October 2, 2011
A new industry-sponsored study on brain tumour risks in children who use mobilephones was presented to the media in July 2011. The press-release claimed that theresults were ”reassuring” whereas the study itself indicated an increased risk. Apart fromplaying down the results, there is evidence that the scientists also manipulated theresearch in order to underestimate the risks, especially of cordless phones.
The CEFALO study on the possible link between brain tumours and mobile phone use amongchildren showed an increased risk for children and adolescents who used a mobile phoneregularly.
Cefalo indicates in fact significantly increased risks, and the risks increase withincreased use,
says the Swedish oncologist and epidemiologist Lennart Hardell one of theexperts who participated in the recent WHO evaluation on mobile phone radiation and cancer.The increased risks of which some were statistically significant are mentioned neither by theCefalo scientistsMartin RöösliandMaria Feychting, nor by the Journal of the National CancerInstitute (JNCI
Their press-releases give reassuring messages as if no risk had been observed.
– Results are reassuring because they are non-significant and thus are compatible with chance
,states for example Martin Röösli
This interpretation of non-significant results differs fromnormal, straightforward presentations like the one a Norwegian Cefalo researcher put forwardin 2005: “
We found an elevated risk for residential exposure to magnetic fields and braintumours, although the risk was not significant”.
It is also noteworthy that the JNCI let aconsultant from the International Epidemiology Institute (IEI) express the reassuring messagein their press-release. IEI has been identified as a
.Other intriguing facts about the Cefalo study include the small size of the sample, the lowinterest in other sources of non-ionizing radiation (EMF) that the children might have beenexposed to, and the incomplete study of the impact of cordless phones. Mobile and cordlessphones emit the same kind of radiation, and were both taken into consideration by the WHOevaluation mentioned above. Martin Röösli, the coordinator of Cefalo and a board member of the industry funded Swiss Research Foundation on Mobile communication gives the followingexplanation of why the Cefalo team only studied the first three years of cordless phone use:
– You cannot prove all hypotheses with one study, unless you make a very long interview.
This is puzzling as the Cefalo questionnaire was rather long (267 questions) and Röösli wasaware of the role of cordless phones as shows the following quotation :
“Mobile and cordless phone radiation is an important exposure source”.
A large number of questions treatedconfounding factors including the test persons’ contacts with cigarette smoke (38 questions),snakes and goats. Only five questions focused on cordless phones. According to Röösli one of them was:
“How often did (child) speak on cordless phone in the first 3 years he/she used it regularly?
Curiously, the questionnaire sent to the Karolinska Institute’s ethical review boardin 2005
did not include this question, but one that was not restricted to the first 3 years of use:“
How often does (child) speak on a cordless phone? (calling and receiving altogether)”
Whyand when did the Cefalo scientists decide to limit the study of cordless phone use, and is this methodologically and ethically acceptable?
– Restricting the study to the first three years of usewill lead to an underestimation of risks. We know that telephone use increase with age and that teenagers talk more than children
, says Lennart Hardell.The elusive press-releases and the sudden restriction of cordless phone use have raisedsuspicions of an intentional underestimation of the health risks. Professor Joel Moscowitz,Director of Center for Family and Community Health, School of Public Health University of California, questions the conclusions of the Cefalo scientists and the IEI, and claims that thestudy was biased. His conclusion finds support in recent history. Several studies reveal that ithas become a widespread practice to use outcome-oriented science to create doubt in order topostpone regulation and protect the manufacturers.
The manufacturer that would be protected in this case is the mobile phone industry.
“Any perceived risk or new scientific findings of adverse health effects of mobile communicationdevices and equipment could adversely affect us through a reduction in sales or throughliability claims.”
The mobile phone industry’s interest groups are very active in Brussels andWashington, they are also investing huge amounts in research on health effects, including theCefalo study. A large majority of the industry-sponsored studies conclude that EMF radiationis harmless, while most independent studies conclude that there is a risk.
Cefalo might have been designed to play down risks, but instead of challenging the findings of the international Interphone group and the Swedish Hardell group, it reconfirms them. Thesestudies made IARC, the cancer research agency of the World Health Organisation, classifymobile phone radiation as “possibly carcinogenic” in May 2011.There is now more than enough evidence for an application of the precautionary principleaccording to the International EMF Alliance, a public interest NGO representing some 60grassroots organisations advocating for a regulation and a reduction of electro-pollution.
– The irrational “zero-risk” interpretation of the Cefalo scientists creates doubts and could postpone preventive measures and cause unnecessary suffering. Mobile phone use hasincreased massively among children and teenagers the last decade, and even a small increaseof brain tumour risks is of great concern
, says Alex Swinkels, IEMFA board member.
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