- Just hold the phone a second.
- Officially, there is no link between
cell phones and brain tumours. Unofficially, it ranks as the next biggest
conspiracy next to who really shot JFK and, more recently, whether Princess
Di was assassinated by the British Secret Service.
- Anecdotal evidence abounds. There are
lawsuits now filed on both sides of the Atlantic from people who claim
they have developed brain tumours from using wireless telephones.
- An oft-cited Australian study says mice
exposed to cell phone waves were twice as likely to develop cancer. But
while the conspiracists hold it as the smoking gun in the debate, the scientific
community, including the most definitive study thus far, says the issue
needs more investigation.
- The Australian mice study did show higher
rates of cancer but involved mice that were predisposed to cancer, said
the article in Radiation Research, the journal of the Radiation Research
- "There is a need to replicate and
extend this study," it says, arguing the data aren't reliable enough
to predict tumours in humans.
- And that's the problem in this high-stakes
game: There is no definitive evidence of a link between tumours and cell
- At least not yet.
- Can the radiation of PCS phones raise
the temperature of human tissue and alter DNA enough to trigger a cancerous
growth? Which type of radiation is more harmful? Are some people -- like
the mice in the Australian study -- genetically predisposed to cancer from
- We don't know, so, in the meantime, we
wait, although a few companies are using the fear generated by the issue
to make a few bucks, selling metal condom-like devices for cellphones that
claim to deflect the bulk of harmful radiation.
- And at least one British scientist wants
to sue his local telephone company for failing to put a warning label on
their cell phones.
- "In my opinion, and in the opinion
of many scientists, anyone who uses a mobile telephone for more than 20
minutes at a time needs to have their brain tested," bio-electromagnetics
scientist Roger Coghill told Reuters news service last month.
- Despite our addiction to cell phone technology,
the Canadian contribution is pretty minimal. The Royal Society of Canada,
sort of a clearing house for the pursuit of science, was commissioned by
Health Canada last September to determine whether the limits set by current
regulation are suffiently safe.
- Dr. Daniel Krewski, an epidemiologist
and biostatistician at the University of Ottawa is chairing a panel of
scientists assembled from leading universities and hospitals across North
America and says the study is on track and will report as expected by the
end of March.
- The group isn't doing any research of
its own, relying on information already available but which groups like
the Canadian Cancer Society and the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada
say has yet to yield a definitive conclusion.
- "The incidence of brain tumours
-- especially the most serious type -- is increasing," said Sue Barnes
of the Brain Tumour Foundation. "But we don't know why yet. We don't
know if cell phones are connected because there's nothing conclusive."
- That's a familiar lament in the field
of tumours. We know also that testicular tumours are on the rise, but we
don't know why -- although many environmental issues are being blamed,
there's nothing conclusive.
- In the interim, Krewski's not talking,
except to say that "it's going well."
- And given the claims of interference
levelled at the wireless industry in the wake of other studies, perhaps
his discretion is well placed.
- Conspiracists claim other studies have
been buried or otherwise tampered with in an attempt to squelch the facts.
The hysteria is reaching cacophonic proportions.
- And no wonder. There is no more ubiquitous
a tech-toy than the cell phone, which has gone from being a symbol of corporate
rank to being a common, everyday appliance.
- With the continued breakneck growth of
the industry and new toys on the horizon that will rely on similar technology
to provide everything from low-level satellite telephone to wireless local
service, sorting out what exposures are safe is critical.
- And it could be devastatingly expensive
to those with a stake in the digital wireless world.
- Just ask the tobacco industry.