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Special On Cell Phones: Are They Harmful to Your Health?

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    Today we are having a special program about the safety of cell phones, and the possible health consequences of regular exposure to the microwaves that they emit.

    A study released last week by the University of Washington shows that rats exposed to the same kinds of radiation given out by cell phones for just one hour showed significant memory loss. It also found some damage to the rats’ DNA–some genetic material in their brain cells had broken into pieces.

    One of the first people to talk about the potential dangers of cell phone use is David Reynard, whose wife died of a brain tumor in 1992. He appeared on the Larry King Live Show in 1993 after filing a lawsuit against NEC, a cell phone operator, and other companies, alleging that his late wife’s tumor was caused in part by her use of a cell phone.

    Reynard’s appearance in the Larry King Live Show caused nationwide concern. At the time there were 15 million cell phone users in the U. S.–now there are about 80 million. The day after the show, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) went on the offensive, with industry executives claiming that thousands of studies had proved that cell phone use was safe. The CTIA hired Dr. George Carlo, a public health scientist with experience as an industry researcher, to conduct health studies. In 1995, Dr. Carlo found that the cell phones interfere with cardiac pacemakers. The industry did not like the findings, and cut off funding to Dr. Carlo. He later was rehired by the industry, and has since found co-relations between cell phone use and several types of brain tumors.

    Dr. Carlo was also featured in a recent ABC 20/20 special on cell phones. In the special, ABC producers tried to have several popular models of cell phones tested to determine the amount of radiation that was being absorbed by the brain–but when they tried to test the phones in the US, they were turned down by every lab that does this kind of work. It turns out the labs work for the industry. They finally were able to test the phones at a lab in Europe. The tests showed that the vast majority of the cell phones gave off radiation at a higher dose than the maximum allowed by US regulations.

    Meanwhile in Britain, a BBC special on the program Panorama also highlighted the latest cell phone studies conducted in Sweden, which found that cell phone users are about 2.5 times as likely as non-users to suffer tumors in the lobes of the brain adjacent to their “phone ears.”


    • Henry Lai, professor at the University of Washington, Seattle. He conducted the cellular phone study using laboratory animals.


    • David Reynard, husband of Susan Ellen Reynard, who died of a brain tumor in 1992. He sued the cell phone industry.
    • Dr. George Carlo, public health scientist who was hired by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association.
    • Louis Slesin, editor, Microwave News.
    • Alistair Philips of Powerwatch, a consumer organization that deals with power lines and cellular phones.

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