Disconnect: The Truth About Mobile-Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It & How to Protect Your Family
By Devra Davis
274 pages, $27.95 (pb)
Meet SAM ― Standard Anthropomorphic Man.
SAM is a big man and also the silent type who spends little time using his first-generation mobile phone held a safety-conscious half an inch from the ear.
Safety standards for mobile phones have been based on SAM’s low exposure to mobile phone radio frequency radiation.
This is a biologically-impacting radiation to which most children, women and men have been increasingly exposed to under outdated SAM-based standards.
Professor Devra Davis, a veteran of studies in the link between industrial practices and cancer, has flagged in Disconnect the public health risk from inadequate standards and industry delinquencies.
Davis says these could result in a “potential global public health catastrophe” from poorly regulated mobile phones.
Experiments on mice and human cell cultures have shown that mobile phone radiation adversely affects DNA. It hinders the ability to suppress the uncontrolled cellular growth that is the hallmark of cancer.
The brain is the primary cancer site, with mobile phone antennae emitting electro-magnetic fields that can penetrate 4-6 centimetres into brain tissue.
People with growing brains (anyone under 25) are most at risk ― children’s heads in particular absorb double or more the radio frequency energy than adults.
Well before a tumour may develop, mobile-phone-using children have been shown to suffer declines in mental capacities, such as attention and learning effectiveness, compared with non-users.
Mobile phone radiation can also weaken the blood-brain barrier, allowing toxic substances in the bloodstream to more readily enter the brain, which is especially vulnerable to toxic exposures, particularly in the young.
Men who keep phones turned on in their pockets for hours a day have also been shown to have fewer, more deformed and worse-swimming sperm than other men.
Why is it then, asks Davis, that most studies on the health effects of mobile phones have shown no link?
This is no accident, she answers, because a trillion-dollar industry has a vested interest in portraying its products as safe so that “profits are not disrupted”.
The industry invariably responds to troubling health findings about mobile phones by cutting funding for the offending scientists and supporting a counter-offensive of research tailored towards more amenable results.
Experimental studies that find a link between mobile phones and health are declared to be invalidated by research with small but vital changes in methodology that make them unfit as tests of repeatability.
Epidemiological (population) studies claiming to refute a health link often lump people with low mobile phone use in with high users. This lowers the likelihood of finding any cancerous or other health effects among mobile phone users.
Epidemiological studies that adjudicate in favour of mobile phone safety have also failed to take into account the increasing frequency and length of daily mobile phone use, the duration of lifetime use, the age begun, use by the highest risk group of children and teenagers, and the existence of the more DNA-damaging second and third generation mobile phones.
The long latency period for brain cancer to manifest itself also makes their finding of an absence of an epidemic of brain cancer unsurprising.
Most such studies consider less than a decade of use back in days before mobile phones were used, as they are now, for hours a day. Ten years after cigarettes began to be smoked heavily, there was no epidemic of lung cancer, either.
Most of these officially inconclusive studies on mobile phones and health have been funded by the mobile phone industry.
An analysis of mobile phone research conducted between 1995 and 2005 found that almost all the projects sponsored by industry concluded that mobile phones are safe.
But most of the studies independently funded found a variety of health problems.
As was the case with tobacco, asbestos, benzene and hormone replacement therapy, says Davis, the industry has funded research with the aim of casting doubt on the health dangers of mobile phones “in order to extend its financial gain”.
The oft-made call by the mobile phone industry for more research sounds morally and scientifically unobjectionable, but is usually little more than a strategy to delay tighter regulation.
The industry gives its real game away, however, by surreptitiously acknowledging the health risks of mobile phones.
In tiny print buried deep inside the packaging are warnings to keep the mobile phone away from the body.
The manuals for all new mobile phones produced by Motorola, Nokia, Blackberry and the iPhone advise keeping the phone up to an inch from the body.
There is a reason for hiding this warning ― it allows sales to proceed unhampered while acting as a cover against future litigation.
The result is “a vast uncontrolled experiment on ourselves” with 5 billion mobile phones pressed to the heads of the world’s population.
“How is it ethical”, asks Davis, to have billions of people use a technology “whose dangers will only become broadly evident in 40 years”?
The right thing to do, she says, is to adopt the “precautionary principle”. That means acting on safety now rather than waiting for long-term epidemics of brain cancer and infertility to confirm a health hazard for which there are existing documented risks.
Governments need to sack SAM and apply age, sex and body specific standards for mobile phone radiation exposure.
Because exposure of the brain to mobile phone radiation increases by 10% for every millimetre the phone is closer to the ear, effective standards also need to reflect the reality of mobile phones being held next to the head rather than, as the testing models do now, up to an inch away.
Manufacturers should also be required to redesign mobile phones to emit less radiation.
Prominent health warnings should also be mandated. At the moment there are none ― perhaps because visible warnings not to place a mobile phone next to the ear, or near the scrotum or womb, may just negatively affect sales.
Meanwhile, concludes Davis, the science to resolve the danger or safety of mobile phone radiation should be pursued independent of industry purse strings.
Getting pro-corporate governments to infringe on the sacred right of profit in order to protect public health requires telling the truth about mobile phone safety.
Davis’s book is an excellent start.