WASHINGTON-In two unrelated developments that could reignite the debate over whether wireless technology poses health risks, a new Swedish survey has found possible links between mobile phones and illness symptoms, while a female executive with a brain tumor has retained the largest personal-injury law firm in the United Kingdom in what could become the first pocket phone-cancer lawsuit against manufacturers there.
The Swedish report and the planned lawsuit come at a time when House telecom subcommittee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and the U.S. cellular industry are fighting efforts by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) to fund government-sponsored wireless phone-cancer research with a portion of revenue that an E911-federal land antenna-siting bill is supposed to generate.
The Food and Drug Administration, which oversees phone safety, says more biological research is needed on pocket phones. At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency says the current radio-frequency radiation standard for pocket phones provides adequate protection for the nation’s 60 million subscribers.
Critics, however, say RF guidelines fail to account for any effects from long-term exposure to the low-power communicators.
The events overseas coincide with the five-year anniversary of a cancer research program begun by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association and handed over to Wireless Technology Research L.L.C.
WTR, headed by Dr. George Carlo, has produced no biological test results to date.
The $25 million program did perform an epidemiology study that found little difference in mortality rates between users of pocket phones and car phones with detached antennas. WTR also identified solutions to interference problems caused by digital phones to cardiac pacemakers.
But neither CTIA nor WTR have been willing to publicly account for how the rest of the $25 million has been spent.
A WTR spokeswoman said Carlo will update toxicology studies at the Bioelectromagnectics Society annual meeting June 8-11 in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Reuters reported from Stockholm a survey of roughly 11,000 Swedes and Norwegians to be the only comprehensive one of its kind on mobile phone health effects. In scientific jargon, it is known as a subjective study.
Some of the symptoms included headaches, fatigue, and tingling and heat sensations from pocket phones.
“People have more complaints when they are using the mobile more, but we don’t know at the moment what’s causing them,” Kjell Hansson Mild, of Sweden’s National Institute for Working Life In Umea, told Reuters.
One explanation offered is that heavy users of mobile phones tend to be hard-driving business people and the symptoms they report could be because of their stressful lifestyles.
Because of such variables and resulting ambiguities of the results, the Swedish Mobile Telecommunications Association said the study does not prove a link exists between mobile phones and health effects.
In London, Tom Jones, of Thompsons Solicitors, said his law firm represents a 27-year-old woman with a brain tumor who used her mobile phone at least one hour a day, six days a week.
“We are actively investigating [a lawsuit],” said Jones in a telephone interview, adding that a decision could be made soon.
Jones declined to give the name of the woman, saying only she is in management and is a nonsmoker and a vegetarian. Jones said a 28-year-old man, also a mobile user, recently contacted him about legal representation.
Jones said he has received numerous inquiries from Australia since news of his legal representation of the 27-year-old woman became public.
“Of course, it’s [the lawsuit] a risk and we are weighing the risks,” said Jones. In Great Britain, the losing party pays all legal costs of a lawsuit.
A few years ago in England, what was billed to be the first-ever pocket phone-cancer lawsuit never materialized.
No wireless phone-cancer lawsuit has succeeded in the United States since the controversy arose in 1993 when a Florida man unsuccessfully argued in a lawsuit that his wife’s fatal brain tumor was caused by her cellular phone use.
Since then, Motorola Inc. said no research it has conducted or sponsored ties wireless technology to health problems.
But other research in the United States, Sweden and Australia suggests there could be such a link.