Can Radiation from Cell Phones Damage DNA in Our Brains?

The March issue of the University of Washington alumni magazine, Columns, features a well-deserved tribute to Henry Lai and his colleague, N.P. Singh, who have demonstrated that low-level microwave radiation can lead to an increase in DNA breaks in the brain cells of rats (available online). The headline of the piece tells the story: “Wake-Up Call: Can Radiation from Cell Phones Damage DNA in Our Brains? When a UW Researcher Found Disturbing Data, Funding Became Tight and One Industry Leader Threatened Legal Action.” The article later identifies that “industry leader” as George Carlo who ran Wireless Technology Research (WTR) on behalf of the CTIA, the trade association of the cell phone industry. Of course, most people, except those on the industry payroll, now concede that WTR was misnamed. Something like “Whatever Happens Do As Little Research As Possible and Take As Long As Possible Not To Do It” would have been far more appropriate (even though it’s hard to make an elegant acronym out of all that). One important fact is left out of the story —for reasons that will become apparent in a moment. The piece begins with Lai recollecting how, back in 1994, someone had tried to stop his DNA-microwave work by calling the National Institutes of Health and alleging that Lai was misusing his research grant by carrying out unauthorized experiments. After Lai explained what he was up to, the NIH was satisfied that nothing was amiss. Lai was allowed to go back to work, though he lacked the funds to do as much he would have liked. The snitch is not named in the article but should be revealed. It was Bill Guy, who had received three degrees from the University of Washington, including his doctorate, and then spent much of his professional life at its Department of Bioengineering. No wonder the alumni magazine was squeamish about identifying him. For more than ten years, Guy and Lai had worked together at the university’s Bioelectromagnetics Research Lab. They were coauthors on close to 20 research papers. But that did not stop Guy from trying to sabotage Lai’s research. At the time he made the call to Mike Galvin of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Guy was one of two key advisors to George Carlo, and was helping him map out the strategy for CTIA’s $25 million cell phone-health research project. Separately, he was also a consultant to the CTIA. Guy would stay on the WTR payroll for another three years. Guy is a former president of the Bioelectromagnetics Society and the recipient of the d'Arsonval Award, its highest honor. Despite a lifetime in RF research, despite the fact that he chaired the committee that wrote the 1982 ANSI RF exposure standard, despite the fact that he chaired the committee of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements that wrote the council's 1986 (and its most recent) report on RF biological effects, Guy’s first impulse on hearing about some important new experimental finding that questioned the safety of a product that would soon be responsible for exposing more than a billion people to a constant stream of RF radiation was to blow the whistle and try to impugn Lai. Does anyone still believe that the mobile phone industry ever made an honest attempt to get to the bottom of the cell phone safety question?