The Safety of Mobile Phones was our topic at Protons for Breakfast this week. During the week an e-mail was forwarded to me from someone attending the course. They wrote:
I wondered if Michael might have comments on the article at the link? Cell Phone Dangers — What They Don’t Want You to See
Well I do have comment. This is a terrible and pernicious web site. It contains misinformation in its most hateful forms. If you read this you might think we are in the middle of an epidemic. I honestly can hardly bear to look at this site but I will give you three quotes from the site:
- Here [in a now deleted You Tube video] Dr. Charlie Tia, a preeminent Australian neurosurgeon discusses what he believes is a contributing factor to this exponential increase in brain tumors among children: excessive exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF), and electromagnetic radiation (EMR) from mobile phones and other electrical and electronic equipment and appliances
- Few people realize this, but brain cancer has now surpassed leukaemia as the number one cancer killer in children.
- Australia has seen an increase in pediatric brain cancers of 21 percent in just one decade. This is consistent with studies showing a 40 percent brain tumor increase across the board in Europe and the U.K. over the last 20 years.
The implication of this is that mobile phones are killing our children NOW! Is it true? If you look at the site you will see that he gives no references whatsoever– that’s a clue as to the amount of attention he has paid to the site. But even so the site leaves even me feeling worried. Looking at this you maybe you find yourself asking “Is this really happening?” or “Why didn’t Michael tell us about this?” Well I didn’t tell you about this because its just complete nonsense. Please don’t take my word for it, please look at the statistics yourself and make up your own mind.
Australian statistics are not so readily available for analysis, but they are summarised here (very long pdf). Surprisingly, they show an increasing trend of incidence for all cancers. I do not know the origin of this, but since it occurs for all cancers, this trend is likely to be an artefact of cancer diagnosis techniques or increased longevity. The Australian data is in contrast to the US where cancer statistics are readily available for all types of cancers dating back to 1975 – before there was any widespread use of mobile phones.
US statistics are available from the National Institute of Health (NIH) cancer web site and from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program web site which has intensively monitored selected populations to garner detailed data sets. Warning: These are BIG web sites and you will not find exactly what you want easily – it took me hours to find and extract the data I was looking for i.e. the data which most closely corresponded to that mentioned in the pernicious web site. This is data for the incidence of Leukaemia and Brain Tumours. What do the US data show?
Well the data for Brain Tumours and cancers of the central nervous system is shown at head of this piece. The data for Leukemia – mainly a cancer of childhood – is shown below. Please make up your own mind whether there is an” exponential increase in brain tumours” or whether there is a “change in the ratio of brain tumours to leukaemia” or whether there is evidence of “a 40% increase in brain tumours”.
In contrast to these basically static graphs, mobile phone use went from zero to its current widespread use during this period. If exposure to mobile phones is a significant contributing factor to these diseases we would expect to see a rising trend in these graphs versus time. I don’t see any such trend.
I don’t claim – and neither does anyone else – that this data is ‘proof’ that mobile phones are ‘safe’. The data above indicate that there is no current evidence of harm. But a link between mobile phone use and cancer may exist and we should continue to look for it. We should continue to compile these statistics (which is an expensive undertaking) and we should go further. For example, we can look at each tragic case behind each dot on the graph above to see if there are common factors about the use of mobile phones or other exposure to microwave radiation.
I have written this blog comment because websites such as the one mentioned at the start spread only alarm and fear and offer no insight into what is really happening. The authors of such sites should be ashamed of themselves.