• 18 DEC 09
    • 0

    #1179: ACRBR in the spotlight-Two views on the cell phone issue: Khurana vs. Croft

    From The Weekend Australian:
    December 5-6, 2009-12-18

    AT THE COALFACE

    Doubtful Conclusions

    AS a neurosurgeon, I’m concerned about the health effects of wireless technology, in particular the possibility that long-term exposure to mobile phones, cordless phones and mobile base stations may be linked to neurological conditions. I believe I’m observing an increasing incidence of malignant brain tumours, a view that also has been expressed by neurosurgeon Charles Teo.

    This observation could be due to so-called referral bias, but population studies that may confirm or refute it are underway.

    I’m also concerned that in public discussion of the subject. There appears to be little regard for conflicts of interest.

    One example is the Australian Centre for Radiofrequency Bioeffects Research, which displays the Australian government logo on its home page and bills itself as a National Health and Medical Research Council Centre of Excellence. The public message from its executive director Rodney Croft is that there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to adverse health effects of mobile telephony. But can this be considered scientifically credible in the light of the formal association between ACRBR and Telstra? Open declaration of any potential conflict of interest should be mandatory when any so-called expert sources provides its opinion.

    VINI KHURANA

    Vivi Khurana is a staff specialist neurosurgeon at the Canberra Hospital and associate professor of neurosurgery at the Australian National University.
    ************************************************************************************

    Response from Rodney Croft to The Australian:

    Phone claims misleading: brain tumours

    AT THE COALFACE: Rodney Croft

    The Australian December 12, 2009 12:00AM

    LAST week neurosurgeon Vini Khurana expressed concern about the health effects of wireless technology, especially mobile phones. Perhaps Khurana forgot that teasing out such effects, if any, requires a different expertise from his own. I feel he misled readers on two points. First, Khurana claimed that as he’s noticed a higher brain tumour rate in his clinic, mobile phones cause brain tumours. Scientifically, this is weak evidence. Khurana acknowledged this by referencing “referral bias” but said future research would clarify the matter. Such research has been conducted and found no increase in tumour rates. Khurana questioned the credibility of my views as executive director of the Australian Centre for Radiofrequency Bioeffects Research, given the centre’s industry links. As a National Health and Medical Research Council Centre of Research Excellence, the ACRBR is independently appointed and government-funded. It does use Telstra expertise and where we can maximise NHMRC investment with extra funding we do so. But scientific integrity is guarded with legal contracts stipulating those providing the funds have no control over the results or how they’re reported. We must merely provide a copy before publication. This enables us to meet requests from the community such as making films of our annual community forum available free of charge. I absolutely reject the accusation of industry coercion.

    Rodney Croft is ACRBR executive director and professor of health psychology at Wollongong University.

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