CDC urged “caution in cell phone use”—then quickly scrubbed that warning….

This is an important piece—but you wouldn’t know it from the NYTimes’ soporific headline for it, or from its placement: on p. D1, of the business section (and with no mention of it at the bottom of A1, where the editors routinely highlight must-read articles inside the paper).

Since it certainly is not a business story, and has grave implications for the public health, it should have been a front-page piece; or at least as visible as “Cellphone Puts Berkeley at Forefront of Radiation Debate,” which ran on p. A14 in late July—and for which the paper’s editors should now apologize:

BERKELEY, Calif. — Leave it to Berkeley: This city, which has led the nation in passing all manner of laws favored by the left, has done it again. This time, the city passed a measure — not actually backed by science — requiring cellphone stores to warn customers that the products could be hazardous to their health, presumably by emitting dangerous levels of cancer-causing radiation. link

The piece continues in the same derisive vein—and with the same misleading take on what the “science” really says about the risks of cellphone radiation.

For a fuller and more accurate (although abbreviated) survey of the scientific research, see “Berkeley Votes to Warn Cellphone Buyers of Health Risks,” which Mother Jones ran in mid-May: link

As we noted here on NFU back then, the story of the Berkeley vote was covered only by the Guardian (UK) and some few smaller US outlets. And so the Times piece, which came out roughly 10 weeks later, was apparently the first report by any US mainstream outlet (occasioned by the cellphone industry’s big—and, as it turned out, abortive—legal push to kill the Berkeley ordnance on First Amendment grounds).

In any case, now that we know about this disagreement in the CDC—something that we know because the Times reported it, however quietly—let’s hope the paper starts to give this crucial story the attention, and the visibility, that it deserves, for everybody’s sake, our children most of all.




When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published new guidelines 18 months ago regarding the radiation risk from cellphones, it used unusually bold language on the topic for the American health agency: “We recommend caution in cellphone use.”

The agency’s website previously had said that any risks “likely are comparable to other lifestyle choices we make every day.”

Within weeks, though, the C.D.C. reversed course. It no longer recommended caution, and deleted a passage specifically addressing potential risks for children.

Mainstream scientific consensus holds that there is little to no evidence that cellphone signals raise the risk of brain cancer or other health problems; rather, behaviors like texting while driving are seen as the real health concerns. Nevertheless, more than 500 pages of internal records obtained by The New York Times, along with interviews with former agency officials, reveal a debate and some disagreement among scientists and health agencies about what guidance to give as the use of mobile devices skyrockets.


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