Mobile Phones Cover-Up -
Firms Shelve Scientist's Warning
Journalists: Ian Gallagher and Dennis Rice
October 16, 1999
A Scientist who was paid millions by mobile phone companies to investigate
health risks has bitterly criticised them for failing to act on his
Dr. George Carlo found that the rate of death from brain cancer is higher
among mobile phone users and the risk of contracting a rare tumour on the
outside of the brain is more than double.
In an astonishing attack on the industry for which he once acted as a
spokesman, he accused firms of not taking safety seriously.
"The companies are now spending millions trying to discredit me because,
basically, they didn't like what I told them", he revealed to The Express
last night. "I feel angry and let down".
His research body, which was handpicked by the industry was given £15
million to carry out a six-year study into the health effects of mobile
phones. But after presenting its results to the phone companies in February,
he claims they failed to take the "appropriate steps to protect
consumers". Dr. Carlo, a leading public health scientist based in
Washington, said: "They have shown total disregard for mobile phone users".
In a damning letter to the heads of each of the 26 US firms that funded the
research, Dr. Carlo wrote of his extreme frustration and concern. His study
showed that there "appeared to be some correlation between brain tumours on
the right side of the head and use of the phone on the right side of the
head." Laboratory studies also looked at the "ability of radiation from a
phone's antenna system to cause genetic damage". These studies proved
Dr. Carlo said: "Following my presentation I heard by voice vote of those
present, a pledge to do the right thing in following up these findings. But
since I presented my findings, which they found surprising, they have failed
to do anything. In that time there have been another 15 million users in the
States and thousands more in Britain. From a consumer point of view the
delaying tactic is not good but from a business point of view its great".
Alasdair Phillips, of the
consumer group Powerwatch, said: "To have someone like him, who has even
acted as a spokesman for the industry come out and say this is quite
amazing. There is a definite link between mobiles and brain cancer which the
companies can't continue to ignore".
In his letter Dr. Carlo said "Alarmingly, indications are that some segments
of industry have ignored the scientific findings suggesting potential health
effects". He said some companies had "repeatedly and falsely claimed" that
mobiles "are safe for all consumers including children". His findings add to
concern over the safety of mobiles- used by 13 million in Britain alone,
with the number rising daily. But a spokesman for the British cellular
industry insisted last nigh that it was committed to addressing health
Dr. Carlo warned of a consumer backlash and said customers should be given
all the information they need to make up their own minds about the health
risks. He advised people to cut the time they spend on their mobile or use
hands-free phones which do not come into direct contact with the ear. Last
night the Federation of the Electronics Industry, which represents the UK
cellular phone companies, said it understood public concern. "In particular,
the industry is supporting and will continue to support independent research
in this area, and will share information in an open and honest way. All
mobile phones and masts operate on strict exposure guidelines established by
expert bodies. The consensus of scientific opinion is that there is no
consistent evidence that mobile phones and phone masts operating within
these guidelines have any adverse health effects."
Earlier this year British researchers found that mobile type radiation
created mysterious hot-spots which could damage children's developing
brains. The Government promised a rigorous investigation. Days later a study
of 11,000 volunteers, the largest so far, found a link with headaches,
dizziness and concentration lapses.
No one from the CTIA, which represents US mobile phone companies, was
available for comment last night. But writing in response to Dr. Carlo's
letter, president Thomas Wheeler said that when he presented his findings he
said "they did not pose a public health threat". He added, "We are certain
you have never provided the CTIA with the studies you mention".
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