Federal Scientists Endorse Precautions in Using Cellphones in Light of Possible Cancer Risks

Grab a headset: Scientists at the National Toxicology Program have recommended that people reduce the time they spend on cellphones or use the speaker mode or a headset to reduce exposure to radiofrequency radiation from wireless devices. According to Microwave News, two government scientists involved in studying possible links between cellphone radiation and cancer confirmed that they are following the precautionary steps. Researchers for the toxicology program, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, found “clear evidence” of a link between cellphone radiation and cancer in an animal study published in November 2018. The research found that male rats exposed to high levels of radio frequency radiation like that used in cellphones developed cancerous heart tumors. But at the time, senior scientists downplayed the risk to human health: “The exposures used in the studies cannot be compared directly to the exposure that humans experience when using a cell phone…In our studies, rats and mice received radio frequency radiation across their whole bodies. By contrast, people are mostly exposed in specific local tissues close to where they hold the phone.”


Don’t take your guns to town: Agents with the Transportation Security Administration found more guns in carry-on bags in 2019 than ever before: 4,432 in all, a five percent increase from the year before, Sam Mintz reports for Politico. “The continued increase in the number of firearms that travelers bring to airport checkpoints is deeply troubling,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. What’s worse is it’s not even that difficult to legally transport guns on airplanes: The gun just has to be unloaded, locked in a hard-side case and declared as part of checked luggage. But University of Illinois professor Sheldon Jacobson, who has studied aviation security for 25 years, cautioned that this statistic is difficult to interpret without more information. “What if they found 10 firearms, or what if they found 10,000? Yes, it’s a big number, but it’s inconclusive what it means,” Jacobson told The Washington Post. It could mean that agents are doing a better job of detecting firearms, he said. But it could be bad if it means more people are trying to bring guns to checkpoints.

  • Also: According to the Gun Violence Archive, at least 15,292 people were fatally shot in the United States in 2019—excluding an even greater number of suicides—roughly a three percent increase over 2018, but below the all-time high of 15,678 recorded by the Gun Violence Archive in 2017. The Trace’s Daniel Nass notes that the 2019 total could still rise as more data comes in. The number of nonfatal firearm injuries went up to 29,613, a five percent increase over 2018.


Secret trials: Companies, universities, and other institutions are required by law to publish the results of clinical trials in a National Institutes of Health  database within a year of completing a trial. But an investigation by Charles Piller in Science magazine found 184 sponsor organizations with at least five trials overdue as of September 2019, and 30 companies, universities, and medical centers that have never met a single deadline. Meanwhile, the Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration have done little or nothing to improve compliance with the law, which is aimed at allowing doctors and patients to learn which treatments are effective. “If this was a priority for the leadership of NIH, then they could ensure that high-quality, timely reporting happened all of the time,” said Deborah Zarin, a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and former head of the NIH database, ClinicalTrials.gov.


Chicken safety:
Long-time food-safety advocate Bill Marler has petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ban dozens of salmonella strains from meat and poultry, Kimberly Kindy reports for The Washington Post. Marler, a Seattle lawyer, represented hundreds of victims of a Jack in the Box food poisoning incident in the 1990s that claimed the lives of four children, and was instrumental in getting the USDA to outlaw the most virulent strains of E. coli bacteria from meat. Since then, salmonella has become the most dangerous bacteria in meat, and the USDA estimates that 1 in every 10 chicken breasts, drumsticks, or wings that consumers purchase is contaminated. “When I tell people that chicken manufacturers can knowingly and legally sell something that can kill you, they don’t believe me,” Marler told The Post.


Plastic, plastic everywhere: The world’s largest food company Nestlé announced it would reduce its use of virgin plastics by one third by 2025 and invest in sustainable packaging solutions and new recycling technologies, Emanuela Barbiroglio writes in Forbes. “No plastic should end up in landfill or as litter,” said Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider, which is where much of the 300 million tons of plastic produced every year goes right now. For the record, more than 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been generated since the early 1950s, according to the United Nations. And about 60 percent of that plastic has ended up in a landfill or in the natural environment.


Fake filters: Amazon is flooded with counterfeit products, but one in particular, refrigerator water filters, could be extra risky to consumer health, according to Nate Seltenrich’s investigation for FairWarning. Unscrupulous sellers have been packaging water filters with little functionality with mocked up labels, packaging, and fake certifications, and selling them at a price point below the real deal, turning themselves a tidy profit in the process. But, according to a May 2018 report from the industry group Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, these filters could actually be introducing toxic substances like arsenic and octane into drinking water.


Kids’ climate case: A federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by 21 young plaintiffs that sought to hold the federal government accountable for failing to act to limit planet-warming carbon emissions, and for actively promoting fossil fuel development, Nicholas Kusnetz and David Hasemyer report for InsideClimate News. In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declared that responsibility for climate policy rests with the political branches of government, not the courts. “The mere fact that this suit cannot alone halt climate change does not mean that it presents no claim suitable for judicial resolution” Judge Josephine L. Staton wrote in a dissenting opinion. “A federal court need not manage all of the delicate foreign relations and regulatory minutiae implicated by climate change to offer real relief.” Julia Olson, executive director of Our Children’s Trust and a lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, vowed to appeal the decision to the full Ninth Circuit.


Late payday in Seattle: Two Seattle, Washington, restaurant operators have had to pay tens of thousands in back wages owed to employees for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Department of Labor announced. Tacos Chukis, which has four locations in Seattle and failed to pay overtime when employees  worked more than 40 hours in a week, has paid $419,459 to 92 workers. Also, the Joy Fish Restaurant will pay $99,625 to 28 employees, after the owner was found to have violated overtime rules by paying kitchen workers a monthly lump sum regardless of hours worked. Investigators also found the owner illegally retained tips received by service staff, .

Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.


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One comment to “Federal Scientists Endorse Precautions in Using Cellphones in Light of Possible Cancer Risks”

  1. Louis V. Lombardo

    Thanks for your great work warning us all.

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