Confusing ‘possible carcinogenicity’ and ‘certain toxicity’ of cell phone radiation, coffee, DDT…

Proponents and opponents of wireless communication fail to distinguish between carcinogenic and toxic effects of possible (IARC 2B category) carcinogens.


Carc Tox

In May 2011 International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified cell phone radiation as a possible human carcinogen.

Classification came as a big surprise to the proponents of wireless communication and it was considered as too-little-too-late by the wireless opponents.

Immediately after the IARC’s announcement begun two opposing media campaigns. One of them was propagating the view that the IARC classification supports the current status quo – safety is assured by the safety standards. The other campaign propagated the idea of a quickly approaching doom of the whole human race, caused by the imminent brain cancer epidemic.

Proponents and opponents are wrong and have no science to support their claims reliably.

The proponents are wrong because the current safety standards are inadequate to protect users. As shown by epidemiological studies, avid use (30 min/day for 10+ years) of the off-the-shelf-safety-assured cell phone, leads to increased risk of brain cancer. It logically means that the safety standards are inadequate when the ‘safe device’ causes increase of cancer risk.

The opponents are wrong because the reliability of the epidemiological research is questionable, which is one of the reasons why cell phone radiation was classified as possible carcinogen. Furthermore, as not every smoker gets lung cancer, similarly it is likely than not every avid user of cell phone will get brain cancer. It is an individual variability.

The presented as definitive and science-supported claims of proponents and opponents are misleading the general public. Current science is insufficient to make any reliable far reaching claims about wireless-communications-emitted radiation and human health. Current science permits only to conclude that the problem might exist, but what kind of problem and on what scale, nobody knows yet.

The part of the confusion, used by proponents and opponents to present their misleading claims, is the imprecise vocabulary used by IARC for classifying carcinogens. For example, for every-day cell phone user it is difficult to distinguish the difference between “possible and “probable” carcinogen. Terminological ambiguity led to misleading claims. Proponents used ambiguity to state that IARC did not classify cell phone radiation as a carcinogen which, in their opinion, proved that things are safe. Opponents, on the other hand, used the possible carcinogenicity classification as a proof of real and imminent danger to all cell phone users.

To give a better understood impression of the danger of cell phone radiation, or lack of it, proponents and opponents used examples of substances classified by IARC in the same category of the possible carcinogens.

Proponents of wireless communication gave as examples pickled vegetables or coffee because we consume them in every day life and we associate with them the feeling of relative safety, apart of occasional heartburn from overconsumption. But, proponents and the general public alike should remember that “avid use” (overconsumption) of coffee or pickles can also cause stomach cancer.

Opponents of wireless communication gave as examples pesticide DDT and engine exhaust because we associate with them the feeling of serious danger to our health.

Selective use of these examples, however, does not distinguish between the carcinogenicity and toxicity.

All of the agents, cell phone radiation, coffee, pickles, DDT and engine exhaust, have, according to IARC, similar potential to cause cancer – they all are possible carcinogens.

However, there is a big difference between these agents in respect to cancer-unrelated toxicity.

DDT and engine exhaust are strong poisons and can easily cause health harm and even death. But this health harm, caused by toxicity, is unrelated to carcinogenic properties of these agents.

All the examples of carcinogenic agents should be put in proper perspective and presented correctly. Failure of doing so causes unnecessary confusion.

While it is currently advisable to limit children’s and adults’ exposures to cell phone radiation, because it is a possible carcinogen, we should remember that the way to do so is not by unfounded claims about the risk, or lack of it, but by presenting the real facts.

There is no return to time without cell phones, cell towers and wireless communication. Proponents and opponents should all work together to make the wireless communication not only more efficient but also safe for the health of billions of users.



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