Mobile phone

Originally published in November 2002 icon

The Head Case The Blood/Brain Barrier Cut the Power The USA Study US Legal Action The long-term legal issue Radiation Shields Does it Really Work?

People on mobiles

The Case AGAINST Mobile Phones

According to official government sources there is no evidence that mobile phones can cause cancer...

But some evidence seems to suggest otherwise!

So where does the truth lie?

In September 2002, you may have read that Levi’s intend to market a jacket with a lined pocket to protect wearers from radiation from their mobile phones. A spokesman for the phone industry called this scare-mongering and said there was ’absolutely no evidence against mobile phones’.

The official health view in the UK supports this stance. There is no definite evidence that mobile phone usage causes cancer. Nor is there any evidence that concludes health risks increase from mobile phone usage. In 1999 the UK joined with other European Union countries to draw up guidelines for maximum safe emission levels for mobile phones. These levels were set to avoid the heating of tissues, which was claimed at the time to be the only concern known about.

Also in 1999, there was a report by the "Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones" and chaired by Sir William Stewart, which concluded that there was "scientific evidence, which suggests that there may be biological effects occurring at exposures below these guidelines". The report went on to urge "a precautionary approach to the use of mobile phone technologies".

Open quotesThere is no definite evidence that mobile phone usage causes cancer but....Close quotes

Yet again in September 1999, this time it was the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee who recommended, "that the industry and the NRPB (National Radiological Protection Board) explore ways in which the design of mobile phones might limit personal exposure to radiation as a means of assisting consumer choice." In other words, the phone companies should offer ’low emission’ as well as ’full emission’ products.

So are mobile phones bad for your health or not?

An exploration of the research available is at best hugely confusing and at worst downright worrying. In fact, on reading the claim and counter claim one can’t help feeling that the confusion might just be a little deliberate and even a first line of the defence. For every report that there is a problem, there is one refuting it. But the simple truth is that it is not true that there is no evidence against mobile phones; indeed the case for the prosecution is vast, even if the case for the defence is equal to it. If this were a Chinese anti-cancer herbal potion or a vitamin supplement like B17 the FDA in the USA would have banned it years ago, simply on the volume of negative evidence, never mind the counter claims. They would merely talk of the high level of risk and that would be the end of the matter.

At icon we deal with people touched by cancer and so for their information here is a summary of the risk issues. We are very happy, in the interests of objectivity, to carry the counter arguments if someone from the phone industry wants to write an equivalent piece for us.

The Head Case

Open quotesThe head will absorb as much as 98% of the emitted radiationClose quotes

With a mobile phone the signal is emitted from the antenna in an omni-directional way. This means it goes out equally in all directions in free space. However, place a glass of water next to a mobile phone during a call and the radiation from the aerial will be induced into it, not by magnetism but by a phenomenon called induction. In Russian research in 2000 it was concluded that you can replace this glass of water by a head, and that the head will absorb as much as 98% of the emitted radiation, still leaving enough for a call to be made, such is the level of total emission!

A report by The Environmental Health Trust concluded that, "20-80 per cent of the electro magnetic radiation generated by mobile phones (depending upon make) is directly absorbed into the user’s brain.

It also concluded that, "a few minutes exposure to cell phone type radiation can transform a 5 per cent tumour into a 95 per cent active cancer." A Swedish study amongst 2,900 people using analogue phones concluded that people who hold their phones to their head more than double their risk of a tumour, which typically takes three to four years to develop. 25 per cent of mobile phones are used by under 18s. A report in the Ecologist concluded that children (who have thinner skulls) absorbed more radiation. And children with a developing nervous system are more prone to impairment of memory and immune deficiency. A recent Spanish study confirms this and goes on to state that a child using a mobile phone, even for just a few minutes, experiences a significant slowing of brain function for up to 50 minutes thereafter.

Open quotesspecialists claim ’ferrite chokes’ can stop this effect but there is little supporting test
Close quotes

You may decide it is safer not to put the phone to your head, and this could be a good option. The radiation effect on you decreases by the square of the distance away from you, meaning that as the phone moves twice as far away from you the induction into you decreases by up to a quarter. Four times the distance means you receive just a sixteenth, and so on. But as you can see from our glass of water experiment, this doesn’t save your hand from induction, or your hip if the phone is fixed on your belt. Internal windscreen aerials in cars are frowned on by VW because of the ionising effect they have inside the whole car. And those ear-pieces don’t prevent the problems either as the field travels up the wires to your ears. Some specialists claim ’ferrite chokes’ can stop this effect but there is little supporting test evidence.

In Italy only recently (September 2002), top international scientists at a conference "State of the Research on Electromagnetic Fields (EMF5)" concluded that there was experimental in vitro evidence that EMF5 did affect tissue; they ’took exception’ to arguments that weak EMFs could not damage tissue; they found plausible explanations for these effects even below EU guidelines and said that "the weight of evidence calls for preventative strategies including prudent avoidance and prudent use".

The Blood/Brain Barrier

An article published by Earthpulse Press, entitled Cell Phone Convenience or 21st Century Plague by Dr. Nick Begich and James Roderick included the following:

"Researchers have shown that low intensity microwave exposure opens up the blood/brain barrier, a biological effect which can allow the release of dangerous chemicals into the brain".

The article goes on to quote from the September 15, 1999 issue of Svenska Dagbladet:

"New Swedish research shows that the radiation from mobile phones might make it easier for poison to penetrate the brain. The findings could explain the diseases that American soldiers who have participated in high-tech warfare are suffering from. The unexplained symptoms of American soldiers of the Kuwait war are suspected to link to the medication they took against nerve gas. The microwaves surrounding soldiers in high-tech warfare could have opened the blood-brain barrier, and the medication penetrated into the brain. The possibility is now being investigated by the US Air Force in co-operation with the Lund [Swedish scientists."

The authors report that a group of German scientists found that exposure to electromagnetic fields during mobile phone use may increase resting blood pressure and that Colorado University researchers have shown that frequent mobile users had significantly depressed melatonin - a vital cancer-preventing hormone. Also mentioned is an Australian study that has linked cell phones to a higher rate of brain cancer, while a Swedish study suggests that using a mobile phone for more than 15 minutes could lead to headaches and fatigue.

Open quotesRadiation from mobile phones might make it easier for poison to penetrate the brainClose quotes

The article makes reference to a study by Dr. Lennart Hardel showing that mobile phone use increases the risk of a brain tumour by almost two and a half times.

The blood/brain barrier weakness has also been shown in very recent Finnish research. Professor Darius Leszcynski headed a two-year programme at t he Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority. In human cells in the laboratory, phone radiation clearly caused activity in cells that line the blood/brain barrier changing its ability to protect against harmful substances. These might simply include common ’medicines’ like antibiotics or anti-inflammatories~ both have been described by Dr Robert Goldman and Dr Ronald Klatz, the President of the American Academy of Anti-ageing medicine as "Brain Poisons".

Cut the Power

Open quotesCurrently phones do automatically ’power up’ if the signal as poorClose quotes

Manufacturers have a problem with this route. They cannot suddenly start making phones that emit less because they wouldn’t work unless there were far more base stations. Currently phones do automatically ’power up’ if the signal is poor, so to cut the overall power requires a considerable increase in radio masts and there lies another possible cancer debate beyond the scope of this article.

Also there is a delicate, political problem; to start selling phones with inbuilt radiation shields would be admitting there was a problem in the first place!

But a solution will have to be found, and soon. China has entered the ’frying’ debate. Their government has decided that, based on research of its own which it is not going to publish, it may only allow the sale of handsets with half the emission levels agreed as ’safe’ in Europe in the USA. This is likely to cost the industry billions of dollars, as China is a market they cannot ignore. David Hartly, Nokia’s top executive in China said the company would need to invest in new product design and testing if the rules were passed.

The USA Study

In the USA views have been hardening. Dr George Carlo is the former head of WTR, the research body funded by the US cellular Industry to study mobile phone health effects. The $28 million study ran from 1993 - 1998 (i.e. a year before the EU maximum levels were set) and finished with Dr Carlo concluding, "it is no longer appropriate for the industry to say that the product is safe". Dr Carlo has since written a book on his WTR work in which he concludes there’s a definite link between cancer and mobile phone use.

Open quotesThe rate of death from brain cancer was higher amongst hand phone users than non-hand phone
Close quotes

In a letter from Dr Carlo to one of the mobile phone company heads he sites a number of points from the 5-year study:

The rate of death from brain cancer was higher amongst hand phone users than non-hand phone users. The risk of acoustic neuroma, a benign tumour of the auditory nerve, is 50 per cent higher in people who reported using cell phones for 6 years or more. The risk of rave neuro-epithelial tumours more than doubled in cell phone users.

Dr Carlo also wrote to senators suggesting health warnings. He claimed that repeated laboratory findings showed when human blood was exposed to cell phone radiation, it resulted in genetic damage and the formation of micronuclei. Micronuclei presence means that cells have not properly repaired broken DNA and do not function properly. Cancer experts have written to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute about how they use tests for micronuclei as a diagnostic for cancer risk.

US Legal Action

Class action litigation currently underway in the USA already totals $800 million with more cases due to be announced.

Open quotesIf the case is thrown out they all goClose quotes

However the phone companies have caused a storm by trying to get virtually all the lawsuits to be heard by Baltimore Federal Judge Catherine Blake. Blake is now set to rule on ten brain cancer suits and five class action headset suits, leaving only one other case in the USA. Apparently the cases all fall into line behind a single case filed by a 42 year old Baltimore Neurologist Charles Newman. If Blake rules it should go to court, then all will. But if she throws it out they all go and the ploy will have been a clever tactic.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs are angry as they fear this is also a stalling tactic and several plaintiffs, already seriously ill, will never see their cases come to court. There is no doubt that the various defendants (the nation’s top wireless carriers and manufacturers as well as top trade associations and industry standard setting bodies) make formidable opponents.

Dr Lennart Hardel seems to be a key witness for the plaintiffs. Having already produced one paper this August in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention linking a 30% increase in benign tumours with cell phone usage, he is due to release his second in the October issue of the International Journal of Radiation Biology. The defence argued that Newman, the original plaintiff, had a malignant astrocytoma and this was not the same type of tumour. However the second paper is apparently set to make the link.

The Long-Term Legal Issue

Why is this whole area so cloudy when an official view is sought? Clearly the phone makers and the license holders do not want to admit any possible cancer causing concerns. But doesn’t that run the risk, one day, of legal action similar to that which hit the cigarette companies in the USA?

Open quotesClearly the phone makers and the license holders do not want to admit any possible cancer causing concernsClose quotes

The majority of legal action there was not simply centred on ’smoking causing cancer’, but that the cigarette companies knew there were problems and did not warn people. When Dr Carlo sends his report to mobile phone bosses surely they must answer the charges or eventually face the same fate as the cigarette companies?

Meanwhile in the UK, if mobile phones do turn out to cause cancer the Governments are in an embarrassing position. Not only did they not ask the right questions or conduct research in the first place, they also took significant sums of money to allow the phone companies to sell their wares to the public.

Radiation Shields

If you are a cancer sufferer you may well want to steer clear of using a mobile phone after reading this. Worse, if you believe one unconfirmed report that mobile phone usage can reduce your immune system by 30 per cent, you might be very worried about using a cell phone whilst on your recovery programme.

Of course you could try a radiation shield. We looked into the various reports on mobile phone shields and found one, the Microshield ( where the figures do seem to deliver and purchasers to date make interesting reading.

Open quotesA mobile phone company has ordered the Microshield for its 30,000 workersClose quotes

A mobile phone company, Transtel Cellular in South Africa, has recently ordered the Microshield for its 30,000 workers.

The Government Defence, Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) sticks to the official line that phones have not been proven dangerous. Meanwhile, it too has ordered 20 Microshields!

Not surprisingly we found that in all tests to reduce emissions into the brain in the UK the name Microshield consistently came top. So we checked it out.

The Microshield is a shielded leather mobile phone case with a sliding metal guard that slides against the antenna and works for internal or external antenna phones. This absorbs and eliminates the wasted radiation that is normally induced into the head without significant detectable signal impairment. Tests have shown that the reductions are so effective, that a protected phone will not disrupt sensitive medical equipment in hospitals. A new design of mobile phone that can be specifically used in hospitals is in development and will be released in the near future.

Does It Really Work?

The subject of ’shields’ brings with it yet more confusion. In Microshield’s case much of it is caused by inaccurate comment.

Open quotesIn the before and after cases the protection was between 95% and
Close quotes

The usual chestnut from the phone industry is that: "if you surround the phone with a shield, the phone signal will decrease. This results in a message from the mast telling the phone to automatically ’power up’ to compensate and preserve the signal, defeating the whole object of emission cutting". Anyone with ’A’ level physics and an open mind should be able to tell you this is wrong. The various test data, including data from the Government, have tested the phone at normal power and at full ’powered up’ levels. In the before and after cases the protection was between 95% and 98%.


The emissions that enter your head, as the analogy of the water glass showed, are simply wasted emissions. They do not power the signal or the phone call, merely entering the head via induction. If only 3 decibels out of 28, say, are needed to make the call and the phone ’powers up’ to 31 when shielded, it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to realise that with 95% protection, you are still hugely better off with the Microshield than without. Hot heads, sinus pains, nausea etc are symptoms that people have mentioned in connection with mobile phones, but they don’t refer to them when using proper shields. Personally I’d be only too happy if my head were shielded from these.

Equally the power in ’powering up’ must come from somewhere yet a shielded phone on a continuous call only has its battery life lessened by 3%, says Les Wilson of Microshield.

A US site (Microshield Technologies) offering a similar but different product is causing even more confusion for the British Microshield, adds Mr Wilson.

People already touched by cancer and those simply trying their best to avoid it should take heed. Dr Roger Coghill an anti-mobile biologist has recently been defeated in his case to have warning labels introduced, but he is quite clear. "There is overwhelming evidence from 12 laboratories now that excessive use of a mobile phone, such as 20 minutes, could be a serious health risk. Anyone who uses a mobile phone for longer quite literally should have their head examined".

Microshield Test Results

In recent tests commissioned by the UK government’s DTI, levels of radiation in a sophisticated phantom head were reduced by between 91-98% using three popular mobile phones.

In independent tests by the British Approval Board for Telecommunications (BABT) it was seen to reduce emissions by as much as 98%.

British Telecom Technical Services, in independent tests, concluded that with the Microshield Antenna Guard fully engaged the power incident in the users head was reduced by 99%. Even with the guard only 75% up radiation absorbed into the brain was reduced by 94%.

Similarly, the National Physical Laboratory concluded a near 90% reduction with the guard only 75% up. The nearest rival, a reflection system, the Faratec, showed a 63.7% reduction, but the reflected radiation may now irradiate the hand at a higher rate. No other system in the test reduced levels by more than 10.2%

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