In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Cell phone ‘honeymoon’ finally over?



Posted by seumasach on May 11, 2010

Sean Arthur Joyce

With articles on the link between cell phones and brain tumours or other cancers now appearing in major magazines such as GQ, Harpers’s, Prevention and even Time magazine, it appears the long ‘honeymoon’ North American telecommunications corporations have enjoyed is finally over.

What I mean by that is that due to the deep level of vertical integration between media corporations who control the news we get and the Big Telecom who are now their major advertisers, until recently there has been a virtual media ‘blackout’ on such stories.

But as more and more independent scientific studies from around the world demonstrate grave concern with the effects of microwaves on biology, including DNA strand breaks that lead to permanent chromosomal damage, the tide of public concern has become overwhelming.

Some scientists such as Australian neurosurgeon Dr. Vini Khurana are predicting a massive wave of brain tumours between 2008-2012. The problem of course is that medical statistics are often poorly coordinated with overall data, so naysayers can easily claim there are no trend increases in tumours. Yet already it’s known that brain tumours are now the leading killer of kids in the U.S.

A leading authority on cancer, epidemiologist Dr. Samuel Epstein, has stated that in his view both the Canadian and American Cancer Societies are compromised due to close funding ties with the pharmaceutical industry. So it is no longer enough to simply pull up their websites and rely solely on them for guidance. (See www.preventcancer.com)

At the international level, the EMF project at the WHO formerly headed up by Dr. Repacholi has also been criticized for setting microwave exposure standards that are considered by many scientists to be far outside the range of safety. Some have suggested that Repacholi himself is compromised by receiving funding from the telecommunications industry. (See www.next-up.org)

Congressional hearings in the U.S. recently heard testimony from Dr. Devra Davis, another leading scientist who has been sounding warnings on high exposure levels in North America. Not surprisingly, there have been no American studies done on the subject since the one headed up by epidemiologist Dr. George Carlo in the 1990s. This $28 million study was part of the telecommunication industry’s ‘deal with the devil’, the FDA; a study they agreed to fund in exchange for being allowed to market cell phones WITH NO PRE-MARKET SAFETY TESTING. When Dr. Carlo delivered his final report to the telecom industry in 1999, noting some serious concerns with biological effects from cell phones, it was quickly buried.

In the final week of April we had a similar hearing in Canadian Parliament, though not quite so high profile, with the House Standing Committee on Health in Ottawa. The Parliamentary committee agreed to hear concerns about microwave exposure standards after Bloc Québécois MP Luc Malo presented a petition with 1,100 signatures asking Parliament to “protect the public from microwaves.” The petition was an initiative of the Québec group Protect Our Children From Microwaves (SEMO in French), headed by François Therrien.

The Committee heard testimony from international experts, including Dr. Andrew Goldsworthy of the UK, Dr. Olle Johannson of Sweden, Dr. Magda Havas of Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, and of course Health Canada’s mouthpiece, Dr. Daniel Krewski. The Committee also took submissions from citizens and concerned parents across the country.

Dr. Krewski, who heads up the Centre for Population Risk Assessment at the University of Ottawa, has received funding from the telecommunications industry. He is not the only one on Health Canada’s panel of scientists with direct or indirect links to the industry. This is standard-issue influence peddling with government, a typical tactic of industry used since the advent of Big Tobacco.

To its credit, the Committee has decided to allocate $12,000 to further study the matter. What that study will mean has yet to be explained. Will they finally begin to include the countless international studies showing real risks from cell phone and wireless use? Will they recommend that Health Canada revisit and update its hopelessly antiquated Safety Code 6? Or will Big Telecom trump any real change? It remains to be seen.

The marriage of corporation and government has proven disastrous in every sphere of life, from communications to the environment. The current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is just the latest proof of that. And like any bad marriage, when the honeymoon wears off, it’s time to consider exit strategies. Just as the U.S. Congress is grappling with ways to impose some governance on a Wall Street run amok, we must do the same with Big Telecom.

At present, Industry Canada has de facto power over any regional district or municipal government when it comes to granting permission to erect cell phone transmitters and towers. Local democracy is trashed in favour of profit-making corporations. They cannot continue to be allowed to run roughshod over communities who are merely trying to preserve a healthy way of life for their families. “Business is business,” true, but not when your product endangers my health or even my life.

Big Telecom, the honeymoon is over. Divorce papers should follow shortly.

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