It’s supposed to be the mother of all studies into cellphones and their potential link to head cancers, a definitive report that the multibillion-dollar wireless industry has partially funded.
But the published analysis of the 13-country Interphone study is two years late and likely to be delayed further as the more than 50 scientists involved bicker over how to interpret the results, knowing full well that any hint at health risks would have a profound impact on the industry.
The stakes are high, and the steps toward the final outcome are being closely watched. More than three billion people around the world use a cellphone, and while sales next year are expected to fall slightly amid tough economic times, wireless gadgets like the BlackBerry and iPhone are woven into the fabric of our daily lives.
Participating countries are free to publish their individual national results, and eight countries have.
Among Nordic countries, there are already hints that cellphone use for 10 years or longer increases the risk of developing glioma and acoustic neurinoma tumours on the side of the head where a handset is held.
It’s far from definitive, but suggestive enough to spark closer scrutiny from some scientific corners. Growing impatient and citing the public’s right to get “the whole pattern,” a group of scientists calling themselves The BioInitiative Working Group are urging the remaining five countries including Canada to hand over their results “without further delay.”
“There is a lot of data that’s been obtained, but not all of it, and the people sitting on it are being obstructionists for a particular reason,” said Dr. Martin Blank, a professor of cellular biophysics at Columbia University in New York City and one of 11 scientists who signed a letter earlier this month asking for speedy release of the data.
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