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New York Times’ Exposé of CDC’s Retraction of Warnings about Cell Phone Radiation
1 jan. 2016
Today The New York Times published an exposé about the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) retraction of warnings about cell phone radiation.
In June 2014, the CDC issued a public warning about the potential health risks from cell phone radiation, “We recommend caution in cellphone use.” The warning included a statement regarding the potential risks to children from cell phone use. Ten weeks later, the CDC withdrew the warning.
The Times obtained more than 500 pages of CDC internal records which revealed considerable disagreement among scientists and other health agencies about what to tell the public.
Even though the CDC had spent three years creating the new warning, the agency was unprepared for the publicity it received. For example, a public official from Vermont raised the potential liabilities for schools and libraries that allow use of cellphones and wireless technology.
Some CDC officials argued that the Agency should just state that other nations, including Austria, Canada, Finland, Israel, and the United Kingdom, warn their citizens about cell phone radiation.
A CDC spokesperson told The Times that the cellphone industry did not weigh in before the new warnings were released. Does this imply that the industry ''weighed in” after the warnings were published given that they were abruptly removed?
Dr. Christopher Portier, former director of the CDC National Center for Environmental Health, disagreed with CDC’s decision to retract the warnings. He believes there is sufficient evidence for parents to be cautious about their children’s cell phone use, and that parents should be warned. Dr. Portier was among 31 international experts for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) that declared cell phone and other wireless radiation a possible cancer-causing agent.
In spite of divided scientific opinion, the European Environment Agency and other European governmental agencies have called for a precautionary approach, “There is sufficient evidence of risk to advise people, especially children, not to place the handset against their heads.”
Dr. Elisabeth Cardis who directed a major cell phone study for the WHO stated, “If there’s a risk, it’s likely to be greater for exposures at younger ages, simply because the skull is thinner and the ears are thinner in children than in adults. Basically your phone is closer to your brain.”
The cellular industry has rejected health concerns and sued Berkeley, California which passed a cell phone law last spring requiring retailers to provide safety information to customers.
The Times article concluded, “‘Some organizations recommend caution in cellphone use,’ the agency’s guidelines now say. But the C.D.C. is not one of them.”
Electromagnetic Radiation Safety and Microwave News originally reported on this controversy in August, 2014.
Electromagnetic Radiation Safety. Press Release. ''CDC Issues Precautionary Health Warnings about Cell Phone Radiation.'' PRLog, Aug 13, 2014. bit.ly/1Rf32LF
Electromagnetic Radiation Safety. Press Release. ''CDC Retracts its Precautionary Health Warning about Cell Phone Radiation.'' PRLog, Aug 20, 2014. bit.ly/1SQEU1m
Microwave News. ''CDC Calls for Caution on Cell Phones, Then Gets Cold Feet: First Federal Agency To Acknowledge Risk Soon Backs Down.'' Aug 16, 2014; Updated Aug 20, 2014. bit.ly/1OBLaf3
Danny Hakim. “At C.D.C., a Debate Behind Recommendations on Cellphone Risk.'' The New York Times, Jan 1, 2016. A version of this article appears in print on January 2, 2016, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline, ''At C.D.C., Evolution Of Advice On Phones.'' bit.ly/cellphoneNYT
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