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Vol. 5, No. 3, 2006
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Robert J. Lewis
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In 1984, the cellular telecommunications industry brought its focus to bear on the introduction and mass marketing of the cellular telephone. Without any premarket safety testing, and approved by all requisite federal agencies, the wireless wonder was whisked to store shelves, teleboutiques and on-line personal shopping carts.

Nine years and 15 million American subscribers later, amid rising concerns that cell phone radiation could lead to the development of brain and eye tumors, other forms of cancer, and multiple health hazards, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) hired Dr. George Carlo to prove that cell phones were indeed safe. Carlo, as he himself puts it, followed the science, the politics and the money, and, after six years of research, stated publicly that cell phone use was not safe – that it may indeed cause cancer and pose human health risks. The year was 1999. Eighty million Americans owned cell phones.

In the following interview Dr. Carlo recounts his journey from independent chairman of a $28-million research and surveillance program to industry whistle blower. Some of the key findings that frame the debate are:

· The developing skulls and brain tissue of children and teenagers are more vulnerable to penetration by cell phone radiation

· The blood brain barrier, which prevents dangerous chemicals circulating in our blood from reaching sensitive brain tissue, is compromised by radio frequency radiation emitted by cell phone antennas

· Radio frequency radiation creates micronuclei in human blood cells, a type of genetic damage known to be a diagnostic marker for cancer 1

· Radiation emission guidelines set by the FCC are 1.6 watts per kilogram. Genetic damage in blood cells has been found at radiation levels one half those guidelines (0.7 and 0.8 watts per kilogram). This means that all cell phones from 1984 up to the present have operated in a dangerous range

· Baseline studies show an increase in the risk of mortality from cancer among cell phone users as compared to non-cell phone users

· The risk of rare neuro epithelial tumours on the outside of the brain was more than doubled, a statistically significant risk increase, in cell phone users as compared to people who did not use cell phones 2

· There appeared to be some correlation between brain tumours occurring on the right side of the head and the use of the phone on the right side of the head 3

· The risk of acoustic neuroma, a benign tumour of the auditory nerve that is well in range of the radiation coming from a phone's antenna, was 50 percent higher in people who reported using cell phones for six years or more, moreover, that relationship between the amount of cell phone use and this tumour appeared to follow a dose-response curve 4

· cell phones can interfere with heart pacemakers

· Notwithstanding viable recommendations and solutions, the wireless phone industry has not taken steps to protect consumer health

By the close of 2005 worldwide cell phone subscribership surpassed 2 billion. It is predicted to rise to 4 billion by 2011. Those of us with a brain –- or what’s left of one –- owe it to ourselves to listen to this interview.

This interview, conducted by Dr. Catherine Salzman, was originally broadcast by Achieve Radio on January 12, 2006.

Dr. George Carlo is a Fellow of the American College of Epidemiology, and serves on the adjunct faculty of The George Washington University school of Medicine. He earned his masters and doctoral degrees from the State University of New York at Buffalo and his law degree from the George Washington University National Law Center.

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1-4. Carlo, Dr. George and Schram, Martin,
Cell Phones: Invisible Hazards in the Wireless Age
(Avalon Publishers Group, 2001)

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