SCIENCE IN THE NEWS #2085 - Digest

By StaffThis is Bob Doughty.And this is Sarah Long with SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, a VOA Special English program about recent developments in science. Today, we tell about accusations against the tobacco industry by the World Health Organization. We tell about the latest study of the safety of cellular telephones. And we tell about the effects of terrible experiences in childhood.

The World Health Organization has accused the tobacco industry of plotting to damage the health organization's efforts to limit tobacco use around the world.

An independent study reports that tobacco companies made secret plans to wreck the WHO campaign against smoking. The report is based on parts of more than thirty-five-million tobacco industry documents. The documents were made public during legal actions against cigarette makers in the United States.

Thomas Zeltner of Switzerland led a committee of independent public health experts who carried out the study. The WHO paid for the report. The report says the tobacco industry developed plans against twenty-six threats to tobacco throughout the world.The report says tobacco industry documents prove that the companies tried to reduce the WHO budget for tobacco control. The report also says the industry tried to get developing countries to believe that the World Health Organization was working against their interests.

For example, it says tobacco companies tried to influence the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The tobacco industry did not want the FAO to advise poor countries against smoking. Instead, it wanted FAO officials to say that tobacco is a good crop to grow.The report also says the tobacco industry employed scientific experts it falsely said were independent. The report accuses these experts of misrepresenting the results of research about the effects of smoking cigarettes. And, the report says the industry placed its own experts in jobs as advisers for the WHO to learn about the agency's anti-smoking activities.Derek Yach (YAKH) heads the WHO anti-tobacco program. He says tobacco industry plans have succeeded in stopping many of the health agency's efforts. These efforts include working for laws against smoking and for taxes on tobacco.

Doctor Yach says the result probably is that more people today smoke cigarettes and will die because of diseases linked to smoking. Four-million people die every year of smoking-related sicknesses. In thirty years, that number is expected to increase to ten-million. And most of those deaths will be in developing countries.

Officials from the Philip Morris tobacco company criticized the report. One official said some of the activities listed in the report do not represent the company's policy today.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))You are listening to the Special English program SCIENCE IN THE NEWS on VOA. This is Bob Doughty with Sarah Long in Washington.


Cellular telephones may be the best-selling electronic devices in the world. More than four-hundred-million cell phones are expected to be sold this year. And that number is increasing. Experts say within five years, more than one-thousand-million people will be using cellular telephones worldwide.

Widespread use of cellular phones has led to increased concerns about possible health risks. Experts say there is not enough evidence to prove that cellular phones cause brain cancer. But, they say there is enough research to raise serious questions about the safety of the devices. The cellular phone industry, however, says the technology is safe.Cellular phones are small, wireless, hand-held devices. They are held close to the user's head during normal use. The antennas on these phones produce low levels of radio signal radiation while in use. Most of the debate about cellular phones involves the amount of radiation they release. Scientists have known that intense exposure to electromagnetic radiation can harm human tissue. But they do not know if the small amounts of radiation from cell phone antennas can do serious damage.

The issue first came to the public in Nineteen-Ninety-Three. A man from the American state of Florida said his wife died of brain cancer caused by radiation from her cell phone. He took legal action against the maker of the cell phone. However, the legal action was dismissed because of lack of scientific and medical evidence. Since then, there have been many charges made in the media and in the courts that cell phones may cause cancer.Seven years ago, the cellular phone industry organized an independent research group to find out whether the telephones are safe. The industry provided twenty-seven-million dollars for the group to carry out the study.

Experts from the Wireless Technology Research group recently announced some of their findings. The group generally found little evidence to link cellular phone use and brain cancer.

But lead researcher George Carlo says there is enough evidence to suggest that cell phones are not completely safe. He says there is strong evidence that high levels of cellular phone radiation can cause genetic damage to blood cells. He also noted several small studies that linked cell phone use and tumors.Cellular industry officials say cell phones are safe, based on the research so far. But both sides agree that much more research is needed. Last week, the United States Food and Drug Administration and the Cellular Telephone Industry Association met in Washington to discuss cell phone safety research. The National Cancer Institute is also studying the issue. And, the World Health Organization is planning a study in at least ten countries to examine links to brain cancer.

Experts say people can reduce the possible risk by limiting their use of cell phones.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))American research scientists have found that terrible experiences early in life can affect the brain chemistry in women. They say such women show increased reaction to stressful events. These women also are more likely to develop depression or other emotional problems. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported their findings.

The study involved forty-nine women between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. All the women were in good physical health.The researchers divided the women into four groups. One group included women who suffered from depression and had been physically or sexually attacked as children. Another group also suffered from depression but had not been abused as children.

Another group included women who were abused as children but did not suffer from depression. And the last group included women who were not depressed and had not suffered physical or sexual abuse.All of the women took part in a social stress test. They had to speak to a large crowd and answer mathematical problems. The researchers measured the women's heart rate. They also measured chemicals produced in the women's brains.

The study found that levels of one chemical were six times as high in women who suffered from depression and had a history of abuse. That chemical is adrenocorticotropic hormone, also known as ACTH. This hormone controls the body's reaction to stress.Charles Nemeroff of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia helped supervise the study. Doctor Nemeroff says the study shows the importance of dealing with the problem of child abuse. He says reports show that more than three-million American children are physically or sexually abused each year.

The findings support other studies about the action of stress hormones in survivors of other terrible experiences.

This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS program was written by Jerilyn Watson, Cynthia Kirk and George Grow. It was produced by George Grow. This is Bob Doughty.And this is Sarah Long. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

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