If you use a cellphone, or don’t use one for good reasons, you probably remember the historical May day in 2016 when USA scientist researchers urgently pre-released top findings of the soon-to-be-called “cellphone causes cancer” study performed by the National Toxicology Program, because senior directors Linda Birnbaum and John Bucher thought it was of “imperative” importance concerning public health. The Microwave News newsletter was the first to cover it.
Remember how excited the scientists were to announce that a causal link had been established between cellphones and cancer?
This is not just an associated finding—but that the relationship between radiation exposure and cancer is clear. “I would call it a causative study, absolutely. They controlled everything in the study. It’s [cancer] because of the [cellphone radiation] exposure.”Christopher Portier (2016), Retired Head of the NTP who helped launch the study,
Federal Consultant Scientist.
Researchers at the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a federal interagency group under the National Institutes of Health, led the study, that had, in their words, exposed rodents to carefully calibrated radio-frequency (RF) radiation levels designed to roughly emulate what humans with heavy cell phone use or exposure could experience in their daily lives. The animals were placed in specially built chambers that dosed their whole bodies with varying amounts and types of this radiation for approximately nine hours per day throughout their two-year life spans, and many generations were studied over a ten year period.
Remember how optimistic we felt at the results of this $30 million NTP study, the most comprehensive assessment to date, taking more than 10 years to complete, breaking ground as the first independent study in the USA on the biological effects of cellphones, would serve to guide other studies of newer wireless technologies to come?
“This is by far—far and away—the most carefully done cell phone bioassay, a biological assessment. This is a classic study that is done for trying to understand cancers in humans. There will be a lot of work after this to assess if it causes problems in humans, but the fact that you can do it in rats will be a big issue. It actually has me concerned, and I’m an expert.”Christopher Portier (2016), Retired Head of the NTP, Federal Consultant Scientist.
Remember the confidence of EMF Safety Advocates had that this was a momentous precedent setting study, a world leading move for the USA, that would have far reaching positive impact both at home and globally. That was the reaction of many, like David Carpenter for instance, the Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany New York, who’s institute is a collaborating center of the World Health Organization (WHO).
“This is a game changer, there is no question. It confirms what we have been seeing for many years —though now we have evidence in animals as well as in humans. The NTP has the credibility of the federal government. It will be very difficult for the naysayers to deny the association [between cancer and cellphones] any longer.”David Carpenter, CoAuthor of the BioIniative Report calling for Biologically Based Safety Guidelines for EMF exposure
What has happened with that study in the intervening years?
In the years since that initial announcement the FDA and the FCC have both been oddly silent on the study, other than to say noncommittally that they are monitoring research. Other scientists have been encouraged to weigh in on the study, and that together with peer reviews of the studies have drawn conclusions that have not been painted the findings of the studies in the same light as the study’s own researchers.
Almost immediately, the NIH issued a statement reminding people that the research does not replace or invalidate earlier studies that didn’t find cancer links, adding insipidly that they all add to the same corpus of knowledge on this topic.
The Media promptly began its naysayer stance with the Washington Post publishing Do Cellphones Cause Cancer? don’t Believe the Hype and news coverage since has pretty much taken the same approach, with typical examples from CNN stating in February 2018 that the the study “raised more questions than answers… with no significant findings”, and NBC reminding innocuously in November 2018 , “cellphone radiation may cause cancer in rats”, then quoting the FDA as saying “these findings cannot be applied to humans”.
This top rated article, “NIH Study links Cell Phone Radiation to Cancer in Male Rats” published in NIH’s monthly newsletter TechCrunch in January 2018, still wanted to make it clear to readers that these studies are “far from conclusive” and that the “equivocal evidence” showed in the studies means just above “no evidence” on the official scale. And yet, in a survey rating TechCrunch’s most popular articles (by most page-views) of 2018, the NTP Cellphone Studies articles dominated the list, both the pre-leased findings and the final report. Clearly the public is very interested in knowing more on the topic of cellphones and cancer.
In November 2019, this four page Cellphone Radio Frequency Radiation National Toxicology Report was published in a version intended to interpret the study in its simplest terms for the general public. Even members of the public have wondered aloud at the “spoon fed pablum”, in describing the content of this report.
The report blandly concludes by advising consumers who are concerned about cellphone safety to obtain more information from federal agencies who are still determining whether RFR used in cellphones may affect human health:
National Toxicology Program
National Cancer Institute
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Federal Communications Commission
In the spring 2020 The Radiation Safety Journal Health Physics, Ronald Melnick PhD, the toxicologist, for 28+ years at the United States government’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program (NTP), and lead designer of the NTP study on cell phone radiation, analyzed criticisms made by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) of the National Toxicology Program Study on cell phone radiation. Melnick’s analysis concluded that ICNIRP “misrepresented” the study and should not have dismissed the carcinogenic effects found in experimental animals exposed to RF-EMF.