Phone Cancer Risk
Cover-Up, Claims Expert
Journalist: Dominique Jackson
October 26, 1999
TELCOS have been accused of hiding evidence that shows mobile phones may
cause cancer. The claim comes from George Carlo, whose company was paid
$US25 million ($40 million) over the past five years to conduct research for
the Cellular Telephone Industry Association (CTIA).
Dr Carlo, once seen as an industry mouthpiece who denied any cancer risk,
has written to 30 industry leaders, saying he is ``extremely frustrated and
concerned'' that his findings of potential health risks were being ignored.
He has urged chief executives of the telecommunications companies, including
AT&T's Michael Armstrong, to fund further research.
``I'm concerned the CTIA is not sharing all the information,'' Dr Carlo
His research shows the risk of benign tumours of the auditory nerve is 50
percent higher in mobile users of six years or more, he says.
The risk of rare neuro-epithelial tumours on the outside of the brain is
more than doubled among mobile phone users, his research shows.
A correlation between right-side brain tumours and use of the phone on the
same side was also found. Phone radiation could cause functional genetic
Dr Carlo's now disbanded group, Wireless Technology Research (WTR), was paid
$US25 million over five years to uncover health risks from mobile phones. He
said his team made this latest research breakthrough only this year. In his
letter to the carriers' CEOs, Dr Carlo said: ``While none of these findings
alone are evidence of a definitive health hazard from wireless phones, the
pattern of potential health effects evidenced by different types of studies,
from different laboratories, and by different investigators, raises serious
He urged the carriers to conduct public education campaigns so mobile phone
users were aware of the possible dangers. But he complained to The
Australian that ``the CTIA is doing what it does best -- handling the
problem through politics and pressure''. ``Taking an approach that goes
towards misleading the public that wireless phones are safe is absolutely
ridiculous,'' he said.
Dr Carlo said when his results first emerged, CTIA members had verbally
agreed to publicise the work, but never took action. He also accused
carriers of trying to mislead the globally influential US Food and Drug
Administration (FDA). The industry risked a backlash of lawsuits similar to
the tobacco industry if it continued to ignore the issue, he said.
Dr Carlo decided to speak out only after his contract with the CTIA expired,
which has not endeared him to his hundreds of critics in the scientific
community who have long regarded him as an apologist for the carriers.
He was once accused of conducting research ``without ever getting a
test-tube wet''. Industry observers are unconvinced by Dr Carlo's latest
statements. Stewart Fist, an analyst and columnist for The Australian, said
Dr Carlo had spoken out to protect himself from potential lawsuits. What Dr
Carlo is doing now ``is covering his own back so he can't get sued'', Mr
Fist said. ``He is advising the companies that make up the CTIA that he has
found evidence that there are health effects. That then gets him off the
Mr Fist said Dr Carlo had in the past made statements in court that there
was no evidence of any danger. Dr Carlo responded to Mr Fist's claims,
saying: ``I don't believe writing those letters protects me from being
He said he already faced a suit for conspiring with the CTIA to conceal
information. ``As a public health person, I'm trying to follow through my
obligation to let the public know what we've found,'' he said. ``We've done
some ground-breaking work.
``I want to make sure the legacy of the WTR is not one of being a PR agent
for the industry.''
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