California Government Revives Discredited Anti-Science Cell Phone / Brain Cancer Panic

January 25, 2018  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Townhall Finance

It all started with a Larry King show in 1993. His guest was a man who claimed that a cell phone he had given his wife had caused her to have a brain tumor. Naturally he had filed suit. His evidence? That she developed the tumor within just months and she held it on the same side as she developed her tumor. That’s it!
While working at Investor’s Business Daily I was the first writer to fire back. I noted:

  • High-level radiation can cause brain tumors, but it takes a very long time. The best study showed an average nine years. A few months? No way.
  • At the time, given the number of Americans with cell phones, we would expect 180 brain tumors among users just by chance.

Eventually the mainstream media seemed to get a grip on reality, but unfortunately the seed was planted. Every few years since then more panic fodder has been released regarding possible adverse effects of radiofrequency (RF) from cell phones and the media have run with it. Most recently a few weeks ago when the California Department of Health released precautionary guidelines, based on no new evidence but rather “some laboratory experiments and human health studies.” All of these were put in bold type.

  • “Avoid holding (the phone) to your head — use the speakerphone or a headset instead.”
  • “Send text messages instead of talking on the phone.”
  • “Carry your cell phone in a backpack, briefcase, or purse; NOT in a pocket, bra or belt holster.” (extra emphasis original).
  • “Don’t sleep with your phone in your bed or near your head.”

Having kept up with the research lo these past 24 years, including a highly annotated white paper, I ignored this idiotic counsel. (Being a male who doesn’t suffer gynecomastia [enlarged breasts] I would have ignored the brassiere part anyway.) The phone stays in my pocket if it’s comfortable and I sleep with it next to my head every night because I like to unwind by reading or listening to a book on it. (Audiobooks are one of the greatest inventions ever.)


Since 1993 both the government and industry has poured massive funding into a multitude of studies and while they’ve sometimes found anomalies on cells in Petri dishes and sometimes in rodents, they just can’t find reliable evidence of harm to humans. As I noted in that white paper, nobody has driven the fear like UC Berkeley Professor Joel Moskowitz. That’s still true today. But Moskowitz is a psychologist. Why not a brick-layer or shoe salesman?

The other name most associated with finding harmful RF from cell phones is actually an oncologist, Sweden’s Lennart Hardell. Hardell has conducted a plethora of studies allegedly showing harm from cell phone RF. In fact, a 2009 review of the literature in the journal Epidemiology found that “except for studies by Hardell, no evidence of harm was evident in the literature.” A co-author was David Savitz, now Professor of Epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health.

Savitz, who has also conducted his own experiments, a year earlier penned an editorial for the same journal with the telling title of “Low prior + frightening implications = inflammatory epidemiology?

As for Hardell, who is still publishing papers saying cell phones cause brain tumors, tellingly he has also published one calling for application of the “precautionary principle” to cell phones, which essentially means if there’s the least doubt then danger must be assumed. Consistent application would essentially forbid all new technology because while it’s one thing to show there’s no evidence of danger, it’s yet another to prove safety with absolute certainty.

But studies by researchers without need of axe-grinding keep indicating, as one stated,


The real risks of cell phones have nothing to do with EMF. One is the effect on spines and shoulders, especially with young people whose bodies are still developing. We may be raising a generation of hunchbacks, few of whom will be invited to ring the bells of Notre Dame.

As Wired magazine put it last year, a “study indicates that damn near everybody uses their phone while behind the wheel, damn near all the time.” And a 2013 National Safety Council study concluded “a minimum of 27% of crashes involve drivers talking and texting on cell phones.”

My gut tells me that’s probably too high. But here’s what we do know. For many years, U.S. vehicular deaths had been dropping. Not because drivers are getting better, to be sure. But because of engineering improvements in cars and roads. Now, even though such improvements continue and older cars without them are retired, vehicle deaths per mile are going up again.

Preliminary 2016 data from the National Safety Council estimates that as many as 40,000 people died in motor vehicles crashes last year, a 6% rise from 2015 and a 14% increase in deaths since 2014. It’s the biggest two-year jump in more than five decades. And yes, that includes more deaths per vehicle mile driven. As someone who has written extensively on auto safety, I’m at a loss to explain this except for some relatively new technology affecting drivers.
Right. Cell phones.

Too many of us have bought into the murderous multi-tasking myth. There’s no such thing. No, not even for you. You either concentrate on the road or you reduce your concentration for the cell phone. And there’s no evidence that hands-free phones are any safer. It’s not taking your eyes off the road that’s the main problem; rather it’s taking your brain off the road. That includes hands-free phones. It also doesn’t help that surveys show that, in what’s an example of “illusory superiority” or the “Dunning-Kruger Effect,” the vast majority of us believe we’re better-than-average drivers – and not just in Lake Woebegone.

Nor is it just using cell phones within the vehicle. Do you think that just maybe you can cross the street before or after sending that text?

Don’t worry about that phone in your pocket or bra (does anyone really carry a phone there?) or next to your pillow. They’re doing their killing in cars.