Lessons from the Secret History of the War on Cancer for Public Policies on Cell Phones and Other Microwave Emitting Devices

Devra Davis, Visiting Scholar, Goldman School of Public Policy & Management, Center for Environmental Public Policy, University of California Berkeley; President, Environmental Health Trust

Friday, October 25, 2013, 3:30pm

Spanos Auditorium

This seminar is part of the Jones Seminars on Science, Technology, and Society series.

The War on Cancer was declared in the 1970s and quickly became a battle to find and treat the disease. Lost in this early heyday was a major effort to act on the things then known to cause cancer—including tobacco, asbestos, hormones, and sunlight. Despite the fact that scientists had identified a number of important cancer-causing agents in modern society in the 1930s, steps to reign in those agents did not occur until after overwhelming evidence of human harm had mounted. We are paying the price now for those failures in terms of lung and other cancers tied with smoking or industrial practices. There have been a number of great successes of cancer treatment for breast, cervix, colon, testicular cancer, and childhood leukemia. But efforts to prevent cancer from occurring by reducing exposures to known and suspected cancer-causing agents receive little public attention. Recent research indicates that cell phone and other forms of digital wireless radiation can be damaging to human health. We need to develop precautionary policies to reduce exposures to these suspected hazards while major training and research programs are established to evaluate this vast global experiment of wireless radiation in which more than 6 billion people now participate.

About the Speaker

Devra Davis’s career has spanned all areas of academia, public policy, and scientific research. President Clinton appointed Dr. Davis to the newly established Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, (1994-99) an independent executive branch agency that investigates, prevents, and mitigates chemical accidents. She is the former Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Health and Human Services and served as a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the U.S. National Toxicology Program, 1983-86. She also served as a Lead Author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the group awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with Al Gore.

Dr. Davis holds a B.S. in physiological psychology and a M.A. in sociology from the University of Pittsburgh, 1967. She completed a Ph.D. in science studies at the University of Chicago as a Danforth Foundation Graduate Fellow, 1972, and a M.P.H. in epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University as a Senior National Cancer Institute Post-Doctoral Fellow, 1982. She has also authored more than 200 publications in books and journals ranging from the Lancet and Journal of the American Medical Association to Scientific American and the New York Times and blogs in Freakonomics for the New York Times, Huffington Post, and elsewhere.

Dr. Davis has been a Fellow of both the American Colleges of Toxicology and of Epidemiology. She was honored by the Betty Ford Comprehensive Cancer Center and the American Cancer Society with the Breast Cancer Awareness Award, commended by the Director of the National Cancer Institute for Outstanding Service. She is a National Book Award Finalist for When Smoke Ran Like Water, 2002; her recent book, Disconnect was just awarded The Nautilus Book silver medal for courageous investigation, 2013. She occasionally discusses avoidable environmental health hazards on national and local programming with NPR, Fox News, CNN, ABC, PBS, and the BBC.