Police Want Restrictions on Radar Guns, Citing Cancer Worries
WILLIAM M. WELCH
Aug. 10, 1992
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Police officers told Congress on Monday they fear the radar guns they use to catch speeders are giving them cancer, but scientists differed on whether there is any evidence of a link.
The officers complained the government isn't doing enough to warn troopers or to investigate the medical effects of microwave radiation emitted by the traffic radar guns.
''Hand-held police radar guns should be restricted or banned,'' said Thomas Malcolm, a police officer in Windsor Locks, Conn., who blames his testicular cancer on using a radar gun for 15 years.
''No warning came with my radar gun telling me that this type of radiation has been shown to cause all types of health problems including cancer,'' Malcolm said. ''If I had been an informed user I could have helped protect myself. I am not a scientist but a victim of a lack of communication and regulation.''
Faced with increasing reports alleging a link between use of radar guns and cancer in officers, Connecticut recently passed a law banning use of hand-held radar guns and requiring that fixed units be mounted outside the police car. Police groups have urged other cities and states to take steps to minimize officers' exposure.
At a hearing before a Senate governmental affairs subcommittee, an official of the federal Centers for Disease Control said more research is needed but that so far no evidence supports the police officers' claims.
''At present, the experimental and epidemiological evidence do not suggest that the levels of radiation emitted by traffic radar devices can be hazardous,'' said Bryan D. Hardin, Washington director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which is part of the CDC.
But another researcher said there is cause for concern.
Dr. W. Ross Adey, a veterans medical researcher, said standards established by industry for maximum safe exposure levels are inadequate.
Microwave emissions of the sort emitted by radar guns ''may carry a significant biological and biomedical risk,'' said Adey, associate chief of staff for research and development at Pettis Memorial Veterans Medical Center at Loma Linda, Calif.
Research suggests potentially hazardous effects at exposure levels far lower than the standards, he said, alleging that the standards ''have become a refuge for special interests'' that want to minimize the potential effects. He urged the federal government to step in to develop and enforce new safety guidelines for microwave and radio-frequency emissions.
Police unions and concerned officers contend the prolonged exposure to microwave emissions from radar guns inside police cruisers are the cause of various types of cancers, including rare eye and testicle cancers, that have appeared in police officers.
They say many officers who used hand-held radar guns routinely placed the guns between their legs, while turned on but not in use. Others, they say, kept the antenna of radar guns by their head or shoulder, and contend there is a link to brain tumors and other types of cancer.
Gary Phillip Poynter, an Ohio state police trooper and head of research for the National Fraternal Order of Police, said he has found 164 police officers with cancer that may be attributable to the radar guns.
Santo Franzo of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, a union representing 40,000 police, said the federal response has been ''lackluster'' and urged Congress to order the Bush administration to conduct new studies.
''There is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that the development of cancer by police officers is related to the use of these devices.'' Franzo said.
Industry officials disputed the link.
''The current allegations of harmful effects to operators of police radar guns have no support other than that which can most accurately be termed coincidence,'' said John Kusek, senior vice president of Kustom Signals Inc., a Lenexa, Kan., manufacturer of radar guns.