'Don't throw your cell phones away' - Expert cautions against alarm as study links rat cancer to phone radiation

A New Zealand cancer expert says while a study concluding that mobile phone radiation can cause heart cancer in male rats is interesting, it's not cause for alarm in humans.

The US federal peer-reviewed study concluded in March that exposure to low frequency radio waves, like those which are emitted by mobile phones, can cause cancer in the animals, which is the first clear evidence of a biological link between the radiation and cancer.

Dr Chris Jackson, Medical Director of Cancer Society NZ, this morning told TVNZ 1's Breakfast that while the study is interesting and has some implications on cell phone usage, it is not yet reasonable for people to be alarmed.

"What this study has done for the first time is shown there's a biological mechanism for how cellphones might potentially have some impact on cancer ... up until now there's not been a clear biological explanation for how that might be the case," Dr Jackson said.

"It's shown that prolonged exposure to low levels of radiation may actually potentially lead to cancers.

"This effect has been seen in rats, not in mice, and as yet it hasn't been proven in humans - so I think we're a long way away from saying that cell phones cause cancer in humans.

"There's certainly conflicting evidence in humans - this is only an animal study ... so it's clearly not a conclusive finding at all but it's the first potential biological explanation."

Dr Jackson said the increasing use of cell phones, especially over the past ten years, is a good reason to continue to look into this, but that people should avoid jumping to conclusions until more research is done.

"I think we do see this concern every time there's a new technology around ... same with microwaves, same with television," he said.

"I think it's reasonable for people to be cautious about this and that's why it's important that research is done - and done well."

Dr Jackson said the long lead-in time between exposure to radiation and the development of cancer was a difficult issue for researchers, but that studies are ongoing.

"There are a number of worldwide efforts looking at the rates of certain types of brain cancer in high cell phone usage areas to see if there is indeed a link in humans, but that may be a number of years away," he said.

"In the meantime, if people are concerned about their risk of cancer from cellphone use, there's a number of things people can do - you can use an earpiece or you can use hands free, or you can perhaps spend a little bit less time on your phone.

"So no, dont throw your cellphones away just yet, but it's important to watch this space."

Cancer society's Medical Director Dr Chris Jackson says the study was only on rats, but does have some interesting implications. Source: Breakfast


Search for crewman missing from Sealord ship off Wairarapa coast called off

The search for a crewman who went missing from a Sealord ship yesterday has been called off following deteriorating weather conditions in the area, the company said today in a statement.

The crewman, named as Patahi Rewi Hawaikirangi Kawana Jnr, 25, disappeared from the FV Otakou at mid-morning yesterday.

Sealord were today advised by Maritime New Zealand that the inclement weather contributing to the decision to call off the search at around 4pm.

Maritime New Zealand suspended their search at approximately 8pm yesterday.

Two Sealord vessels remained searching in the area until the early hours of this morning, when the weather conditions made it unsafe to continue.

Next of kin have been notified.

"Sealord is deeply saddened by this tragic event and extends their sympathy and support to the family and friends of Patahi, crew of Otakou and Sealord staff," the company said.

Sealord has begun its own internal investigation into yesterday's incident.

Sealord's Otakou
Sealord's Otakou Source: Sealord


Road closed after large sinkhole found in South Auckland

A South Auckland road has been closed after a large sinkhole opened up.

Manurewa's Alfriston Rd is closed between Saralee Dr and Porchester Rd until further notice after it was discovered around 6pm, Auckland Transport said on Twitter.

An Auckland spokesperson told 1 NEWS the sinkhole is believed to have been caused by a failed water culvert half a metre under the road, but investigators will confirm the exact cause when repair work begins on Monday.

"Contractors will be on-site to conduct traffic control," the agency said.

Alfriston College students have been advised to allow for extra travel time early next week, while all other motorists have been advised to consider using an alternative route or avoid the area if possible.

A road closure sign in front of a Police vehicle
A road closure sign in front of a Police vehicle. Source: 1 NEWS


More than $200 million in welfare fraud committed, including $614k by one person

More than $200 million of the $1.5 billion debt beneficiaries owe the Ministry of Social Development is down to fraud, raising questions about the ministry's oversight.

1 NEWS has been leaked details of the 10 largest welfare frauds as at the end of last year.

The largest individual amount stolen from the ministry that's yet to be paid back is $614,000.

ACT party leader David Seymour is not surprised.

"I'm not surprised one person's done $600,000 of fraud in a culture when the taxpayer has unlimited responsibility and beneficiaries have no ultimate consequences," he told 1 NEWS.

Former Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei became the face of benefit fraud when she admitted claiming payments she wasn't entitled to.

She wasn't prosecuted - but that's not usually the case.

Nine of the ten people with the highest debt have been convicted and sentenced to prison or home detention for benefit fraud as at the end of last year.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said, "We don't want to be in the game of prosecuting people. But the reality is we have legal obligations, and where people have done wrong, where they've claimed money where they shouldn't have knowingly then it leads down the prosecution track."

Half a million people now owe the ministry $1.5 billion.

But it's not just fraud, as $729 million is for overpayments and $486 million for 'recoverable assistance'.

National's Social Development spokesperson, Louise Upston, says National "would want to see that MSD are working closely with them".

Ricardo Menendez March of Auckland Action Against Poverty said, "If benefits weren't so low people wouldn't be needing so much additional supplementary assistance to begin with."

The welfare system is now under review and the minister in charge admits it needs work.

"We've got the technology now to try to make things a lot more tighter than what they've been in the past. And we've got to work towards doing that. As a Government we're focused on a fairer welfare system," Ms Sepuloni said.

Mr Seymour says there's only one way to tackle welfare debt and fraud.

"The only way to do this is to have cashless welfare. Give people a card that can be used for select purposes only. Otherwise all you can do is hand out more and more money," he said.

The Government has promised a more compassionate approach, though beneficiaries will have to wait to find out exactly what that means.

The largest individual amount stolen from the Ministry of Social Development that’s yet to be paid back is $614,000. Source: 1 NEWS


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