Rachel's Precaution Reporter #67

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, December 6, 2006..........Printer-friendly version
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Featured stories in this issue...

Cell Phone Health Hazards: Threat and Opportunity
  As new studies implicate cell phones in health problems, the
  wireless industry has an opportunity to exercise foresight and adopt a
  precautionary approach.
Danger in Toyland
  San Francisco's ban on toxic toys -- including such classics as the
  rubber ducky -- highlights the lurking danger of plastic contaminants.
Defending Toxic Toys for Tots
  The chemical industry wants to continue exposing children to toxic
  chemicals, specifically phthalates and bisphenol-A, which are used in
  soft plastic toys like teething rings for infants. Here is their


From: Strategy+Business, Nov. 28, 2006
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By Lavinia Weissman

Mobile phone manufacturers are today where cigarette makers were in
the early 1950s: facing risks that may -- or may not -- redefine the
reputation of their industry.

The mobile phone industry, which had been one of the world's fastest-
growing industries until recently, has begun to slow down. Its
saturated market -- 610 million phones in use as of 2004 -- has yet to
hit the once-projected high of 2 billion phones. To pump up sales,
suppliers and network operators have put their energies into creating
new designs and promoting the use of multimedia features for
entertainment, messaging, and voice and data access. Companies have
also focused on new markets -- children in the U.S. and the general
public in Asia, particularly China and India.

But the industry is missing one of its greatest opportunities and the
chance to forestall a potentially debilitating threat. No cellular
phone manufacturer has developed a strategic response to the growing
number of disquieting studies of potential health hazards from the
electronic magnetic fields (EMFs) emitted by mobile phones. Pointing
to the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Communications
Commission, which hold that cell phones' effects on human health are
neither significant nor harmful, industry leaders have thus far
publicly shrugged off EMF risks. The reaction of a Disney Mobile
spokesman as quoted in a Business Week story in June 2006 is
typical: "Safety concerns 'really [haven't] been an issue here in the
U.S. for quite some time now.... Disney is relying on the FDA.'"

This strategy of duck-and-cover might work in the short run. But smart
players in the mobile industry would be wise to proactively provide
consumers with designs that minimize exposure to EMFs, thus reassuring
consumers and hedging against bad news in the future.

What, EMF Worries?

Over the past decades, a number of studies have pointed to the risks
inherent in cell phone technology. Michael Kundi, a professor at the
Institute of Environmental Health at the Medical University of Vienna,
has stated that since 2000, 17 epidemiological studies have suggested
that cell phones, held close to the head, can cause brain tumors and
cancer. "Never before in history," Kundi writes, "has a device been
used that exposes such a great proportion of the population to
microwaves in the near-field and at comparatively high levels." In
2005, another research team (Balkisi et al., published in the journal
Pathologie Biologie) showed statistical evidence that long-term users
of mobile phones may suffer from headaches, extreme irritation,
forgetfulness, and decreased reflexes, among other complaints. A
different study (S. Lonn et al., 2004) suggests that the use of
mobile phones over a 10-year period might increase the risk of
acoustic neuroma (a nerve tumor in the ear) threefold. And in October
2006, American scientists warned that men using cell phones for more
than four hours a day might damage their sperm.

To be sure, the significance of these studies is inconclusive. Louis
Slesin, publisher of Microwave News, a monthly journal that has
tracked the issue for 25 years, told Business Week: "There is plenty
of data showing that we may have a serious problem on our hands, but
at this point no one really knows for sure."

William Stewart, the chairman of the U.K. Independent Expert Review
Group that studied the impact of mobile phones in 2000, explains the
quandary: "In relation to radiation, it often takes a long time for
things to become obvious." The epidemiological effects of chemicals
and other toxins are difficult enough to establish with certainty, but
EMF is even more perplexing; it cannot be seen or tasted, and its
effects on tumors, cancer, and allergies (for example) are extremely
difficult to isolate from other environmental factors. Nonetheless,
concerns about the data have prompted a number of groups of
physicians and researchers to write to the European Parliament, urging
members to heighten the precautionary approach and stressing the need
for the adoption of new safety standards as well as full and
independent review of scientific evidence pointing to the hazards of
EMF exposure.

In his book Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power,
Privilege, and Success (Doubleday, 2003), Art Kleiner, editor-in-
chief of strategy+business, observes that the mobile phone industry
could very well be at the crossroads the tobacco industry once
stumbled across. Starting when the first definitive studies linking
smoking to lung cancer were published in 1953, Kleiner writes,
cigarette companies denied the health risks of smoking. Their decision
"to deny, market, obfuscate, conceal and fight" worked for the short
term. But by refusing to take the moral high ground and go public with
the information (and, consequently, not repositioning the cigarette
business by, say, marketing the concept of smoking in moderation),
tobacco companies ultimately faced skyrocketing legal fees and fines,
as well as a public reputation as "merchants of death."

The Proactive Path

The mobile phone industry could avoid that fate. Taking cues from the
cigarette industry's mistakes and being proactive, the smart cellular
phone manufacturers might manage to build market share and increase
user loyalty. Mark Anderson, who publishes the online newsletter
Strategic News Service, suggests a proactive plan for cellular phone

** Make sure your engineers and designers are the most exposed, aware
group in the industry.

** Design cell phones for health first, in all segments. "Guess what,"
says Anderson. "If you can position your company on this high ground
before anyone else, two things happen: First, you get lots of
business, and second, all your competitors look bad and lose share. It
is a win-lose, and you win."

** Make sure that all cell phones are sold with head sets or ear
microphones in the box. Make these accessories easy to use and
ergonomically appealing.

** In fact, sell children's cell phones that will operate only when a
head set or ear mike is attached. Include extra ear mikes in the box.
Make them easy to replace.

** Since your lawyers won't let you say why you are including these
devices, just say that "smart users use them."

** In the end, it might be necessary to invest more in researching the
health impact of non-ionizing cell phone radiation. The technological
underpinnings of cell phones might need to be redesigned.

"None of this bad news is going to go away," Anderson warns, "but the
first one to become proactive might take serious market share away
from the other hundred companies still in complete denial."

Carl Hilliard, president of the California-based nonprofit Wireless
Consumers Alliance, counts at least 20 patents that suggest promising
advances in reducing EMF exposure. Hilliard, who was an attorney for
AirSignal before it was acquired by Cellular One, says: "If I were
still advising clients in the industry, I'd suggest that they look
into doing research on the near field" -- the health effects located
close to the source of transmission. "We don't know what goes on in
the near field," he explains. "What happens there is tumultuous." In
the meantime, Hilliard says, he too would urge including head sets or
ear mikes in the packaging. "I always use a hands-free phone," he

Failing to be proactive might lead the mobile industry down Tobacco
Road. In the United States, the number of class-action suits is
growing. Hilliard counts eight lawsuits specifically related to the
health hazards of cell phones currently making their ways through the
courts. Last year, he successfully represented a woman who claimed
that a brain tumor was caused by radio-frequency radiation at her job;
a California judge awarded workers' compensation of $30,000 plus
approximately $100,000 in health and related damages.

"I think claims against the wireless industry will follow the same
long path that you saw in the cigarette industry," Hilliard adds.
"There is a significant difference, however: The cigarette companies
kept making the cigarettes more addictive and stronger, despite
mounting scientific evidence of the risks. Cell phone companies are
already trying to reduce power levels in cell phones by increasing the
number of towers. It's a Hobbesian choice."

Although the United States offers no precautionary guidelines,
Britain's advisory body on radiological hazards, the Health Protection
Agency has urged parents to limit their children's use of cell phones,
recommending that younger children use cell phones only in
emergencies. In Europe, the Vienna Doctor's Chamber has warned
expressly against excessive mobile phone use, especially by children.
"If medications delivered the same test results as mobile phone
radiation," chided a spokesperson for the chamber, "one would have to
immediately remove them from the market."

The June 2006 Business Week article titled "A Phone Safe Enough for
the Kids?" detailed the growing marketing of cell phone service aimed
at kids and their parents by Cingular Wireless, Verizon, and, most
recently, Disney Mobile. After reviewing the scientific studies, the
article concluded: "So far, there has been no public clamor over the
new services like Disney's. Does this mean phones are safe for kids?
Or is the U.S. hooked and in collective denial? For now scientists
concerned about cell-phone safety say the only thing protecting kids
from possible danger is their parents."

Where children are concerned, the consequence of uncertainty is
magnified. Effects might include diseases that are deadly, such as
leukemia; diseases that are difficult to diagnose, such as autism; and
diseases that don't appear for decades, such as Alzheimer's. Exposure
to EMF could also alter a person's DNA, which would make it possible
for that person to transmute genetically based diseases to his or her

By taking the high road, designing safety features before they are
legally required, cell phone manufacturers can help protect and
reassure their customers. This approach means managing this short-term
risk effectively and innovatively, and turning it into a long-term
competitive advantage: the beginning of a reputation as a visionary,
not a villain.


Author Profiles:

Lavinia Weissman (lavinia@workecology.com) is the director of
WorkEcology, an online community for practitioners of organizational
learning and related theories. She focuses on innovative practices for
the workplace. Recently, she has been examining trends on the
prevention of chronic disease. She is a frequent contributor to the
SuccessFactors blog and Hospital Impact.

Click here to subscribe to strategy+business

Additional resources:

"A Phone Safe Enough for the Kids?" Business Week, June 19, 2006:
The cell phone industry sees a hot new market, but critics are

Dr. Elizabeth Cullen, "Report to the Joint Oireachtas Committee,
Dail Eireann," February 2005: Sums up research on EMF as presented to
the Irish Doctor's Environmental Association.

Gregor Harter and Steffen Schroder, "Start-Ups in a Time of Upheaval
for the Mobile Industry," Booz Allen Hamilton white paper, 2006: This
white paper studies 3,000 startups and finds slowing growth,
increasingly saturated markets, and difficult challenges ahead. PDF

Art Kleiner, Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power,
Privilege, and Success (Doubleday, 2003): This book about "core
groups" of organizations contains a chapter on fulfilling the noble
purpose of great organizations.

Michael Kundi, "Mobile Phone Use and Cancer," Occupational and
Environmental Medicine, 2004: Overview of the epidemiological
evidence, the resulting uncertainties, and a call for more focused
study from a member of the medical faculty of the University of
Vienna. An audio presentation by Kundi is also available.

S. Lonn, A. Ahlbom, P. Hall, and M. Feychting, "Mobile Phone Use and
the Risk of Acoustic Neuroma," Institute of Environmental Medicine,
Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, November 2004: Medical
journal article.

Nancy McVicar, "Court Victory Is a First for Programmers," South
Florida Sun-Sentinel, October 2, 2005; reprinted on EMF-Health.com:
Woman awarded workers' compensation for radio-frequency radiation
exposure on the job.

Ian Sample, "Warning to Male Mobile Users: Chatting Too Long May Cut
Sperm Count," The Guardian, Oct. 24, 2006: A summation of the

Microwave News: Includes a collection of studies regarding the
potential harm caused by EMF exposure.

Strategic News Service: Weekly newsletter about technology and
business, regularly covers emerging news and implications of mobile
phone health hazards.

Vienna Doctor's Chamber: Offers guidelines for limiting contact with
mobile phones.

Wireless Consumers Alliance: This nonprofit organization site
contains references to class-action lawsuits against wireless

About s+b Contact s+b Advertise in s+b Privacy Statement Legal

Copyright 2006 Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. www.bah.com

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From: Time, Dec. 3, 2006
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By Margot Roosevelt

They line the nursery section of children's toy stores like brightly
colored candies: rubber duckies for bathtime, chewable rings for
teething, soft-covered books for pawing and mouthing. Parents shopping
for their babies can be forgiven if they assume that everything on
those shelves is 100% child safe. So why did the city of San Francisco
issue a ban last week on the sale of certain plastic toys aimed at
children under 3? And why are activists warning holiday shoppers in
the most alarming terms against buying them?

"Sucking on some of these teethers and toys," says Rachel Gibson of
Environment California, a nonprofit, "is like sucking on a toxic
lollipop." At issue are contaminants in plastics used to make the
toys. Environmentalists have long argued that some of these chemicals
can leach out and harm children, pointing to animal studies that link
the substances to birth defects, cancer and developmental
abnormalities. Those warnings are hotly disputed by the chemical
industry and toy manufacturers, which cite stacks of scientific
studies that have found the plastics to be safe at federally approved
levels. But the issue has gained traction on the strength of new
evidence from independent and university-sponsored studies. The
European Union has banned some chemicals in toys since 1999, and now
half a dozen state legislatures are considering similar laws.

The controversy centers on a family of chemicals called phthalates
(pronounced "thalates"), which are used to soften vinyl, and on
bisphenol A (BPA), a substance used to make clear and shatterproof
plastic. Most are known to be so-called endocrine disrupters, capable
of interfering with the hormones that regulate masculinity and
femininity. Several hundred animal studies have linked phthalates to
prostate and breast cancers, abnormal genitals, early puberty onset
and obesity. More recently, they've been shown to affect humans as
well. In a paper published last year in the journal Environmental
Health Perspectives, scientists from the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention and several universities found that boys born to
mothers with higher phthalate levels are far more likely to show
altered genital development, linked to incomplete testicular descent.
Harvard School of Public Health studies report that men with higher
phthalate levels have lower sperm counts and damaged sperm dna.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC), which represents manufacturers
such as ExxonMobil and Dow Chemical, says the crackdowns on toys are
not justified by the science. "The E.U. aims to ban products that show
adverse effect at very high doses in rats," says the acc's Marian
Stanley. "Many essential products are made from starting materials
that can be quite toxic at high doses. This does not mean that the
final consumer products are toxic." As for recent phthalate studies on
humans, she says, they are either preliminary or "overhyped."
Meanwhile, toy companies are relying on a 2001 review by a Consumer
Product Safety Commission panel that found "no demonstrated health
risk" in toys made with dinp -- one of the phthalates used in vinyl.
Critics fault the panel for failing to examine the effect of dinp when
combined with other phthalates.

The focus on bpa is new. Its use is widespread -- it's found in dental
sealants and the epoxy linings on food cans as well as in baby
bottles. Studies in animals over the past five years have found that
the substance, which mimics the human hormone estrogen, alters brain
structure and chemistry as well as the immune system and reproductive
organs. Some of these effects show up at extremely low doses, in some
cases 2,000 times below the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
safety guideline, according to Frederick vom Saal, a University of
Missouri endocrinologist. Chemical companies say the findings are not
applicable to humans, but the federal National Toxicology Program has
launched a reassessment of the safety standard. "The literature around
bpa is very controversial," warns epa scientist Earl Gray. "Next
year's review should clarify things."

The problem for retailers -- and parents -- is that the U.S. does not
require manufacturers to disclose ingredients in most consumer
products. How can you tell which contain the contaminants when
chemical companies guard the information as proprietary? "Stores have
products stacked to the ceiling for the holidays," says Daniel
Grossman, ceo of San Francisco's Wild Planet Toys. "They have no idea
what has phthalates and what doesn't."

They may soon find out. The San Francisco Chronicle recently had 16
toys tested in a private lab. One rubber ducky contained the
phthalate dehp at 13 times San Francisco's allowed level. A teether
contained another phthalate at five times the limit. Meanwhile, a
rattle, two waterproof books and a doll contained bpa, which is
prohibited by the city at any level. Although the products comply with
U.S. law, some toymakers, including Goldberger Doll, are cutting out
phthalates. Richard Woo, owner of a local store called Citikids,
estimates that he might have to pull a third of his items off the
shelves. Next month manufacturers will go to court to block the new
law. Whatever the ruling, parents will be left wondering how safe
their children's toys really are.

Copyright 2006 Time Inc.

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From: American Legislative Exchange Council, Nov. 14, 2006
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Pthalates are polycarboneate plastics are used in a wide array of
products. Phthalates give nail polish and perfume desired consistency
and longevity. They also give necessary flexibility to vinyl and soft
plastics, and have been used in baby bottles and reusable water
bottles for decades.

Environmental activists increasingly seek to ban or severely restrict
the use of phthalates, and especially the phthalate known as bisphenol
A, asserting that phthalate exposure poses risks to the development of
male reproductive organs. Phthalate legislation often targets
children's products specifically.

Scientific evidence refutes the assertion that phthalates pose a risk
of harm to children or anybody else. While laboratory rats fed
megadoses of the phthalate DBP have shown some reproductive
development problems, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports
the doses correlate to a safe human intake of 300 micrograms per
kilogram of body weight per day. By comparison, the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention report that the average daily human
exposure is less than 1 microgram per kilogram of body weight per day.

Biomonitoring of bisphenol A shows even less real-world human
exposure, with human exposure being 1 million times below the levels
where no adverse health effects were observed in laboratory animals.

Moreover, a September 2006 study showed that when phthalate DEHP was
fed to marmoset monkeys -- which are far more similar to humans than
laboratory rats -- there were absolutely no negative health effects,
even when fed to the marmosets in "astronomical" doses.

The very minimal risk of negative health effects associated with
phthalates is especially remote considering the lack of human
exposure. A 2005 test by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety
Authority measured bisphenol A migration from baby bottles to human
subjects. The study found that none of the 22 new baby bottles tested
allowed any migration of bisphenol A. Only 3 of the 20 old bottles
allowed any bisphenol A migration, and such migration occurred at only
trace levels.

As a result of these and numerous other studies showing no adverse
human health effects associated with bisphenol A exposure, the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration has determined as recently as November
2005 that "based on all the evidence available at this time, FDA sees
no reason to change its long-held position that current uses with food
are safe."

Talking Points

* The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitors the
latest scientific research regarding phthalates such as bisphenol A.
FDA has rigorously analysed numerous contemporary studies and
concluded that there is no scientific justification for restrictions
on phthalates such as bisphenol A.

* Even the notoriously risk-averse European Union has echoed the
U.S. FDA determination that human exposure to phthalates poses no
health concerns. For example, the German Federal Institute for Risk
Assessment (known as the BfR) has determined that "The BfR does not
recognize any health risk for babies that are fed from baby bottles
made of polycarbonate."

* Phthalates have shown adverse health effects in laboratory
rats only when the rats have been given megadoses of phthalates that
correlate to unimaginable real-world human exposure. Moreover,
marmoset monkeys -- which are far more similar to humans than
laboratory rats -- showed absolutely no negative health effects even
when fed "astronomical" doses of phthalates.

Additional Sources:

"Are Polycarbonate Bottles Safe for Use? New Information on an Old
Scare Story," BisphenolA Website, May 5, 2006

"'Astronomical' Doses of DEHP Show No Adverse Effects on Reproductive
Organs of Juvenile Marmosets," Phthalate Information Center,
September 6, 2006

"Biomonitoring Studies Confirm Human Exposure to Bisphenol A is Very
Low -- Low Exposure Supports Low Risk to Human Health," BisphenolA
Website, May 4, 2005.

"EPA Raises Safety Profile for the Phthalate Used in Nail Polish In
Review Draft," Phthalate Information Center, September 12, 2006

"EU Risk Assessments," Phthalates Information Center

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  Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical
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  answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary
  principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

  We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we  
  believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what
  their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed
  to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

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