Health watchdog warns of risk posed by mobile phones


A major report from the European Environment Agency has warned of serious health implications from a range of technologies including mobile phones and chemicals in everyday use.

Case studies include industrial mercury poisoning; fertility problems caused by pesticides; hormone-disrupting chemicals in common plastics; and pharmaceuticals that are changing ecosystems.

The report also considers the warning signs emerging from technologies currently in use, such as mobile phones, genetically modified organisms and nanotechnology.

The 750-page volume entitled Late Lessons from Early Warnings, Volume II includes 20 case studies which the agency said have “far-reaching implications for policy, science and society”. The report is critical of phone companies, governments and the media for not taking health warnings on mobile phones more seriously. It points out that in 2011 the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on cancer categorised the radiation fields from mobile phones as a “possible” human carcinogen.

Brain tumours

The report reprises the cancer agency’s studies among others which link extensive mobile phone use to brain tumours. The cancer agency warned of the dangers of proximity to mobiles for extended periods – such as sleeping beside phones when they are charging.

The report noted the first compensation case in the world when the Italian Supreme Court upheld compensation for a businessman who developed brain damage having used mobiles for 12 years.

The report also details contamination of mains water with plastic pipe linings; alleged “manipulation of research” by the tobacco industry; the pesticide DBCP and male infertility; Late Lessons from Chernobyl, early warnings from Fukushima nuclear incidents; and the impact on fish fertility of oestrogens.

Other sections warn of “invasive alien species” and genetically modified organisms.

Referring to “the cost of ignoring the early warning signs, the agency said “in many cases the early warning signs have been suppressed or ignored”. It lists specific cases where it claims danger signals have gone unheeded, in some cases leading to deaths, illness and environmental destruction. The first volume of Late Lessons, published in 2001, dealt with the use of asbestos, lead in petrol and the use of antibiotics as animal growth promoters.