TT-487 -- New Connections Between Cell Phones and Cancer? Ebiz news from Japan

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A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, September 28, 2008 Issue No. 487


- What's new
- News
- Candidate roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming events
- Corrections/Feedback
- News credits

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This last week, two well-known scientists in the U.S.,
David Carpenter, the director of the Institute of Health
and Environment at the University of Albany, and Ronald
Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer
Institute, gave testimony to a House Subcommittee on the
potential dangers of cell phone radiation to the human
body -- and in particular to children. The testimony was
significant in that it was the first time that such
high-level individuals from leading health/cancer
institutions of learning have issued such warnings
at this level of government.

The global cell phone industry is estimated to be worth
more than US$40bn, and there are now approximately 3
billion people using cell phones around the planet. Here
in Japan, as of August 2008, there were 104,426,900 cell
phone subscribers, meaning that many adults have two
devices and most kids of school-going age also have one.
Indeed, around 30% of elementary school students, 58% of
middle school students, and 96% of high school students
now have a cell phone. Thus, if were proven that cell
phones can cause cancer, a huge business sector would be
thrown into chaos.

We were intrigued. What made Carpenter and Herberman decide
to risk their professional reputations and state that the
cell phone industry may be creating a health problem at
least as big as the tobacco industry did with lung cancer?
Their actions are especially notable because the official
line from U.S. government authorities, from the FCC and FDA
on down that hundreds of health studies made to date have
shown little or no correlation between cancer and cell
phone usage.

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

Carpenter and Herberman men presented to the subcommittee a
number of European studies that show that certain cancers
do in fact appear to be related to high cell phone usage --
such as one by Swedish cancer researcher Lennart Hardell,
which has found that certain rare benign tumors on the
auditory nerves of the inner ear are most likely to occur
on the side of the face where the user holds their cell
phone. And another by the Royal Society in London which
reported last year that adolescents who start using cell
phones before the age of 20 are five times more likely to
develop brain cancer by the age of 30 than those who

It is this last connection about kids that has most people
worried, and indeed, Herberman showed the subcommittee
images of how radiation from a cell phone can penetrate far
deeper into the brain of a child, due to the thinner bone
of their skulls.

If true, that cell phones can trigger various brain cancers
and are particularly dangerous for children, this would
constitute a major worry for those of us living in Japan,
where the authorities are encouraging parents to give their
young school children GPS-loaded cell phones so as to keep
track of their children. Although on the face of it, such
cell phones are only used occasionally, the kids soon
learn that it is fun to talk to their friends after school,
and before you know it the parents are having to introduce
usage limits because the kids are blowing out the family's
phone budget.

We know from personal experience that pre-teens and teens
in particular live on their cell phones and will easily use
them for hours a day if not supervised properly. Family
plans and other flat-rate pricing schemes have exacerbated
the problem, and for an average kid going to juku until 8
or 9 o'clock in the evening, adequate supervision of their
phone usage by their parents is not very likely.

The real problem is that there is so much conflicting
information out there about whether or not cell phones can
cause cancer. As of 2006 there were about 500 human studies
on the subject, with about half stating cell phones are
safe and half saying they are not. Typical of this
situation was a famous 2004 Swedish study which found that
there was a 240% higher likelihood of acoustic neuroma
suffers having the tumor appear on the side of the head
where they would hold their phone cell -- thus indicating
a direct link between cell phones and certain types of
brain cancers. But then in 2006, a Danish study of 420,000
people who were also cell phone users declared that they
could find no connection to usage and cancer. Further a
major British study written up in 2007 came up with a
similar conclusion -- that there was no demonstrable

As recently as February of this year (2008), researchers
at the Tokyo Women's Medical University found that from a
base of 322 brain cancer patients they could not establish
a relationship between their patients' condition and the
use of cell phones. As a result of the study, the media ran
headlines around the world stating "Japanese Study Clears
Mobiles of Brain Cancer Risk".

But while the Japanese researchers were unable to establish
a connection, it is probably fair to say that their sample
was both very small and that they were looking at very
specific thermal effects of phone radiation rather than
considering other possible causal factors. Most researchers
agree that if cell phone radiation (RF) was a problem, it
would hurt human cells by heating effects that break down
the DNA proteins or cause so-called heat-shock proteins to
appear in cells. Conventional thinking is that cell phones
are unlikely to cause direct cell ionization of the type
found with gamma rays and X-rays. But the problem is that
repeated experiments have failed to show actual deleterious
effects caused by heating human cells with mobile phone

However, a new line of research came up last year when
Israeli scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science
found that that short-term exposure to low-level cell phone
radiation (875Mhz) can trigger a chemical switch that
controls how human and rat cells divide. The Israelis
were quick to say that they are drawing no health
conclusions about their experiments, but the fact remains
that there is now proof that cells are indeed affected
non-thermally by cell phones...

So do cell phones cause cancer or not?

No one knows for sure. But Dr. Herberman probably takes the
best stance on the subject by advising cell phone users to
err on the side of caution. He says that cell phone usage
has really only become widespread in the last decade, and
it will be another 10-20 years before any really
significant health demographics start to emerge -- much the
same situation as for smoking and lung cancer 30 years ago.
Thus, while there is no proof cell phones are dangerous,
there is also no proof they are safe. And where children
are involved, given their proven susceptibility to deeper
brain penetration by cell phone radiation, if it comes
about that a cell phone-cancer connection is found, then it
will be these children who will bear the brunt of the
resulting health fall-out.

Herberman suggests the following tips for limiting your
exposure to possible radiation effects -- particularly for

1. Use a convention fixed-line phone if one is available
2. Keep cellphone conversations short
3. Use a hands-free device or attachment that keeps the
phone antenna away from your head
4. Limit your childrens' cellphone use
5. Keep your cell phone away from your body when it's
turned on

Here at Terrie's Take, our kids are not allowed to have
cell phones because they're just too darned expensive.
Further, we prefer email to impulse-driven phone calls
because it lets us focus on more important things,
such as writing this newsletter...!


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+++ NEWS

- Another property developer goes bust
- 1Gbps Internet to the home
- Inpex chooses Darwin for big 24b LNG plant
- More rich in China
- Tax increase talks to start late 2008

-> Another property developer goes bust

Amplifying the trend for Japanese newly listed REITs and
property developers to go bust, Tokyo-based C's Create
Company has just gone bankrupt, with debts of JPY11.4bn
(US$106m). The company is seeking to reorganize and is
looking for "sponsors" to inject more capital into the
business. The company will be delisted from the Tokyo
Stock Exchange (TSE). (Source: TT commentary from, Sep 26, 2008)

-> 1Gbps Internet to the home

Get ready for real-time online TV/Cinema. It will soon be
feasible thanks to KDDI's new Internet speeds, available
from next (October 1st, 2008). The company is offering an
impressive 1Gbps fiber connection to any home of 3 stories
or less in the Tokyo metropolitan area and/or Hokkaido.
The connection will cost just JPY5,460 (US$51) per month,
and will be true one gigabit speed, both up- and
down-stream. (Source: TT commentary from, Sep
25, 2008)

-> Inpex chooses Darwin for big 24b LNG plant

Japanese oil company Inpex has said that it will build
Australia's largest LNG processing plant in Darwin,
Northern Territory, after about a year of discussions.
Originally Inpex wanted to build on the Maret Islands,
200km to the north of Broome in Western Australia, but a
promised major fight with environmentalists had the
company change its mind. The new plant will cost A$24.06bn
to build and will supply Japan with LNG for the next 40
years. Shipments are due to begin in 2014. The plant will
process gas from the massive Browse Basin Ichthys field.
(Source: TT commentary from, Sep 26, 2008)

-> More rich in China

According to a Merrill Lynch/CapGeminii research report,
there are more "super-rich" individuals in China now, than
in Japan. The study looked at the number of individuals
believed to have investible assets of more than US$30m, and
found that there were 6,000 such individuals in China,
versus 5,300 in Japan. The study notes, however, that there
are still more millionaires in Japan, at around 1.5m
people, versus approximately one third of that number
(approx. 490,000 by our estimate) living in China. (Source:
TT commentary from, Sep 25, 2008)

-> Tax increase talks to start late 2008

The Minster of Finance and the Minister of Economic and
Fiscal Policy have stated that they want consumption tax
increase talks to start from the end of this year -- with
a view to raising the tax sometime in 2011. New PM, Taro
Aso has already ruled out raising the 5% consumption tax
before that date on the basis that it will hit the economy
at a bad time. The bureaucrats are saying that a rise to
at least 10% is necessary to fund the country's social
insurance obligations. (Source: TT commentary from, Sep 25, 2008)

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.

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In this section we run comments and corrections submitted
by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and
amplify our points, by email, to

*** In TT486, we said that clothing maker H&M is doing a
roaring trade in Japan, and that the company is German.
However, as a reader points out, this is not correct.
Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) is in fact Swedish and is
considered one of that country's premiere companies. We
apologize for the error.

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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (

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