Newsletter #90
Lee Euler, Editor
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Study Sends Fuzzy Signals on
Cell Phone Cancer Connection

If you've always been suspicious that regular cell phones might trigger cancer, a recent finding could make your paranoia soar.

A decade-long international study suggests that people who hold frequent and lengthy cell phone conversations—with their ears pressed to the phone while doing so—may increase their risk of developing brain cancer.

But don't swear off using cell phones just yet...

Continued below. . .

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The study also indicates that at lower levels of usage, phone radiation exposure actually decreased the likelihood of tumor!

You can thank researchers at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France for these contradictory findings. Their Interphone Study results were published in the May 2010 International Journal of Epidemiology1.

And in a May 31, 2011 statement2, an IARC working group of 31 scientists from 14 countries decided to officially designate the radiation emitted by mobile phones as a "possible" carcinogen belonging in the same class as chloroform… diesel fuel… and substances that firefighters are exposed to.

The working group made its decision after considering hundreds of scientific articles. This included some recent in-press scientific articles resulting from the Interphone study.

In a previous release3, IARC Director Dr. Christopher Wild said, "An increased risk of brain cancer is not established from the data from Interphone. However, observations at the highest level of cumulative call time and the changing patterns of mobile phone use … particularly in young people, mean that further investigation of mobile phone use and brain cancer risk is merited."

The recent decision to classify cell phones as a "possible" carcinogen appears to be a step in that direction.

What the Interphone study found

Funded in part by the mobile phone industry, the Interphone project collected data from 16 research centers in 13 countries outside the United States. Investigators interviewed 12,800 people, including nearly 7,500 tumor sufferers as well as healthy cell phone users.

They found that at the highest exposure levels—that is, daily cell phone use for more than half an hour a day over a 10-year period—there was a 40 percent increased risk of glioma brain tumors. With adjustments for statistical biases, that chance shot up to 80 percent!

Now, if half an hour a day doesn't sound like heavy cell phone use to you, you've got lots of company.

Some critics of the study say the definition of "high" exposure really could represent average cell phone use. This means the study could underestimate actual cancer risk.

What's more the study did not address cordless phone usage, which studies indicate may pose tumor risks as well.

Critics also note that children and young adults were not included in the study—despite evidence that exposure at a younger age may increase risk of brain tumors.

Lead investigator Professor Elisabeth Cardis said "because of concerns about the rapid increase in mobile phone use in young people… [the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology] CREAL is coordinating a new project, MobiKids, funded by the European Union, to investigate the risk of brain tumours from mobile phone use in childhood and adolescence."

Interest in a cell phone/cancer connection
isn't limited to European nations

One person who insists there's a definite link between cell phone use and brain cancer is California businessman Alan Marks. In a recent CNN interview4, he said he's convinced that his malignant brain tumor was tied to radiation exposure in the course of 20 years of cell phone use.

Marks is pressing lawmakers to require manufacturers to put warnings directly on their phones—not just in accompanying guides.

Although he continues to use a cell phone to conduct business, he now uses a headset or the speaker to communicate. And Marks is no lone crusader…

In a case called Murray v. Motorola—which involved Verizon, Motorola, AT&T and other cell phone providers—plaintiffs claimed that they or their loved ones suffered brain cancer and other illnesses because they used cell phones manufactured, sold or distributed by the defendants.

In November 2009, the D.C. Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision and held that federal law does not preempt claims against the cell phone industry for injuries allegedly caused by cell phone low radio frequency (RF) radiation if those claims are based on:

  1. Allegations of pre-1996 cellular phone usage (before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began applying radiation limits to cell phones), or
  2. Use of cellular phones not in compliance with the FCC's RF standard, or
  3. State Consumer Protection Act claims involving marketing and advertising of cell phones relating to product safety.

This decision could keep the cell phone industry tangled in health-related litigation for years to come!

Another less serious health concern that has been tied to cell phone use is the development of skin rashes. Some cell phone users may get a skin rash because of the nickel in their cell phones.

People allergic to nickel may get a rash on their cheek or ear if they talk for extended periods on a cell phone containing nickel. They could also get a finger rash if they send lots of text messages!

I think I'm getting nostalgic for the horse and buggy days. . .

Let the facts speak for themselves

While the studies linking cell phones to brain cancer may still be inconclusive, some facts are beyond dispute:

  • The National Cancer Institute5 admits that cell phones release RF radiation that has been investigated for many years to determine its effects on humans.
  • A cell phone antenna produces its main source of RF energy. The antenna of newer cell phones is in the handset, which you typically hold against your head when talking.
  • The closer the antenna is to your head, the greater your exposure to RF energy. Conversely, the amount of RF energy you absorb decreases significantly as you increase your distance from the antenna.

The best option to address health concerns linked to cell phone usage is to use a hands-free device and possibly a cell phone cover to protect your skin.

Should you avoid cell phones altogether? That's for you to decide. It seems to me the logical choice is moderate cell phone use.

But these devices seem to be a virtual addiction for many people. I can't see walking down the street or on the beach or around a store chattering away into a phone. But I seem to be in the minority. Lost on most people is the Zen idea that's it's nice to simply be where you are.

Another option is to use your land line more often (they do still exist, you know). I prefer land lines because the voice quality and the reliability of the connection are both much higher. I've never quite got used to talking into a tarted-up walkie-talkie. But obviously the rest of the world has. I just hope they aren't paying a terrible price for it in terms of cancer risk.

Want more carcinogens to worry about? I feel like the Wicked Witch teasing, "How about a little fire, Scarecrow?!" But what the heck. There's something else around your house that may cause cancer. If you missed this news on Wednesday, scroll down and catch it now. . .

Are Pesticides Killing Us, Too?

The annual plague of insects and other bugs has descended on us folks up North. For those of you in sunny climates, it lasts all year round. In these parts, the year's heavy rainfall means the mosquito population will be big enough to make it the 'state bird' in at least half the states.

And it's not just mosquitoes. You have to add the many other pests known to man — fleas, cockroaches, yellow jackets, grubs… you name it.

In self defense, many of us will call a pest control company or pay a visit to the store to load up on products designed to get rid of these unwanted invaders.

Problem is... we could be trading one problem for another. Keep reading to find out what I mean...

Continued below. . .

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'Safe' pest control treatments (that aren't)...

Pesticides come in so many names and varieties it's mind-boggling to sort them all out.

For now, I'm going to focus on one of the most common ingredients in use today, along with its common synergist. Many people rely on it as 'safe' — and it is, compared to DEET, Diazinon, Dursban, Sevin and Orthene.

Pyrethrum is a natural material made from the chrysanthemum... and pyrethrins are the six insecticide compounds found in pyrethrum. A pyrethroid is a manmade chemical compound similar to natural chemical pyrethrins.

Pyrethrins and pyrethroids are ingredients in a staggering 3,500 registered products.

They are widely used in and around millions of homes — on pets, in mosquito control, and on lawns. They're used to kill ticks and fleas, cockroaches, and are in home and garden sprays and pet shampoos. Pyrethroids are sold as commercial pesticides used to control insects on farms, in homes, communities, restaurants, hospitals, schools… and also as a topical head lice treatment.

"Bug bombs" — pesticides with aerosol propellants releasing all their contents at once to fumigate an area — are marketed for use in homes and apartments to control roaches and fleas.

Use of pyrethrins and pyrethroids has increased during the past decade with the declining use of organophosphate pesticides.

They alter nerve function, causing paralysis in target insect pests, ending in death.

To simplify things, I'll call them all pyrethrins for the rest of this article.

There are four ways you're exposed to pyrethrins:

  • Inhalation
  • Skin contact
  • Through your eyes
  • Ingestion

You also need to realize… when you use pyrethrins, you're getting more than 'just' pyrethrins. Often, you're also getting a powerful synergist called Piperonyl Butoxide (PBO) — added to make the active ingredients even more powerful (read: toxic). PBO is especially common in aerosols. Such products may contain five to ten times as much PBO as pesticide.1

Toxicity concerns

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pyrethrins cause more insecticide poisoning incidents than any other class of insecticides except organophosphates. Symptoms may include2:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Skin or eye irritation and inflammation
  • Numb tongue and lips
  • Convulsions
  • Muscular fibrillation
  • Respiratory problems, including life-threatening asthma attacks
  • Death, including heart failure

Note: You are at substantially higher risk of symptoms if you have pre-existing respiratory problems (allergies and asthma) — and also if you have multiple sclerosis.

An old story from the Jewish News, Detroit, dated February 6, 1998, illustrates just how dangerous pyrethrins can be to asthmatics...

    Marcy Trice remembers the day her life changed forever. She was a 35-year-old limited licensed psychologist working with chronically ill patients at Detroit Receiving Hospital. Early on that August day in 1989, an insecticide (poison) company sprayed her office because of a bug problem. When Trice returned later, she got some of the chemical mist on her hands. She started to fall asleep at her desk. Her asthmatic condition, previously under control, dramatically worsened. The insecticide was pyrethrin, made from powdered flowers of the chrysanthemum family.

    Poison control told Trice to get tested and warned her she could develop symptoms months later. She did: headaches, frequent falling, kidney problems, memory lapses, fatigue.

    Unknown to Trice, another office where she worked in Bloomfield Hills was periodically sprayed. Her illness grew worse, and she stopped working in 1994. Trice has been diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), a chronic condition marked by heightened sensitivity to many different chemicals.

Worth noting: WD40, a household lubricant, is also extremely dangerous when you're exposed to it at the same time as pyrethrin.

Toxic to animals, too...

Pyrethrins are not exactly harmless for animals, either.

Some lab animals experience anemia when exposed to the chemcials through eating, injection, or breathing.

Experiments with dairy cows suggest that nursing mothers exposed to pyrethrins can pass them on to their children. Plus, pyrethrins disrupt the normal functioning of sex hormones.

Pyrethrins are extremely toxic to honeybees, fish and other aquatic animals, posing a potential threat to our food supply.

They're dangerous for cats too. A cat's liver is incapable of breaking down pyrethrins. Watch what flea and tick products you use.

But do pyrethrins cause cancer?

The EPA classified pyrethrins as "likely to be a human carcinogen by the oral route", based on increased frequency of several cancers in rats — including3:

  • Liver cancer in females
  • Lung cancer in males
  • Thyroid tumors (both genders)

Farmers exposed to pyrethrins for livestock pest control have nearly four times the risk of leukemia.4

Several studies suggest that females are at greater overall cancer risk from pyrethrin exposure than men, because pyrethrins tend to accumulate within body fat. Females in general have twice the body fat of men. Tests showed that the median oral dose it took to kill female rats was less than half the dose required to kill males.5

Risks you wouldn't expect
from an 'inert' ingredient

Remember, it's not just pyrethrins. It's that other chemical, PBO, too. The EPA rates PBO as one of the most commonly used ingredients in insecticides, now found in approximately 1600 to 1700 registered pest control products.6 PBOs are sometimes listed as an active ingredient, but can also be considered an inert ingredient, so not required to be listed.7 When listed, it could be called any of these names (and probably others):

  • Butacide
  • Pybuthrin
  • ENT-14250
  • CAS Reg. No. 51-03-6

A study of pregnant women from northern Manhattan and the Bronx found PBO in the air of 80% of their homes — suggesting how far-reaching its use is.

Residues are regularly found on these "dirty dozen" foods, plus others...

  • Lettuce
  • Lemons
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Chive
  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Pears
  • Bell peppers
  • Oranges
  • Squash...

Another reason to fork over the extra dough for organic foods, huh? The EPA claims that your dietary food risk is very low… but others disagree.

PBOs slow the breakdown of toxic pyrethrins, keeping them toxic for much longer. My guess is, PBOs will do the same thing in your body.

Overdoses in animals are linked to hyper-excitability, unsteadiness, coma, seizures, and brain damage. Hemorrhages in the digestive tract, especially in the large intestine, have caused rat deaths.

Other long-term changes include liver disease, kidney changes, anemia, loss of muscle coordination, and abdominal swelling. Sounds like enough to scare me off…

But again, is PBO "officially" carcinogenic? Well yes, the EPA has named it a group C carcinogen — "a possible human carcinogen"… based only on animal studies. Several studies link it to liver cancer at high doses… others link it to thyroid cancer.8

They say that PBO does not cause genetic damage — but there is by no means a clear consensus on that, as some studies do show genetic damage, including a study demonstrating gene mutation in mouse lymphoma cells.

In addition, PBO weakens your immune system, affects reproductive function and increases both birth defects and fetal death, and is a known neurotoxin causing behavioral changes. It's also linked to intestinal ulcers, bleeding, liver and kidney damage… and more. Some of these risks appear to be downplayed by the EPA.

"But, the EPA would tell us
if it was dangerous... wouldn't they?"

I'd like to think so...

But I did see one reference about the EPA withholding information from the public for two years after they determined pyrethrins were a possible carcinogen. Finally the information came out in a lawsuit.9

That aside...

Although the EPA has access to published articles and independent studies, they rarely use these sources to make a risk assessment. Generally they use only data submitted by the product manufacturers.10 Could be honest science, be I'm skeptical about that…

For example, a comprehensive review of published articles found 63 pesticides that interfere with the thyroid system. But to date, EPA has never restricted a pesticide for thyroid issues.

To add to the potential problems...

Although pyrethrins are said to have a short half life in the sunshine, they're often applied inside of buildings, where residue can stay potent for a long time.

Following indoor treatments, pyrethrins have persisted up to 2 1/2 months in carpet dust.

One study found PBO persisted for at least 2 weeks on toys and in dust in a kindergarten, following a treatment to control cockroaches.11

To add insult to injury, there are indications that pests are becoming resistant to pyrethrins. A January 20, 2011 story in the Wall Street Journal tells of an Ohio State University study showing that bed bugs now have the ability to survive in the presence of pyrethrins.12, 13

It's a tough challenge to avoid all sources of pyrethrin and PBO, precisely because they're used all over the place by practically everybody. It's conceivable they're used in almost every building you visit on a regular basis… schools and universities, playgrounds and ball fields, golf courses, farms, your workplace, office buildings, restaurants, apartment buildings, and more.

But do take control where you can.

10 ways to slash your risk...

At least you can choose healthier options in your own backyard and home. Here are ten practical tips to get you started...

  1. Learn to read labels and ask questions. Beware the 'inert' ingredients. The term is nothing more than a dodge for pesticide manufacturers. If you hire others for your yard care, ask a few questions. Find out what pesticides they plan to apply. Ask to see labels. Be snoopy. It's your life and your family's at stake.
  2. Buy organic food. If you buy from a local organic farmer, ask what they use to control bugs. Request the name of the active ingredient. Pyrethrum (the "natural" version) may still use synergists like PBO that are anything BUT natural. Be wary. Labels may not mean what you think they do. Some companies are selling pyrethrum/diatomaceous earth/PBO products and calling them "organic".
  3. PBO is also showing up in orange oil and neem products, and sold as organic. Don't be fooled…

  4. Spray garlic-based mosquito deterrents on your shrubs and grassy areas instead of using poisons. Besides being better for you, they have the benefit of not killing "good" insects the way pyrethrins do.
  5. Find natural flea and tick treatments for your pets. There are many available online.
  6. Wash your pet's bedding in hot, soapy water once a week.
  7. Vacuum your home once a week. Empty the bag and dispose of its contents. Keep clutter under control.
  8. Comb your dog daily with a fine-tooth flea comb, and rinse in hot, soapy water between strokes.
  9. Look for repellants made from the essential oils of lemongrass, cedarwood, peppermint, rosemary, or thyme.
  10. Use flowers that deter insects in and around your home and garden.
  11. Remove standing water near your home to prevent mosquitoes from breeding there.

If all this seems like a lot of work, remember the proverb, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Not only does it apply to your health, but for preventing the insect surges that will make you "desperate" to use pyrethrins and PBOs.

Sometimes it takes decades of people getting sick before a product's dangers are "discovered" and it's finally removed from the market. In the meantime, you may need to become your own personal "Environmental Protection Agency".

Kindest regards,

Lee Euler,

Footnotes Article 1:

1Cardis, E. et al. Brain tumour risk in relation to mobile telephone use: results of the INTERPHONE international case-control study, International Journal of Epidemiology 2010;1-20 doi:10.1093/ije/dyq079. Retrieved at
2International Agency for Research on Cancer. 2011, May 31. IARC classifies radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans. Retrieved from
3International Agency for Research on Cancer. 2010, May 17. Interphone study reports on mobile phone use and brain cancer risk. Retrieved from
4CNN. May 21, 2011. Cancer survivor battles for warning labels on cell phones. Retrieved from
5National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet. Cell phones and cancer risk. Retrieved from

Footnotes Article 2:

2National Institute for Industrial and Occupational Safety and Health
3U.S. EPA. Office of Pesticide Programs. Health Effects Division. Cancer Assessment Review Committee. 1999. Cancer Assessment Document: Evaluation of the carcinogenic potential of pyrethrins. Executive summary. Washington, D.C.
4Brown, L.M. et al. 1990. Pesticide exposures and other agricultural risk factors for leukemia among men in Iowa and Minnesota. Cancer Res.50: 6585-6591.
5World Health Organization and Food and Agricultural Organization. 2000. Pesticide residues in food-1999. [Part II] Toxicological evaluations.Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.Pp. 277-278. (accessed 5/20/11)
6 (accessed 5/20/11)
7 (accessed 5/20/11)
8 (accessed 5/20/11)
9http:// (accessed May 20, 2011)
10From the discussion section of "A Case for Revisiting the Safety of Pesticides: A Closer Look at Neurodevelopment," by Theo Colborn, PhD, published in the January 2006 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives (Vol. 115, No. 1).
11 (accessed 5/20/11)
12 (accessed on May 20, 2011)
13 (accessed May 20,2011)

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