Thursday, January 29, 2009

US president asks for views / Letter to the Editor / When Talking on the Phone May Endanger a Child

Phone masts health fears: US president asks for views of Midland woman

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama has turned to a Midland anti-mobile phone mast campaigner to help the fight against cancer.

Eileen O'Connor, as a founder member of the Radiation Research Trust, has led the battle against the relentless growth of mobile phone masts and technology for the past seven years.

And now the US President's cancer panel, set up by Obama to research the possible links with both nuclear and electro-magnetic radiation, has asked Eileen for her views on the issue.

The trust has supported widespread research into the possible dangers of mobile and wireless radiation and campaigns for the technology to be made safer.

Eileen said: "Obama's panel has launched an information gathering exercise and I was invited to provide evidence. While I am not building up my hopes, I am delighted the issue is being taken seriously by the President.

"President Obama recently said science is about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology.

"It's about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it's inconvenient and I welcome this approach."

The evidence gathered by the panel will be considered in drawing up advice to the new President on measures needed to be taken to improve the health of Americans.

Any steps taken are likely to be considered around the world.

Eileen first suspected a link between mobile phone masts and cancer when the arrival of a mast in her home village of Wishaw, near Sutton Coldfield coincided with a cluster of cancer cases, including her own.

The campaign hit the headlines in 2003 when the mast was pulled down in the middle of the night and residents blockaded the site to stop it being replaced.

The Radiation Research Trust funds and draws together scientific research from around the world and lobbies government to adopt a more cautious approach to mobile technology.

A key theory is that it is the electromagnetic radiation frequency, and not intensity or power of the signal, which can cause the damage. It is also thought that some people are more sensitive to the effects than others.

Letter to the Editor,

The article, "Company recalls LG 150 cellphones", by Chris Sorensen (Toronto Star, January 28, 2009) clearly indicates that Health Canada is no longer in the business of protecting the health of Canadians.
The "voluntary" recall by LG Canada was a responsible reaction to their cell phones exceeding federal guidelines for microwave emissions. The statement by Health Canada, namely that "the past and present use of the LG 150 should not pose immediate or long-term health concerns" is clearly irresponsible. This statement comes in sharp contrast to the warnings from other countries to restrict cell phone use, especially by children, and in sharp contrast to a growing number of countries reducing their maximum exposure limits based on scientific studies showing an increased risk of tumors after 10 years of moderate to high cell phone use. Why do we have these guidelines if they are not enforced? Why do other countries have guidelines that are much lower than those in Canada? Why is Health Canada more concerned about protecting the health of the cell phone industry than it is about protecting the health of Canadians? At what stage should the name of Health Canada be changed to reflect what it is truly doing . . . protecting the interests of big business?

-Dr. Magda Havas
Associate Professor
Trent University, Peterborough, ON
When Talking on the Phone May Endanger a Child
Published: January 29, 2009

Preteens participating in an unusual interactive simulation were more likely to suffer a virtual accident if they talked on the phone while they were crossing a street, researchers have found.

University of Alabama at Birmingham

A child trying to gauge his progress at a simulated street crossing. Children do considerably worse on the test when talking on cell phones, researchers have found.

Children aren't the most skilled street-crossers to begin with, researchers said. But in the simulation, talking on the phone increased the odds of being hit or almost hit by a virtual car from 8.5 to 12 percent, a 43 percent increase in risk.

The report was published in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics. The study comes on the heels of several others that have shown that talking on the phone takes a toll on the attention and visual processing skills of drivers, and may increase the risk of an automobile accident four-fold.

"Crossing the street is very complicated, if you stop and think about it," said senior author David C. Schwebel, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Preteens aren't able to do it nearly as well, he said, when talking on the phone.

Dr. Schwebel and his colleagues placed 77 children in a virtual reality environment that mimicked an intersection, standing across the street from a school with cars passing by in both directions. Researchers asked the 10- and 11-year-olds to decide when it would be best to cross. The children stepped off a platform roughly the height of a sidewalk curb when they thought it was safe.

Each child made a dozen virtual street crossings, half while talking on cellphones. About half of the children were talking during their first six crossings, while the other half received calls during the second six crossings.

Although performance improved with time and practice, the psychologists found, the phone calls distracted the children, making them less attentive to traffic. While on the phone, they more often hesitated before stepping off the virtual curb and left themselves too little time before another car drove by, leading to more close calls and more collisions.

The virtual environment did not imitate life in one important way: it did not allow for children to pick up the pace and run across the street, nor could a car slam on the brakes or swerve to avoid an accident, Dr. Schwebel said.

On the other hand, using a cellphone wasn't new to any of the children, Dr. Schwebel noted. All of them had used the phones before.

"If you're a parent, you should probably tell your kids not to be texting or talking on the phone, or listening to an iPod for that matter, when crossing an intersection," said David Strayer, professor of psychology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and an expert on cellphone safety.

"This is consistent with what we know about how the mind works when people are driving," Dr. Strayer added. "You do need your mind to navigate through the world, whether you're biking or driving or rollerblading or walking."