The administration of mayor Gavin Newsom called the vote a major victory for cell phone shoppers' right to know.
According to the New York Times:
"Under the law, retailers will be required to post materials -- in at least 11-point type -- next to phones, listing their specific absorption rate, which is the amount of radio waves absorbed into the cell phone user's body tissue.
These so-called SAR rates can vary from phone to phone, but all phones sold in the United States must have a SAR rate no greater than 1.6 watts per kilogram".
San Francisco has just become the first city in the US to require SAR values to be displayed by retailers of cell phones. The SAR value is a measure of the power of the cell phone and its potential for heating tissues. (A draft of the legislation, which includes warning shoppers about cell phone safety, can be found here.)
The SAR rating itself is nothing new. In fact, the SAR values of phones have been available for some time, typically listed in fine print somewhere in your owner's manual, on the manufacturer's website, and in the FCC's databases.
Now, however, shoppers in San Francisco will be able to easily compare one phone's SAR value to another, without extensive digging. And contrary to what the media would like you to believe, if you're one of these "concerned shoppers," you're not alone.
When the Environmental Working Group launched its SAR value database last Fall, almost 500,000 people accessed the online database within the first few days, indicating that there's plenty of consumer interest in cell phone safety.
Once the new law takes effect, cell phone retailers must clearly display each phone's SAR value next to the phone. Values vary from one model to the next, starting around 0.2 watts, but the maximum allowable SAR rate is 1.6 watts per kilogram for phones sold in the US. This guideline is based on the exposure from a six minute phone call.
Cell Phone Safety Debate Continues
The typical industry jargon parroted by most conventional media is seen again here, both in the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. The New York Times states:
"The law — believed to be the first of its kind in the nation — came despite a lack of conclusive scientific evidence showing that the devices are dangerous, and amid opposition from the wireless telephone industry, which views the labeling ordinance as a potential business-killing precedent."
But make no mistake about it. There is PLENTY of scientific evidence showing harm from cell phones and other wireless products.
Now, it's important to realize that although the SAR value is important, it's by no means a surefire way to ensure your phone is "safe." In fact, when all things are taken into consideration, there may not be such a thing as a completely harmless cell phone.
Camilla Rees, founder of ElectromagneticHealth.org explains:
"The cell phone SAR value does not accurately reflect the potential for biological harm from the frequencies of the communication, and, very importantly, there are also some biological effects that have been shown to be worse at lower SAR values compared to higher SAR values, such as blood brain barrier permeability.
In no way should consumers be relying on the SAR value alone as a measure of safety, but instead realize it is how one uses a cell phone (speaker phone or headset vs. against one's head) and for how long that matters most.
Many people do not realize that cell phone manuals themselves, in the small print, say you should not place the phone against your head, but keep it approximately ½" to 1" away from your head. This important message is still not getting across to people with all the focus on the SAR value."
Likewise, Dr. Devra Davis of the Environmental Health Trust warns that, although this bill is a first step in the right direction:
"It would be dangerous for people to assume that they can hold a lower SAR phone close to the head for hours a day. How and where phones are used determines the overall exposures to radiofrequency radiation."
Serious Biological Changes Observed from Cell Phone Exposure
ElectromagneticHealth.org also quotes Swedish scientist, Olle Johannson:
"At the Karolinska Institute, we have for many years observed very serious biological changes from exposure to microwave radiation and extremely low-frequency magnetic fields of the kind emitted by cell phones.
The type of radiation emitted by cell phones has been linked to cancer, neurological diseases, impairments to immune function, and neurological function (cognition, behavior, performance, mood status, disruption of sleep, increased risk for auto collisions, etc.).
We also know that this kind of radiation impacts DNA, leading to possible mutations and cancer development, as well as affecting fertility and reproduction, causing a dramatic decline in sperm count."
I've covered most of these findings in previous articles, which you can easily find by visiting my dedicated EMF site.
The New York Times goes on to claim that the long-awaited, 13-country Interphone study published last month "found no increased risk for the two most common types of brain tumors." And that "in the most extreme cell phone users, there was a small increase in a type of cancer that attacks the cells that surround nerve cells, though researchers found that finding inconclusive."
Again, this is little more than regurgitations of the unscientific and already refuted position of the industry.
Serious Design Flaws Uncovered in Largest Cell Phone Study Ever Conducted
Some of the most important findings of the Interphone study were left out by the New York Times reporting, such as the fact that "heavy users" at the time -- who would be considered very "light users" today—showed a "quadrupled risk of brain cancer and a quintupled risk of meningioma when the total use time was between 1 and 4 years and the number of hours of use was over 1,640."
See The International EMF Collaborative's "Counter-View of the Interphone Study", May 17, 2010. The notable findings, outlined in this "Counter-View Report", were downplayed by the media with the reporting emphasis instead being on the overall results which found "no increased risk", or exactly what industry would probably like you to think.
The reality of the situation is that the Interphone study has already been shown to be seriously flawed. We have been reporting on this since the International EMF Collaborative's landmark analysis of its design protocol was published last August, "Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern, Science, Spin and the Truth Behind Interphone".
One major problem is that the results of the Interphone study are now clearly outdated. At the time when this study was conducted, from 1999-2004, "heavy" use was defined as about two hours a month!
In the decade that's passed since the study began, cell phone use has grown exponentially and it is not at all unusual for people to use a cell phone for two hours or more each day!
What that means, is that an extremely light user by today's standards has a doubled risk of glioma, while the risk for a moderate to heavy user today is likely exponentially greater than that!
It also means that there's enormous unknown risk to children who start using cell phones at a very early age. Many teens even use cell phones exclusively these days.
What's worse, the Interphone study design appears to be so flawed that results have even shown a protective effect from using cell phones 10 years or less -- a result that even the Interphone researchers admit is not at all plausible.
The protective effect for brain tumors from cell phone use was the 'tip off' that something was terribly wrong with the Interphone study's design and researchers quickly began to focus on this.
When one tosses a coin, there is a 50 percent chance of getting heads and a 50 percent chance of getting tails, thus the 'odds ratio' is 1.
But of statistically independent Interphone study odds ratios published in 11 single country studies, for example, only 67 odds ratios showed risk and 217 showed 'protection', showing bias toward showing protection and away from showing risk.
All in all, at least a dozen serious design flaws have been revealed contributing to this skew as reflected by the unusual odds ratios.
A team of international EMF researchers and activists -- the International EMF Collaborative -- released a report endorsed by 40 leading international EMF scientists detailing the design flaws of the Interphone study. They say the 'systemic-skew' in the study is greatly underestimating brain tumor risk and is misleading the public about the true risks.
Some of the most serious design flaws include:
- Categorizing subjects who used portable phones (which emit the same microwave radiation as cell phones) as 'unexposed'
- Excluding many types of brain tumors
- Excluding people who had died, or were too ill to be interviewed as a consequence of their brain tumor
- Excluding children and young adults, who are more vulnerable to the effects of radiation and who now use cell phones heavily
In addition, data on two other tumor types, acoustic neuromas and salivary gland tumors, which have been associated with cell phone use in the past, was for some reason excluded from the recently published pooled results.
This is of great concern as these tumors are closest to where the phone is placed against the head. In earlier individual Interphone studies, for example, those by Lonn et all and Shoemaker et al, very significant increased risk of acoustic neuromas was shown from cell phone use after 10 years of use.
Re-Evaluation of the Interphone Study Indicates Significant Health Risk
ElectromagneticHealth.org mentions that a recent presentation at the Bioelectromagnetics Society annual meeting in Seoul, Korea in June 2010, showed that the risk of brain tumors from cell phone use is in fact much higher than the Interphone study acknowledged.
The analysis, by Lloyd Morgan, B.Sc. , Professor Michael Kundi of the Medical University in Vienna, Austria and Michael Carlberg, M.Sc. of the Department of Oncology, University Hospital, Örebro, Sweden, QUANTIFIED the impact of the 12 design flaws identified by the International EMF Collaborative last August, and recast the Interphone data to portray a more accurate reflection of risk by correcting for the skewed odds ratios.
The presenter of the report, Lloyd Morgan, B.Sc., lead author of "Cellphones and Brain Tumors", Member of the International EMF Collaborative and Senior Fellow of Environmental Health Trust, is quoted as saying:
"What we have discovered indicates there is going to be one hell of a brain tumor pandemic unless people are warned and encouraged to change current cell phone use behaviors.
Governments should not soft-peddle this critical public health issue but instead rapidly educate citizens on the risks. People should hear the message clearly that cell phones should be kept away from one's head and body at all times."
Lloyd Morgan, B.Sc. and the other members of the International EMF Collaborative have called for release of raw data from the Interphone study so the results can be thoroughly reanalyzed by independent scientists.
This call to action was reiterated recently at the Bioelectromagnetics Society Annual in Seoul, Korea by Jørn Olsen, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Epidemiology at the UCLA School of Public Health, who called for a complete release of the Interphone study raw data.
Dr. Olsen was quoted by Lloyd Morgan as saying: "the raw data of the Interphone study should be made available to all scientists, as is common practice in other fields."
What Happens when the Whole World Goes Wireless?
Another article in the San Francisco Chronicle has brought yet another wireless problem to my attention... It reports that "San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has requested that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) institute a moratorium on the installation of wireless Smart Meters."
So what does this have to do with it, you ask?
Well, it's yet another facet of the ever growing prevalence of wireless communications.
Now they even have utility meters that send usage information wirelessly, from your residence to the utility company.
Herrera didn't ask for the moratorium because these meters might pose a health hazard, but surely, this facet should be carefully reviewed as well before wireless meters are installed in every home. In this case, some of the 5.9 million customers who have already received the Smart Meters have complained of soaring electricity bills, indicating that perhaps there's a problem with the meters' accuracy.
I have no doubt that the health hazards of wireless communications will become glaringly apparent sooner or later. But somehow, being able to say "I told you so" just isn't going to bring any satisfaction when that day comes. I'd much rather see intelligence, sanity, and sound science prevail to come up with solid solutions before the worst case scenario becomes reality.
There is still plenty of hope that we can make that happen as this issue is gaining ever more legitimate ground.
A sign of the times is the scheduled releases of not one, but two books on cell phone hazards, by conventional publishers.
The first, "Disconnect" by Dr. Devra Davis, is now available for pre-order.
The other is by Anne Louise Gittleman, called "ZAPPED -- Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn't Be Your Alarm Clock
and 1,268 Ways to Outsmart the Hazards of Electronic Pollution," which is also scheduled for release sometime later this year.
In addition, a new book on Dirty Electricity by epidemiologist, Sam Milham, MD, called "Dirty Electricity" will also be published soon. Dirty electricity means high frequency transients on electrical wiring and is an increasingly prevalent problem.
According to Camilla Rees of ElectromagneticHealth.org, "high electronics, and high RF environments, and electrical circuits connected to Compact Fluorescent Bulbs, all contribute to increasing levels of dirty electricity in our midst, and dirty electricity has been linked to cancer.
It is especially important we learn about ways to minimize dirty electricity by using capacitors or filters that neutralize this phenomenon. Even solar panels create dirty electricity, but most people in the green building industry are focused on energy efficiency for the consumer, not on ways to address the health impacts of these new technologies."
Last but not least, for information on how to protect yourself and your family from excessive exposures to microwave radiation from wireless technologies, please review this previous article.
You can also find microwave and dirty electricity remediation resources at www.emfsafetystore.com.