7 October 1999
Mr. C. Michael Armstrong
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
AT & T Corporation
32 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 100313-2412
Dear Mr Armstrong:
After much thought, I am writing
this letter to you, personally, to ask your assistance in solving what
I believe is an emerging and serious problem concerning wireless phones.
I write this letter in the interest of the more than 80 million wireless
phone users in the United States and the more than 200 million worldwide.
But I also write this letter in the interest of your industry, a critical
part of our social and economic infrastructure.
Since 1993, I have headed the WTR
surveillance and research program funded by the wireless industry. The
goal of WTR has always been to identify and solve any problems concerning
consumers' health that could arise from the use of these phones. This past
February, at the annual convention of the CTIA, I met with the full board
of that organization to brief them on some surprising findings from our
work. I do not recall if you were there personally, but my understanding
is that all segments of the industry were represented.
At that briefing, I explained that
the well-conducted scientific studies that WTR was overseeing indicated
that the question of wireless phone safety had become confused.
Specifically, I reported to you that:
The risk of acoustic neuroma, a benign
tumour of the auditory nerve that is well in range of the radiation coming
from a phone's antenna, was fifty percent higher in people who reported
using cell phones for six years or more, moreover, that relationship between
the amount of cell phone use and this tumour appeared to follow a dose-response
The rate of death from brain cancer
among handheld phone users was higher than the rate of brain cancer death
among those who used non-handheld phones that were away from their head;
The risk of rare neuro epithelial
tumours on the outside of the brain was more than doubled, a statistically
significant risk increase, in cell phone users as compared to people who
did not use cell phones;
There appeared to be some correlation
between brain tumours occurring on the right side of the head and the use
of the phone on the right side of the head;
Laboratory studies looking at the
ability of radiation from a phone's antenna to cause functional genetic
damage were definitively positive, and were following a dose-response relationship.
I also indicated that while our overall
study of brain cancer occurrence did not show a correlation with cell phone
use, the vast majority of the tumours that were studied, were well out
of range of the radiation that one would expect from a cell phone's antenna.
Because of that distance, the finding of no effect was questionable. Such
mis-classification of radiation exposure would tend to dilute any real
effect that may have been present. In addition, I reported to you that
the genetic damage studies we conducted to look at the ability of radiation
from the phones to break DNA were negative, but that the positive finding
of functional DNA damage could be more important, perhaps indicating a
problem that is not dependent on DNA breakage, and that these inconsistencies
needed to be clarified. I reported that while none of these findings alone
were evidence of a definitive health hazard from wireless phones, the pattern
of potential health effects evidenced by different types of studies, from
different laboratories, and by different investigators raised serious questions.
Following my presentation, I heard
by voice vote of those present, a pledge to "do the right thing in following
up these findings" and a commitment of the necessary funds.
When I took on the responsibility of
doing this work for you, I pledged five years. I was asked to continue
on through the end of a sixth year, and agreed. My tenure is now completed.
My presentation to you and the CTIA board in February was not an effort
to lengthen my tenure at WTR, nor to lengthen the tenure of WTR itself.
I was simply doing my job of letting you know what we found and what needed
to be done following from our findings. I made this expressly clear during
my presentation to you and in many subsequent conversation with members
of your industry and the media.
Today, I sit
here extremely frustrated and concerned that appropriate steps have not
been taken by the wireless industry to protect consumers during this time
of uncertainty about safety. The steps I am referring to specifically followed
from the WTR program and have been recommended repeatedly in public and
private for and by me and other experts from around the world. As I prepare
to move away from the wireless phone issue and into a different public
health direction. I am concerned that the wireless industry is missing
a valuable opportunity by dealing with these public health concerns through
politics, creating illusions that more research over the next several years
helps consumers today, and false claims that regulatory compliance means
safety. The better choice by the wireless industry would be to implement
measured steps aimed at true consumer protection.
are that some segments of the industry have ignored the scientific findings
suggesting potential health effects, have repeatedly and falsely claimed
that wireless phones are safe for all consumers including children, and
have created an illusion of responsible follow up by calling for and supporting
more research. The most important measures of consumer protection are missing:
complete and honest factual information to allow informed judgement by
consumers about assumption of risk; the direct tracking and monitoring
of what happens to consumers who use wireless phones; and, the monitoring
of changes in the technology that could impact health.
I am especially
concerned about what appear to be actions by a segment of the industry
to conscript the FCC, the FDA and The World Health Organization with them
in following a non-effectual course that will likely result in a regulatory
and consumer backlash.
As an industry,
you will have to deal with the fallout from all of your choices, good and
bad, in the long term. But short term, I would like your help in effectuating
an important public health intervention today.
The question of
wireless phone safety is unclear. Therefore, from a public health perspective,
it is critical for consumers to have the information they need to make
an informed judgement about how much of this unknown risk they wish to
assume in their use of wireless phones. Informing consumers openly and
honestly about what is known and not-known about health risks is not liability
laden - it is evidence that your industry is being responsible, and doing
all it can to assure safe use of its products. The current popular backlash
we are witnessing in the United States today against the tobacco industry
is derived in large part from perceived dishonesty on the part of that
industry in not being forthright about health effects. I urge you to help
your industry not repeat that mistake.
As we close out
the business of the WTR, I would like to openly ask for your help in distributing
the summary findings we have complied of our work. This last action is
what always has been anticipated and forecast in the WTR's research agenda.
I have asked another organization with which I am affiliated, The Health
Risk Management Group (HRMG), to help us with this public health intervention
step, and to put together a consumer information package for widespread
distribution. Because neither WTR nor HRMG have the means to effectuate
this intervention, I am asking you to help us do the right thing.
I would be
happy to talk to you personally about this.
George L. Carlo Ph.D, M.S., J.D.
Chairman Wireless Technology Research
1711 N. Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036-2811
(202) 785 3939 telephone (202) 785-3940
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