In their list of ten precautions to take, the scientists go so far as to ask that parents of children under 12 forbid their children all cell phone access, except for emergencies. (Photo: The T.R.U.T.H. Project)
Nineteen scientists, brought together by eminent specialist in the fight against cancer David Servan-Schreiber, launch an appeal to sensitize public opinion to the risks cell phone use could pose to the brain, notably for the youngest patients. The Journal du Dimanche echoes that appeal and analyses a disturbing phenomenon.
Why This Appeal?
These 19 scientists, mostly oncologists, brought together by David Servan-Schreiber, author of "Anticancer" (Robert Laffont), believe the risk is too great to be incurred. "We're in the same situation today as we were 50 years ago with asbestos and tobacco," notes Thierry Bouillet, oncologist at the Avicenne de Bobigny Hospital and a signatory to the appeal. "Either we do nothing and accept the risk, or we admit that there are a cluster of worrying scientific arguments." The signatories to the appeal among whom numbers Professor Henri Pujol, President of the National League against Cancer, find it most important to emphasize the risks to youth - more sensitive to the penetration of radiation.
In their list of ten precautions to take - "basic," they call them, but radical all the same - they go so far as to ask that parents of children under twelve forbid their children all cell phone access, except for emergencies. The hard core of oncologists brought together for this appeal have known psychiatrist David Servan-Schreiber since the publication of "Anticancer." "He brought us together to present us his work," Thierry Bouillet continues. "So that it wouldn't be destroyed in the press without our knowing what it was. We all started out with a negative prejudice; he's a very controversial character. But we were won over." As of today, you can find a comparison of the level of electromagnetic radiation emitted by different cell phone models on David Servan-Schreiber's web-site.
What Are the Dangers?
The scientists agree on two things: there's no formal proof of the cell phone's harmfulness, but a risk exists that it promotes the appearance of cancers in cases of long-term exposure. On the other hand, we observe deep differences between researchers on the level of that risk, characterized as "low" by the Health Ministry. A Swedish study shows that the risk of having a cancerous tumor on the side where the telephone is used doubles in ten years. The American BioInitiative report adds that there is also a significant risk of increase in infantile leukemia and neurological problems (including Alzheimers). These results are contested by the proponents of low risk who consider them insufficiently rigorous.
The researchers are counting on Interphone, the first large scale epidemiological study conducted across 13 countries. The French component of the study has already concluded "there is a general tendency towards increased risk of gliomas (cancerous tumors) among heavy users," but specifies that these results are "not statistically significant." The definitive results, expected this year, should allow better insight.
Do Lobbies Influence Researchers?
"Corporate influence is very strong, just as we already observed with asbestos," deems Etienne Cendrier, spokesman for the "Robins des toits" association. In his book ("Et si la téléphonie mobile devenait un scandale sanitaire?," ["And If the Cell Phone Became a Health Scandal?"] Editions du Rocher), he cites the minutes of a 1994 meeting of the Federation of Electric, Electronic and Communication Industries, the objective of which was to organize a European lobby to combat "rumors harmful on a commercial level."
In France, the work of Afsset, the public agency which produced the two last official reports on the subject, was disclaimed by its supervising ministries. Four of the 2005 report's ten experts had direct or indirect connections with operators, while the 2003 report's experts had pleaded the cell phone's low risk in an advertising supplement in "Impact Medecine," France Télécom financed. "The burden of our report has not been brought into question," they demur at Afsset.
Community militants have discovered several cases of researchers who were moved aside or stripped of funding. Thus Gérard Ledoigt, a biology researcher at the University of Clermont-Ferrand, discovered in 2006 that tomato plant genes interpret cell phone radiation as aggression. A year later, he learned that his lab was dismantled before being disclaimed by his university for statements he never made. "I don't know why, but I was de facto prevented from working on the subject," he indicates. The university retorts that his research continues in another lab with financing from the Foundation for Health and Radiofrequencies to which Gérard Ledoigt belongs.
That structure, created in 2006, irrigates the substance of French research on the subject. It is in the sights of NGOs since it's financed 50-50 by the government and corporations. "We are not represented in its scientific council which works entirely independently," they indicate at the French Association of Mobile Phone Operators (Afom). "That's true, but then I am one of the very few council members who think that mobile phones may have an impact on cells," adds Gérard Ledoigt.
In a 2006 report, the brokerage firm CA Cheuvreux deemed that operators should better inform their clients of potential risks in order to minimize the financial impact of any possible future litigation. Insurers are also proving very cautious. Like Axa, most insurance companies have excluded possible risks linked to electromagnetic radiation from their contracts with individuals and companies. Insurers dread this "uncontrolled risk that could branch off into future serial claims," confirms reinsurer Paris Re.
For its part, German reinsurer Munich Re refuses to cover risks linked to electromagnetism for manufacturers of cell phones and relay antennas. Still, French operators seem to have found insurers ready to cover them. "The operators have a civil liability coverage that includes possible risks linked to electromagnetic fields," they indicate at Afom.
Here is the list of the twenty signatories to the Appeal
Dr. Bernard Asselain, Chief of Cancer Biostatistics at the Curie Institute
Professor Franco Berrino, Director of the Department of preventative and Predictive Medicine at the National Cancer Institute of Milan, Italy
Dr. Thierry Bouillet, oncologist, Director of the Radiotherapy Institute at the Avicenne, Bobigny Hospital
Professor Christian Chenal, Professor Emeritus of Oncology and former research official for "Radiation, Environment, and Adaptation at pthe French National center for Scientific Research
Professor Jan Willem Coebergh, oncologist, Department of Public Health, University of Rotterdam, Netherlands
Dr. Yvan Coscas, oncologist, Head of Radiology, Poissy-Saint-Germain Hospital Profesoor Jean-Marc Cosset, Honorary Department Head for Oncology-Radiology at the Curie Institute
Professor Devra Lee Davis, Department Head for Environmental Oncology, University of Pittsburgh, USA
Dr. Michel Hery, oncologist, Head of the Radiology Department, Princesse-Grace Hospital, Monaco
Professor Lucien Israël, Professor Emeritus of Oncology, Paris-XIII University, member of the Institute
Jacques Marilleau, engineer, former physicist at the Atomic Energy Commission and at the French National Center for Scientific Research, Orsay
Dr. Jean-Loup Mouysset, oncologist, president of the association, Ressource
Dr. Philippe Presles, President of the Moncey Institute for Preventative Health, Paris
Professor Henri Pujol, oncologist, former president of the [French] National league against Cancer
Dr. Annie Sasco, Director of the Epidemiology Team for Cancer Prevention at Inserm, Bordeaux-II University
Dr. Simone Saez, former Manager of the Léon-Bérard Center for the Fight against Cancer, Lyon
Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh
Dr. Pierre Souvet, cardiologist, President of the Environmental Health Association Provence
Dr. Jacques Vilcoq, oncologist, Hartmann Clinic, Neuilly-sur-Seine
A PDF of the Appeal and Recommendations is available at http://www.lejdd.fr/divers/APPEL_DES_20.pdf.