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Scientists say cell phones, Wifi, are environmental health hazards

Sept. 14, 2016

Dr. David O. Carpenter, the Director of the Institute Health and the Environment at New York University at Albany, was a guest on this week’s KSKA talk show Line One. Your Health Connection. He said studies show excessive cell phone and Wifi use cause brain cancer.

“In terms of radio frequency radiation, which is what cell phones are and Wifi and cell towers and all these things, the evidence that they cause cancer in humans is very, very strong, and it comes from multiple studies, including studies done by the World Health Organization,” said Carpenter.

Carpenter said the issue is controversial because studies using animals haven’t shown the same results as in humans. And the health effects don’t show up for 30 years. Plus, he said, the risk is not as high as that linked to hazards such as toxins in the environment.

“But it’s still one we should all be aware of. And it’s so easy to take some precautions that are not life distressing. They’re so easy to do, that it’s stupid not to take cautions,” advised Carpenter. “Don’t use your cell phone in a Wifi environment too much. Use a wired ear piece. Use your landline.” 

Carpenter is the author of hundreds of peer-reviewed articles and several books on public exposure to electromagnetic fields and other topics.

Another guest on the show, Pam Miller, heads Alaska Community Action on Toxics. She told Line One host Dr. Thad Woodard breakthroughs in neurological, genetic, and cellular research have changed how scientists look at the effects of pollutants on human health, but laws on their use haven’t kept up. 

"There has been a revolution in the science of environmental health over the last several years. And we’re now understanding that, it’s not as simplistic. Things are very complicated. It’s not any longer a dose makes the poison. These chemicals have effects at exquisitely low concentrations," said Miller. "There are endocrine and epigenetic considerations, multi-generational effects of these chemicals. So, our laws are very much outdated."

Miller said toxins pass to the fetus and infant through the placenta, and later through breast milk at a vulnerable time, as the brain grows to 80% of its adult size in the first two years of life. 

“Alaska infants have twice the incidence of birth defects than the lower 48,” said Miller. “And Alaska Native infants have even higher rates than white children in Alaska. So, everywhere we go in Alaska, in rural communities, we hear concerns about cancer, and, in particular, childhood cancers which seem to be on the rise in incidence and we’re seeing cancers in children at younger and younger ages.” 

Exposure in utero or early childhood is even linked to chronic diseases in later life such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. That’s according to Carpenter, the environmental health professor. He’s been studying pollutants on St. Lawrence Island, located 200 miles west of Nome.  

“It was really remarkable for us when we began to look at the people that live on St. Lawrence Island, which is about as remote a place as you can find,” said Carpenter. “We find that they have levels in their blood and in their bodies that are comparable to people in the lower 48 who live in very contaminated waste sites that I’ve been studying for 30 years.” 

That’s because pollution travels to Alaska from Asia and the lower 48. Chemicals that are airborne in warmer climates drop in the Arctic cold. Military waste on St. Lawrence Island is another source of pollutants, which end up stored in whale, seal, and walrus fat, traditional Native foods, as well as in other animals in the Arctic.
Miller said the cold also increases exposure to indoor pollution.

“Our indoor environment is more insulated against the cold, less well ventilated,” said Miller. “So children can be more highly exposed to chemicals that are accumulating in household dust, that leach out of household products such as furniture, and toys and electronics.” 

Miller said Alaska Community Action on Toxics is hosting a Children’s Environmental Health SummitOctober 5-6 at Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage. The goal is to bring together parents, teachers, scientists, the Native community and health care professionals to share information and develop recommendations for policy changes.