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Are Electromagnetic Fields the Next Battle in the War on Pollution?

Once we’ve cleaned up the air, will we need to clean up the airwaves as well? Mat Stein, author of When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency, thinks it’s a possibility. You’ve heard the rumors that cell phones cause cancer. You’ve seen those folks on the street holding their cell phones away from their head as though their phone’s cancer is contagious. But where did these rumors get started? Are they based in any fact? If there is truth to the myth, will electromagnetic fields be the next battle in the war on pollution? Will we be talking about electro-friendly devices in the future the way we talk about carbon-friendly products now? In the following excerpt, Mat Stein tells the story of Robert Kane, an early cellular telephone researcher who was convinced that the cell phone gave him the brain tumor that ultimately took his life. The following is from When Technology Fails by Mat Stein: In 1993, Motorola scientist and engineer Robert Kane, Ph.D., made headlines when he sued Motorola, claiming that while developing Motorola’s early cellular telephones, he burned the skin on his head and his brain with strong electromagnetic fields (EMF) in the radio frequency (RF) range and that this damage caused a brain seizure in 1992 that was subsequently diagnosed as caused by a brain tumor. Kane said that while performing the cell phone antenna tests in 1984, he noticed a hot, burning feeling above his right ear immediately adjacent to the cell phone. Afterward, his skin developed a “wetness” and a dermatitis type of itchy skin condition that lasted for months. During this period of time, Kane’s ear also oozed excessive wax and fluids. During the trial, Dr. Samuel Milham and Dr. Jan Leestma testified that these conditions were typical of burns and that, in their expert medical opinion, it was these burns that caused the tumor to grow in Kane’s brain. Even though the earlier skin and ear conditions were medically documented, and the tumor was of an unusual type and was located at precisely the location directly beneath the location of the skin condition, Kane and his wife lost their court battle. We all know who had the deep pockets in this case—Motorola (State of Illinois, Circuit Court of Cook County, 2002). Kane went on to write a book exposing the cellular industry’s suppression of scientific evidence linking the EMF/RF of cell phones, cell towers, and various other wireless devices to a wide variety of health dangers, including the increased likelihood of developing leukemia, tumors, and other cancers. His book, Cellular Telephone Russian Roulette, was published in 2001 and is reported to be an excellent source of information on this subject. Unfortunately, after numerous operations, Kane succumbed to his cancer in 2005, and his book has gone out of print. Fearing public backlash due to concerns over cellular telephone radiation, the industry organization called the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) organized its own research effort, headed by George Carlo, Ph.D., an expert in risk assessment and epidemiology. It was a $25 million program. The CTIA expected Dr. Carlo to vindicate the cellular industry and confirm prior research showing that these types of devices were in fact safe. Dr. Carlo was a longtime industry favorite “gun for hire” who had previously performed pro-tobacco work as a “medical expert” for the Philip Morris Company and similar “damage control” publicity on dioxin for the Chlorine Institute. For the first few years of their study, Dr. Carlo was the darling of the industry, as their preliminary results were indicating that prior concerns had been blown out of proportion. But their relationship ended, and industry funding was pulled, when even Dr. Carlo’s program began confirming what other scientific studies had found: that there were significant health concerns surrounding cell phone EMF and that elevated incidences of cancers, tumors, and other serious health problems were cropping up at far lower EMF exposures than what government standards have specified as “safe levels.” Though the results of Dr. Carlo’s program were extremely limited in their published results, the following is a partial list of potential health problems that other scientific studies have linked with elevated levels of EMF:
  • Recurring headaches and migraines.
  • Memory loss and mental confusion: The feeling of operating in a mental “fog.”
  • Sleep disorders: A recent study carried out by Wayne State University in Michigan and Karolinska Institute and Uppsala University in Sweden says that there is now more than sufficient evidence to show that cell-phone radiation affects deep sleep. A massive Belgian study that followed 1,656 teenagers for a year found that teenagers who used their cell phones before going to bed just once a week were three times more likely to be “very tired” than those without evening cellphone usage, and the results were far worse for heavy night-time cell phone users.
  • Nerve and psychiatric disorders: An Egyptian study found that people living near cell-phone towers (these towers are often disguised to prevent local protest) performed poorly on tests for attention, short-term memory, and problem solving, plus they are at high risk for more serious neurological disorders.
  • DNA damage: Drs. Henry Lai and Narendra Singh, biomedical researchers at the University of Washington, found that RF/microwave radiation from cell phones and cell tower transmitters quickly causes DNA strand breaks at levels well below current federal “safe” exposure levels. They are also shown to cause blood cells to leak hemoglobin, limiting their ability to perform their job of oxygen storage and transfer.
  • Cancer risk: Numerous studies show a significant increase in the risk of developing cancers and tumors, including eye cancer, breast cancer, leukemia, neck cancer, salivary gland tumors, and brain cancer.
  • Muscle pains, joint pains, and chronic fatigue.
  • Increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier.
  • Cell-phone RF/microwave radiation has been shown to promote the growth of cataracts. For an excellent source for further information on this subject, including technical articles, films and resources, see the Web site for the Council on Wireless Technology Impacts at www.energyfields.org.
In much the same way that humankind’s injection of massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere is a giant experiment with unknown consequences, our recent flooding of the “civilized” world with a sea of electromagnetic fields is also an experiment with potentially disastrous results.


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