There is a lot of conflicting information out there about whether cell phones cause cancer. The issue becomes a legal one because if cell phones are responsible for increasing the risk of cancer, the manufacturers and designers of cell phones may be held accountable for their negligence in producing something so harmful to so many people. Just like tobacco companies have been brought to justice and made to compensate the people they hurt so deeply, cell phone companies can be held accountable for their actions through a products liability claim if you have been hurt.
The personal injury lawyers at the law offices of Gilman & Bedigian are closely monitoring the situation and look forward to more information about whether cell phones and cancer are linked. If they are, then our attorneys will strive to represent those who have been hurt or impacted by this terrible development.
Cell Phones Use the Electromagnetic Spectrum
The way cell phones work is the source of the suspicion that they cause cancer.
Cell phones communicate by sending and receiving data to and from cell phone towers. Anytime a cell phone is left on, this data is transmitted to it using radiofrequency waves, a form of electromagnetic energy. Electromagnetic energy comes in a huge variety of forms, as seen by the electromagnetic spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, the waves are low-powered and spaced far apart. These types of wavelengths are used for things like radio and even radar. Towards the middle of the electromagnetic spectrum, the waves become more intense and closer together. Some of these wavelengths are visible as color, while others are felt as heat. Finally, the other end of the spectrum is reserved for wavelengths that are packed tightly together and carry lots of energy, like X-rays and even gamma rays.
The electromagnetic spectrum highlights an important connection between wavelengths and the amount of energy they carry. As the wavelength of electromagnetic energy – the distance from the top of one wave to the top of the next – gets shorter, the strength of the energy increases.
Ionizing and Non-Ionizing Energy and Their Effects
At some point towards the most powerful end of the electromagnetic spectrum, the strength and intensity of a wave of electromagnetic energy becomes so significant that it can ionize atoms by removing their electrons. These forms of electromagnetic energy are called ionizing energy. X-rays and gamma rays are examples of ionizing energy.
Ionizing energy is dangerous to people, especially when it comes in high doses or over a long period of time because the ionization that the energy causes is often enough to chemically alter the person's atoms and molecules. It can even break down the chemical composition of a person's DNA through radiation poisoning. The repercussions of these conditions involve the rapid and uncheck growth of some of the body's cells, which then spread into surrounding tissues and wreak havoc – a condition commonly known as cancer.
Non-ionizing energy does not have this effect, and so is believed to be harmless to people, at least in this regard.
The question, then, becomes: Where is the line between ionizing energy and non-ionizing energy?
The answer becomes complicated by the fact that less intensive forms of electromagnetic energy, like sunlight in the form of ultraviolet energy, can still lead to certain forms of cancer, like melanoma or skin cancer, with excessive or prolonged exposure. Therefore, it is not only the intensity of the wavelength that determines if a form of electromagnetic energy causes cancer but the amount of exposure, as well.
Studies Have Looked for Links Between Cell Phones and Cancer
Scientists and the medical field have become worried that excessive exposure to certain wavelengths in the radiofrequency – like those used by cell phones – can also lead to cancer, particularly in someone's brain, the closest organ to the source of the energy.
Cell phone companies and manufacturers have insisted that their devices are perfectly safe and that the radio frequencies used by their cell phones are harmless, even when exposure is nearly constant. Their denials, though, mean very little: not only would they become exposed to millions or possibly even billions of dollars in damages if their devices are proven to harmful; they would also lose their business model and have to go through extensive research and development to come up with a new way of making their devices work.
Researchers and professionals in the medical field, on the other hand, have done several scientific studies that aim to determine if cell phones cause cancer or are at least linked to it. Some of these studies have surveyed people to determine how often they use their cell phone and then tracked them to see whether they developed cancer. Other studies have exposed lab animals to the radio frequencies used by cell phones to see whether they were more likely to develop cancer. The results, however, have been inconclusive.
The “Million Women” Study
One of the studies was performed in the United Kingdom and asked 791,710 women – while not technically a million, it was still a huge number – about their cell phone use. Then, seven years later, the study checked back in with the women surveyed to see whether they suffered from specific types of brain cancer, like glioma.
The results were published in the International Journal of Epidemiology and found that there was no conclusive link between cell phones and these particular types of brain cancer. It did, however, find that was a possible link between cell phone use and acoustic neuromas, or non-cancerous tumors on the auditory nerves between your ear and your brain.
However, the study was far from perfect. Most notably, the “Million Women Study” only followed the women surveyed for a period of seven years. Many types of brain cancer, on the other hand, take more than ten years to fully develop. Another complication is the fact that the study only asked women how often they use cell phones at the beginning of the survey. Subsequent changes in a surveyed woman's cell phone use over the next seven years would go unnoticed and lead to skewed results. Finally, determining how often someone uses their cell phone by simply asking them is prone to error: people are likely to have an imperfect memory about how often they have used their cell phone in the past week, and are likely to compare how much they use a cell phone to those around them: women who rarely used their phone, therefore, would still likely say they were constantly on their cell phone if they lived with others who did not have one at all.
The Danish Cohort Study
Another study used lists of cell phone subscriptions in Denmark from 1982 to 1995 to determine who had mobile phones. The study then monitored health records for these cell phone owners and compared their rate of developing cancer to the rest of the Danish population in 2002, 2007, and 2011.
The conclusion of the Danish Cohort Study has been that cell phone use, even for more than 13 years, is not connected with an increased risk of brain or salivary gland tumors or even cancer in general.
However, this study was also imperfect. While it did not rely on the memories of the people surveyed or their personal perception of their own cell phone use, it also only used cell phone subscription records – not necessarily cell phone use. To make matters worse, the cell phones that could be owned back in the 1980s and 90s were very different from those on the market today; they required more power, but were very bulky, prone to poor reception, and more difficult to use, making it probable that people used them less often back then.
Tests With Lab Animals
Meanwhile, scientific studies and tests with lab animals have come to different conclusions. Two massive studies – one in the U.S. at the National Toxicology Program, and one in Italy at the Ramazzini Institute – drew a bleaker picture about the connection between cell phone and cancer.
The U.S. study involved 3,000 male and female mice and rats and lasted two years. It focused on the impact of “near-field” exposures of radiofrequency radiation – like having a cell phone at your ear when you make a phone call. The Italian study followed 2,500 rats throughout their life cycle and looked at the effects of “far-field” radiofrequency exposure – like the energy given off by nearby cell phones and wireless networks.
In both studies, the male rats, but not the females or any of the mice, developed heart schwannomas – non-cancerous tumors that grow inside the sheaths that protect nerves – at a much higher rate than expected. There were also increased risks of lymphoma and other cancers, as well, including:
- Brain cancer
- Lung cancer
- Liver cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Skin cancer
These two studies are considered to be the most damning evidence that there is a connection between cancer and the electromagnetic energy that comes from cell phones. However, there is still the important fact that they dealt with mice and rats and not human beings.
Legal Mechanisms for Holding Cell Phone Companies Accountable
While the scientific jury is still out on whether cell phones are linked to cancer, there are already ways for potential victims of cell phone-induced cancers to recover the compensation they need and deserve. In fact, there is already an important precedent for holding large corporations accountable for the damages they have caused by recklessly manufacturing, marketing, and then selling cancerous products: the class action lawsuits against tobacco companies.
One of the major avenues for recovering compensation, should it be found that cell phones cause cancer, will be a products liability claim. These are lawsuits that argue that there was negligence in either the design, manufacture, or the marketing of a product, and that this negligence caused damage to the person or the people who ended up buying or using that product.
In the context of cell phones and cancer, much of the attention would be paid to the defective design of cell phones: after all, they are designed to use the radiofrequency energy that could be putting cell phone users at risk. However, there is also the possibility that cell phone companies can be held accountable for their negligent marketing, as well, as they have never admitted to the possibility that their products can cause cancer over the long term. In fact, they have repeatedly denied this possibility.
In many ways, as we near the year 2020, the questions concerning the link between cell phones and cancer are similar to the questions being asked about cancer and tobacco products in the 1940s. It was not until the 1950s that scientific studies began linking cigarettes to lung cancer. Vigorous opposition and lobbying by the tobacco industry kept litigation at bay for decades, and it was not until the 1990s that individual victims began having success in court against tobacco companies like Philip Morris. At that point, the science had turned against the tobacco companies and the floodgates of liability opened against them, culminating in the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement in 1998 that forced major tobacco companies to pay hundreds of billions of dollars to victims of their cancer-causing products.
The Personal Injury Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian are Monitoring Developments
Scientists and the medical field might be unsure about whether cancer can be caused by cell phone use. However, the possibility has not been eliminated, and there are some indications that show that people should be concerned.
The personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian see similarities between cell phones causing brain cancer and tobacco products causing lung cancer. Should the science ever indicate that there is a connection between using a cell phone and developing brain cancer, our attorneys are ready to represent the innocent victims obtain the compensation that they need and deserve to overcome the terrible injuries they have suffered, through no fault of their own and with no way to prevent it. Contact us online.