This Dude’s scribbling was submitted to the IoS in October. What this intellectual community is verbalizing is what some of us beach bums always suspected, – that using cell phones for 10 years or more can double the risk of brain cancer.
Now what does a surfer like me know about cancer? Nothing other than all the dudes say that if you smoke too much, inhale 20 lbs of asbestos daily or flash a nuclear reactor for three years, that you may get the dreaded disease. But what the egg heads say is that cancers typically take at least a decade to develop. This makes it hard to prove what really caused a given person’s cancer. Now if you are 90 years old and regularly use a cell phone, I really don’t think you are going to give a rats ass about this study. On the other hands, younger folks may want to pay attention.
Now the French are not my favorite dudes. Their surfing sucks and their rep is one of not being too friendly to yanks. Yet to their credit, earlier this year, the French government warned their peeps against cell phone use by children. (How many of us see teens with their cell phone glued to their glowing head?) The Croats and the European Environment Agency have also called for reduction of cell phone use and radiation from phones.
Why listen to this egg head? Professor Khurana is a neurosurgeon. (That is a brain surgeon you teens whose brain has already been reduced to moron status by the cell phone radiation.) Dr Khurana has received 14 awards, published more than three dozen scientific papers, reviewed more than 100 studies on cell phones, and he is either really smart or very well connected with the establishment. More important, the dude has instant credibility because he has a cool brain surgery website.
Should we throw our cell phones away? No way. They can save lives in emergencies. But it probably makes sense even to us members of the beach community to minimize our exposure with less talk time more hands free with the device away from our head whenever possible. Let me emphasize that a growing number of egg heads think this is a dangerous situation and that makes me want to share the news with others. Dr. Khurana puts his warning in perspective: "It is anticipated that this danger has far broader public health ramifications than asbestos and smoking." Professor Khurana, also suggested to the IoS that three billion people now use cell phones which is three times as many who smoke. The Cancer Society says smoking kills five million worldwide each year. Alleged exposure to asbestos in Britain is thought to kill more people then British traffic accidents.
The Mobile Operators Association basically disagree with Dr. Khurana's study and suggests it does not present a “balanced analysis" of the published science. They also claim it is contrary to more than 30 other independent expert scientific reviews. Of course, some non surfers and non aviators still claim the world is flat.
Lesson: For all of you hot chicks, pay attention. Next time a guy in a bar gives you his cell phone and drops the pick up line, “I will call you.” Tell him no thanks and giving him back his nuclear reactor (cell phone.) Or better yet, pick up a land line and call Surfer Dude and I will take you to a beach bonfire.
Update 5-10-12: There are 303 million cell phone subscribers in the United States. There are approximately five billion cell phone subscribers in the world. A study proving that cell phone use causes brain cancer or other harmful health effects would cause a lot of litigation. India, recently announced a plan to require manufacturers to prominently display the level of radiation emitted by cell phones. There is also local support in the United States to prevent construction of cell phone towers near schools. Cell phones emit a electromagnetic radiation called radiofrequency (RF which comes in the form of ionizing and non-ionizing.) To date, heating of body tissue is the only proven biological effect of RF energy.
The amount of RF energy absorbed from the phone is called the specific absorption rate (SAR) which is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The current SAR limit is 1.6 watts per kilogram of body weight. Does RF energy from cell phone use affect the brain and other tissues in the head which in turn causes cancerous (malignant tumors such as gliomas) and noncancerous brain tumors (for example acousitc neuromas, menigiomas, and parotid gland tumors)?
Radiation emitted by cell phones is much lower than that emitted by x-rays, gamma rays, or even microwaves. Although exposure to high levels of RF radiation can cause harmful health effects, it remains unclear whether the lower levels of RF radiation emitted by cell phones are similarly dangerous. Epidemiology studies are difficult because of the lengthy latency period between RF exposure and the onset of brain tumors. Conclusive long-term data about cell phone related RF exposure may not be available for another generation. However, a recent Swedish study in 2011, found an increased risk for gliomas, a malignant brain tumor type, particularly as the latency time and cell phone hour usage increased. On the other hand, a Europeon study conducted solely on children and adolescents with brain tumors suggested that cell phone users were not statistically significantly more likely to develop brain cancer than nonusers.
The June 2010 Interphone Study suggested that the risk for gliomas, acoustic neuromas, meningiomas, and parotid gland tumors were associated with cell phone use based on a decade of research. Specifically, while the study found no statistically significant correlation between cell phone usage and the increased incidence of malignant brain tumors, it did find a possible link between the development of one type of nonmalignant brain tumor, gliomas, and heavy cell phone use. The study proclaimed a 40 percent increase in risk for gliomas for people who used their cell phones for an average of 30 minutes per day over a 10 year period.
In May of 2011, 31 scientists from 14 countries met at the International Agency for Research Center (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Lyon, France. The scientists reviewed studies associated with cell phone RF exposure and concluded that RF electromagnetic fields may be “possibly carcinogenic” to humans based on an increased risk for gliomas. Their conclusion relied heavily upon the review of hundreds of scientific journals articles regarding RF energy. However, the United Kingdom’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) recently announced that there is “no convincing evidence that RF fields cause genetic damage or increase the likelihood of cells becoming malignant.” Yet the HPA cautioned, that long-term effects of cell phone radiation are still unknown, as cell phones have only been in use since the 1990s: " [o]ne can’t know what the long-term consequences are of something that has been around for only a short period” said Anthony Swerdlow, who chaired the HPS review group. The HPA also stated that “excessive use of mobile phones by children should be discouraged.”
Participation bias and/or other methodological limitations may cause the results of the study to be questioned.
Personal injury suits based on the health risks associated with cell phones often fail because of a lack of proof on causation. Many courts conclude opinion testimony as to causeation is scientifically unreliable. For example, in Reynard v. NEC, 887 F. Supp. 1500 (M.D. Fla. 1995), the court granted summary judgment to the defendants because the plaintiffs’ evidence did not satisfy their burden of showing an issue of material fact regarding causation and did not satisfy the evidentiary requirements under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993). A similar result occurred in Newman v. Motorola, Inc., 218 F. Supp. 2d 769 (D. Md. 2002), aff’d Newman v. Motorola, Inc., 78 Fed. Appx. 292 (4th Cir. 2003). Plaintiff's experts to date have struggled to prove the reliabity of theri opinion necessary to comply with Daubert standards.
State courts rarely get to address the issue because federal regulations appear to preempt state law. See Farina v. Nokia, Inc., 625 F.3d 97 (3d Cir. 2010); Murray v. Motorola, Inc., 982 A.2d 764 (D.C. 2009). However, in Pinney v. Nokia, Inc., 402 F.3d 430 (4th Cir. 2005), the U.S. Court of Appeals decided to let the state claim to go forward.
Until there is definitive scientific proof establishing a causal link between long term cell phone use and cancer, plaintiffs’ will struggle with litigation. The good news is that more studies are on their way and hopefully the controvery will be resolved one way or the other.