The wireless industry reportedly engaged in a practice called “wargaming” when it funded research favorable to cellphones while hiding and/or disparaging studies that suggested cellphones could cause cancer via low-level radiation.
Mark Hertsgaard co-wrote a recent article in The Nation, “How Big Wireless Made Us Think That Cell Phones Are Safe,” how and why the wireless industry has been trying to silence the scientific research about the possible dangers of cellphone use going back to 1999.
Hertsgaard shared his research on Democracy Now:
Let me emphasize, Amy, our piece is not saying that cellphones are safe or are not safe. Our piece is an investigative exposé showing you how the cellular industry has worked for 25 years behind the scenes to convince you that cellphones are safe, when, in fact, if you look at the independently funded science, the picture is a lot more mixed than that. And as you mentioned, there’s that smoking gun memo—letter, I should say—from George Carlo in 1999 telling the CEOs of all these big companies, “Look, this stuff is raising serious questions, especially about kids and cancer and genetic damage.”
And I think that’s the real parallel with both Big Oil and Big Tobacco. In each case, these big companies were told privately by their own scientists that there are serious questions about your product, whether it be cigarettes or fossil fuels or cellphones. And in each case, those executives decided not to share that with the public, but rather to keep that information to themselves, while telling the public and telling the press and telling policymakers there’s no problem.
There is a lot of evidence suggesting that we need to be a lot more careful about these cellphones. The World Health Organization has listed them as a possible carcinogen. And just last week, here in the United States, the National Institutes of Health had a major study, peer-reviewed, about cellphone radiation. And the peer-review scientists, who are independent of government, said that there was, quote, “clear evidence,” unquote, that cellphones can cause cancer.
And that is something that you have not read in the American media. And I have to say that that’s another part of the story, Amy, is how the U.S. news organizations and journalists have been hoodwinked, yet again, by a corporate propaganda campaign, where we listen more to what the industry says than to what independent scientists are saying.
Hertsgaard also explained how “war gaming” works in the wireless industry:
The term that they use is “war gaming.” They have war-gamed the science. That comes from an internal memo in 1994 from Motorola, a major cellphone manufacturer, which at that point was already facing lawsuits from customers claiming that their brain tumors had come from Motorola-supplied equipment. War gaming means a number of different things.
It means funding science that is friendly to industry. It means discrediting science, or attempting to discredit scientists, that are critical of industry. And it means trying to put industry-friendly scientists on key advisory boards, such as the World Health Organization.
And our piece in The Nation magazine documents how when the World Health Organization was preparing, in the year 2011, to render a judgment on how likely cellphones are to cause cancer, the industry made sure to get a number of its scientists onto the advisory boards that consulted with the WHO on that decision.
And that is contrary to the conflict-of-interest rules that the WHO has, but the industry managed to circumvent those. It put money into that process. And at the end of the day, in 2011, the WHO, World Health Organization, called cellphone radiation a “possible” carcinogen.
But a number of the scientists who were on that committee, who we interviewed, said that they wanted to call it a “probable.” And one scientist even wanted to call it a “known” carcinogen.
So, later this year, the WHO is going to revisit this question of cellphone radiation, and they told us that they will look very carefully at this recent study from last week by the National Toxicology Program of the U.S. government that found clear evidence that cellphones can cause cancer.
Hertsgaard also noted how the wireless industry targeted and discredited a Swedish scientist who investigated cellphones and cancer:
Well, Lennart Hardell, the Swedish scientist you mentioned, Amy, he was the one scientist on that WHO committee who wanted to call cellphone radiation a “known” cancer risk—not probable, not possible, but known.
That would be Category 1. And he did that on the basis of his studies of gliomas. They are a nasty brain tumor, brain cancer, partly because it’s very difficult to treat them. It’s not like a specific sort of nodule that you can take out. They kind of leak through the brain in long strands.
And Hardell was especially concerned about what this means for children. And I should note here, Amy, that, you know, the United States is quite different than other advanced countries on this.
In Britain, in France, in Israel, the governments have issued very strict limitations on cellphone use by children. In the public schools in France, there are no iPads, there is no wireless, partly for the reasons of addiction, but also because of these concerns about health.
And in the case of Lennart Hardell in Sweden, once he started to publish those findings in 2002, the industry immediately mobilized to have two of their friendly—industry-friendly scientists immediately put out a paper condemning Hardell.
Well, we found out that those two scientists, at the very time that they were posing as independent scientists and saying that Mr.—that Dr. Hardell’s findings were methodologically incoherent, they were consulting—they were consulting to Motorola as expert witnesses in a brain tumor case. So, who are you going to believe?