Tuesday, September 15, 2015

New York Times article on Berkeley cellphone ordinance puts the Times on same side as industry at forefront of radiation debate

Critical responses to NY Times article:

Sep 15, 2015

Dr. Jerrold Bushberg, one of two experts interviewed for this article in the New York Times has consulted for the CTIA, the telecom industry lobbying organization in the U.S., since at least the year 2000 (1).  More recently, Dr. Bushberg has represented cell tower companies in many local hearings. Why didn't the Times disclose his conflicts of interest?

Moreover, why didn't the Times interview one of the many researchers who are not in denial about the health effects from exposure to low-intensity, non-thermal levels of cell phone radiation?

(1) Reily Gregson, "Health-related lawsuits on front burner," RCR Wireless, July 31, 2000. http://www.rcrwireless.com/20000731/carriers/health-related-lawsuits-on-front-burner.

July 30, 2015

How the NY Times and CNN Bungled A Basic Cell Phone Safety Story

Press Release, Environmental Health Trust, Jul 30, 2015
"The Berkeley ordinance simply gives the public its constitutionally protected right to information currently buried in fine print."

July 27, 2015

Paul Brodeur, a former staff writer for The New Yorker who has published numerous books on occupational and environmental health hazards, posted an article today on the Huffington Post entitled, "Leave It to the New York Times."

Mr Brodeur cites the recent article in the New York Times by Carol Pogash as the most recent example of the newspaper's long-standing bias in its reporting about the health effects of exposure to low-intensity microwave radiation from cell phones and other wireless devices.

July 25, 2015

Mitchell Shapiro of the Quello Center at Michigan State University posted a commentary that criticizes the New York Times' coverage of the Berkeley cell phone "right to know" ordinance, "NYT Buries Lead, Muddies Water on EMF Health Issue." 

He also sent a message to Margaret Sullivan, the Public Editor at the New York Times, in which he recommends that the author of the article, Carol Pogash, needs to review the research on EMF health impacts.

July 24, 2015

Following is a letter from Drs. Lennart Hardell and Michael Carlberg to the New York Times. Drs. Hardell and Carlberg arguably are the leading epidemiologists in the world who study brain tumor risk from wireless phone use.

I wrote the earlier posts below (July 21-22).

Ms. Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor                                       July 24, 2015

Ms. Carol Pogash, Reporter

The New York Times

Regarding: Cellphone Ordinance Puts Berkeley at Forefront of Radiation Debate http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/us/cellphone-ordinance-puts-berkeley-at-forefront-of-radiation-debate.html?_r=0
Published online July 21, 2015

Dear Ms. Sullivan and Ms. Pogash,

We have read this article in the New York Times with interest. However, there are several mistakes, and even wrong statements, on the health hazards from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) from cell phones in the article. In the following we want to correct some of the false statements.

The brain is the primary target organ for exposure to RF-EMF during the use of the handheld wireless phone. This has given concern of an increased risk for brain tumours. The carcinogenic effect of RF-EMF on humans was evaluated at a meeting during 24 – 31 May 2011 at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) at WHO in Lyon, France. One of us (LH) was part of the expert group. The Working Group categorised RF-EMF from mobile phones, and from other devices that emit similar non-ionising electromagnetic fields in the frequency range 30 kHz–300 GHz, as a Group 2B, i.e. a possible, human carcinogen (http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol102/mono102.pdf

Since then more studies have been published that strengthen the association between use of  wireless phones (mobile and cordless phones) and increased risk for brain tumours. We have performed long-term research in this area and in the following we give a short up-dated summary of our findings based on research since the 1990’s. In our publications relevant information can be found also on other studies, as well as discussions of the current scientific evidence.
Glioma is a malignant brain tumour (“brain cancer”), and the most common type is glioblastoma multiforme with a poor prognosis. We have published a statistically significant increased risk for glioma among users of both mobile and cordless phones. The risk increased with latency (time from first use of the phone) and cumulative number of hours for use. Highest risk was found in the area of the brain with highest exposure to RF-EMF. All these results are of biological relevance; that is what would be expected for a causal association. The full paper can be read here:

Menigioma is mostly a benign brain tumour and accounts for about 30 % of all intracranial tumours. The incidence is approximately 2-times higher in women than in men. No conclusive evidence of an association between use of mobile and cordless phones and meningioma was found in our study. However, taking the long latency periods that have been reported for the increased meningioma risk associated with exposure to ionizing radiation it is still too early to make a definitive risk assessment. Results for even longer latency periods of wireless phone use than in our study are desirable, see more details here:

Acoustic neuroma:
Acoustic neuroma or Vestibular Schwannoma is a rare benign tumour in the eighth cranial nerve that leads from the inner ear to the brain. It grows slowly and does not undergo malignant transformation, but may give compression of vital brain stem centres. Tinnitus and hearing problems are usual first symptoms of acoustic neuroma. We published a clear, statistically significant, association between use of mobile and cordless phones and acoustic neuroma. The risk increased with time since first use. For use of both mobile and cordless phones the risk was highest in the longest latency group. Tumour volume increased per 100 hours of cumulative use and year of latency for wireless phones indicating tumour progression from RF-EMF. The whole study can be read here:

Brain tumour incidence:
It is not correct to claim that the incidence of brain tumours has not increased in the Scandinavian countries. The age-standardized incidence of brain tumours increased dramatically in Denmark with +41.2 % among men and +46.1 % among women during 2003-2012 (http://www.ssi.dk/Aktuelt/Nyheder/2013/~/media/Indhold/DK - dansk/Sundhedsdata og it/NSF/Registre/Cancerregisteret/Cancerregisteret 2012.ashx).

Due to the well-known under-reporting of brain tumours to the Swedish Cancer Registry we studied brain tumour rates using the Swedish National Inpatient Register and the Causes of Death Register. In summary we found a statistically significant increasing rate of not specified brain tumours from 2007 in the Inpatient Register and from 2008 in the Causes of Death Register. Our study indicated that several of these tumours were never reported to the Swedish Cancer Register. Thus, the Swedish Cancer Register data cannot be used to dismiss an increased risk for brain tumours associated with use of wireless phones. On the contrary our study is consistent with an association considering a reasonable tumour induction period, see more here:

Mechanistic aspects:
It is correct that RF-EMFs do not cause direct DNA damage. On the other hand numerous studies have shown generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that can cause oxidative damage of DNA. This is a well-known mechanism in carcinogenesis for many agents. The broad biological potential of ROS and other free radicals makes radiofrequency radiation a potentially hazardous factor for human health, not only cancer risk but also other health effects. A recent update can be read here:

To further evaluate strengths of evidence Bradford Hill wrote in the 1960’s a famous article on association or causation at the height of the tobacco and lung cancer controversy. Hill offered a list of nine aspects of an association to be considered when deciding if an association is causal. However, he did not request all nine viewpoints to be fulfilled for causality. We used the Hill criteria to evaluate the causality on brain tumor risk from RF-EMF emitted from wireless phones. We concluded that based on the Hill criteria, glioma and acoustic neuroma should be considered to be caused by RF-EMF emissions from wireless phones and regarded as carcinogenic to humans, classifying it as Group 1 according to the IARC classification. Current guidelines for exposure need to be urgently revised. See more here:

Our results are in agreement with other studies such as the international Interphone -study and the French so-called CERENAT study. This is discussed in e.g. our article on glioma risk. In summary, there is consistent evidence of increased risk for glioma and acoustic neuroma associated with use of mobile phones and cordless phones. Furthermore, the risk is highest for persons with first use before the age of 20, which is of special concern. Our conclusion is that RF-EMF should be regarded as a human carcinogen. The IARC classification should be updated to at least Group 2A, a probable human carcinogen. It is necessary to give the public correct information on the cancer risk. The precautionary principle should be used to minimize exposure to RF-EMF. Media have an important role to inform in a balanced way. Unfortunately this article in the New York Times is biased towards the no risk assumption. It should be corrected based on facts and not wishful thinking.

Yours sincerely,

Lennart Hardell, MD, PhD               Michael Carlberg, MSc
Department of Oncology                  Department of Oncology
University Hospital                          University Hospital
SE-701 85 Örebro, Sweden             SE-701 85 Örebro, Sweden 

July 24, 2015

A version of the Times article appeared in print on July 24, 2015, on page A14 of the New York edition with the headline: "Berkeley Offers Safety Guidance on Carrying Phones."

July 22, 2015

The lead paragraph of the New York Times article published today, “Cellphone Ordinance Puts Berkeley at Forefront of Radiation Debate," reveals the paper’s bias:
“Leave it to Berkeley: This city, which has led the nation in passing all manner of laws favored by the left, has done it again. This time, the city passed a measure — not actually backed by science — requiring cellphone stores to warn customers that the products could be hazardous to their health, presumably by emitting dangerous levels of cancer-causing radiation.”
The article overlooks the fact that the Berkeley ordinance is simply a consumer disclosure law which brings to the consumer's attention safety information that the Federal Communications Commission requires cell phone manufacturers provide to consumers. Few consumers ever see these warnings because manufacturers hide them in the user manual or in some instances in the smart phone.

Despite the article’s allegation, Berkeley is not the first city to adopt a cell phone “right to know” law. The Berkeley ordinance is more conservative than the cell phone “right to know” ordinance that San Francisco adopted in 2010. 

The Berkeley ordinance was written by Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig and Yale Law Professor and Dean Robert Post to withstand legal challenges from the CTIA—The Wireless Association because this industry association threatened the City with a law suit even before the ordinance was drafted.

San Francisco adopted a more far-reaching ordinance in 2010. The San Francisco ordinance required cell phone retailers to issue a fact sheet that mentions potential cancer-causing radiation from exposure to cell phone radiation.  In contrast, the Berkeley safety notice does not mention cancer or any other health effects.

The San Francisco ordinance was adopted on a 10-1 vote by the Board of Supervisors.  Mayor Gavin Newsom, now the Lieutenant Governor of California, “called the vote a major victory for cell phone shoppers’ right to know.

When the CTIA-The Wireless Association sued challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance, Deputy City Attorney Vince Chhabria represented the City of San Francisco.  Mr. Chhabria, now a Federal District Judge, strongly believed that the ordinance was constitutional.  

The case was heard by Federal  District Judge William Alsup. Judge Alsup ruled that the ordinance was intrusive as it required cell phone retailers to label cell phones, post a warning in their stores, and provide consumers with a fact sheet.  However, the Judge decided it was legal to require cell phone retailers to provide customers with a fact sheet as long as the facts were not controversial.

Judge Alsup negotiated with lawyers from the CTIA and the City of San Francisco about the language for a revised fact sheet. Following is the language from the revised fact sheet which the Judge approved:

City and County of San Francisco notification language
"You can limit exposure to Radio-frequency (RF) Energy from your cell phone."
"Although all cell phones sold in the United States must comply with RF safety limits set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), no safety study has ever ruled out the possibility of human harm from RF exposure."
“RF Energy has been classified by the World Health Organization as a possible carcinogen rather than as a known carcinogen or a probable carcinogen) and studies continue to assess the potential health effects of cell phones. If you are concerned about potential health effects from cell phone RF Energy, the City of San Francisco recommends:
” limiting cell phone use by children ...”
“using a headset, speakerphone, or text ...”
“using belt clips and purses to keep distance between your phone and body ...”
“avoiding cell phones in areas with weak signals ...”
“reducing the number and length of calls ...”
Despite the apparent agreement about the notification language, the CTIA appealed the District Court's ruling. 

In 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed this ruling in an unpublished opinion. After a two-year legal battle, the City lost the political will to defend its law. Nonetheless, according to the San Francisco Department of the Environment, "San Francisco believes the Ninth Circuit's opinion is deeply flawed, but the City is bound by that opinion ...."  

In contrast to the San Francisco ordinance, the notification language for Berkeley's cell phone "right to know" law does not raise health issues. It reads simply as follows:

City of Berkeley notification language
A Cell phone retailer shall provide to each customer who buys or leases a Cell phone a notice containing the following language:
"The City of Berkeley requires that you be provided the following notice: 
To assure safety, the Federal Government requires that cell phones meet radio frequency (RF) exposure guidelines. If you carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra when the phone is ON and connected to a wireless network, you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure to RF radiation. This potential risk is greater for children.
Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for information about how to use your phone safely."

Although the Berkeley ordinance does not address the science, more than 200 scientists recently signed a petition calling for precaution in using cell phones and other wireless devices and the need for stronger wireless radiation regulations.

In 1977, Berkeley adopted the nation’s first clean indoor air law. That ordinance set a precedent emulated by cities across the nation. As a result, today the majority of people in the U.S. are protected from secondhand smoke in work places and most public settings.  

The nation needs more cities like Berkeley and San Francisco willing to challenge the status quo to protect public health and promote the public interest.

For more information about the ordinance and links to media coverage see http://bit.ly/berkeleycellordinance. The text of the ordinance is available at http://bit.ly/Bklyordinance.

July 21, 2015

In my opinion, the story that the New York Times will publish tomorrow in its print edition about the Berkeley cell phone ordinance is a travesty if it reads like the online article it published today, "Cellphone Ordinance Puts Berkeley at Forefront of Radiation Debate."
Over the past six years, the New York Times has failed to cover many major news stories about cell phone radiation and health. If the Times considers the story below to be a balanced and objective analysis, then it would be better if the paper does not cover this topic at all.
On July 1, I was interviewed for this story by Carol Pogash, the author of this article. She said she had seen my ongoing blog about the Berkeley ordinance and had read the story in The Guardian. I explained to her why The Guardian covered the International EMF Scientist Appeal as part of the story about the Berkeley ordinance.

Ms. Pogash informed me that she was not interested in the science. I responded positively as the ordinance is really not about the science (although the CTIA wants to argue the science). The Berkeley cell phone "right to know" ordinance is simply a consumer disclosure law which brings to the consumer's attention the cell phone manufacturers' safety information that the FCC mandates manufacturers provide to consumers.

Throughout our conversation, Ms. Pogash requested several times that I not provide additional information as she could only write 1,000-1,200 words. I did share with her my concerns that the Times may publish a biased article. These concerns stemmed from the few pieces that the paper published on wireless radiation. I mentioned how the Times treated Nick Bilton's column in March ( "Wireless Technology Health Risks --The New York Times Fuels the Debate").

After our conversation I emailed Ms. Pogash several messages over the next week as I was concerned that she might change her mind and write about the science. I offered to discuss the science with her and sent her the following links which I thought were most relevant to the Berkeley cell phone ordinance:

International EMF Scientist Appeal
Effect of Mobile Phones on Sperm Quality: Summary of a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Doctors Caution Pregnant Women About Wireless Radiation Health Risks
Gandhi, Om. Yes the Children are more exposed to radio-frequency energy from mobile telephones than adults. IEEE Spectrum. PP(99):1. Jun 23, 2015.
"Captured agency: How the Federal Communications Commission is dominated by the industries it presumably regulates”
Update on Berkeley Cell Phone "Right to Know" Ordinance

Why did the New York Times publish such a biased review of the science today in the article that is linked to below? Is this just poor journalism or does the Times have conflicts of interest in covering this topic?
In the first quarter of 2015, the Times' total advertising revenue amounted to $150 million or 39% of its total revenue. How much of this was due to telecommunications advertising? 

Read the article below and decide for yourself whether this news story is consistent with the Times' motto, "All the News That's Fit to Print."  

Online version of the New York Times story: http://bit.ly/NYTcellphone

This biased article appeared in print on July 24, 2015, on page A14 of the New York edition with an unbiased headline: "Berkeley Offers Safety Guidance on Carrying Phones."