EMF Health-effects Research

From phenoxyacetic acids to cellular telephones: is there historical evidence for the precautionary principle in cancer prevention?

Hardell L

Int J Health Serv. 34(1):25-37, 2004

In the late 1970s, the author and his colleagues published the first scientific evidence of an association between exposure to phenoxyacetic acids and chlorophenols and certain malignant tumors; the study subjects were also exposed to contaminating dioxins such as 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). The results have been corroborated in other studies.

Over the years, industry and its allied experts have attacked these studies, but in 1997 IARC classified TCDD as a human carcinogen, Group I.

The author and colleagues found an increased risk of non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL) for subjects exposed to these chemicals or to some persistent organic pollutants; the increasing incidence in Sweden leveled off in about 1990. The author postulated that the regulation of or ban on these chemicals in Sweden in the 1970s contributed to the now decreasing incidence of NHL.

Recent findings of an association between cellular telephones and brain tumors have provoked much unfounded criticism from industry and from the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority. Thus the precautionary principle is prohibited and early warnings of a cancer risk ignored. The experience of cancer risks from certain chlorinated phenols may serve as a model of how the precautionary principle could be used to take early warnings seriously. Unfortunately, the lessons of history seem to go unheeded, as exemplified by the case of cellular telephones.

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