No Causal Link On Cell Phone Cancer Risk

Consumer Reports, among others, reported this week that the International Agency for Research on Cancer ("IARC"), which is part of the World Health Organization ("WHO"), has classified low-level radiation from cell phones as "possibly carcinogenic to humans" based on limited evidence linking cell phone use to glioma, a type of brain cancer.  Although Consumer Reports concluded in its article that IARC’s action was based on "limited evidence" and doesn’t "convincingly" link typical cell phone use with cancer, an American public that often skims only headlines of articles, may be susceptible to appeals of sympathy by plaintiff lawyers representing long-time cell phone users with brain cancers.  Throughout the 1980’s the utility industry battled spurious claims, premised upon junk science, that electromagnetic field radiation was responsible for "cancer clusters" of child leukemias and other dreaded diseases.  Although virtually every major EMF toxic tort claim was successfully defended by industry over a period of years, tens of millions of dollars was spent defending these lawsuits, which were brought in courts all  across the country.  As in the case of low dose radiation from cell phone use, there were  millions of millions of potential plaintiffs in the EMF cases and all of the prospective utility industry defendants had deep pockets. Following issuance of the IARC release, a spokeswoman for the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") stated that FCC currently requires that all cell phones meet safety standards based upon the advice of federal health and safety agencies.  Moreover, according to the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results Program ("SEER"), the incidence of brain cancer in the United States has actually declined over recent years as cell phone use has skyrocketed.  Despite these reassuring pronouncements, well-heeled plaintiff lawyers may bring some cases as trial balloons to test industry resolve based upon other equally ambiguous pronouncements, such as the contention that cell phone use can affect "brain function".  As in the cases brought against chemical manufacturers in the 1980’s,  which alleged that chemicals cause generic  "immune system dysfunction", enterprising plaintiffs may attribute any number of injuries to purported "brain function" impacts.  Hopefully, courts will continue to exercise their gatekeeper roles to maintain some semblance of scientific rigor in the courtroom to exclude inconclusive science  if these cases are brought.