring among 15-19 year olds and the most common cause of cancer-related deaths in adolescents and young adults aged 15-39. The study did not relate the cancers to any particular source but, accord-
10 • DECEMBER 2017 | the NOISE arts & news | ABOVE: Sen. John McCain’s cell phone use over the years; thermal imaging; Red Rock cell towers? | ILLUS BY O. VICTOR

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