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Cell phones included in

Thursday 9 June 2011

The shift to this category means that mobile phones are potentially damaging to human health. The Preamble of IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans indicates that Group 2B classification includes elements for which there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and less than sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. Dr. Jack Rowley, GSMA Director for Research and Sustainability, commenting on the findings said: “The IARC classification suggests that a hazard is possible but not likely”

According to the New York Times, this classification puts cell phones in the same line with 240 other agents, including the pesticide DDT, engine exhaust, lead and various industrial chemicals, and with such commonplace products like pickled vegetables and coffee.

Meanwhile, Dr. Rowley recognized that some mobile phone users may be concerned, adding that the IARC results indicates the necessity of further research on this subject. He mentioned that the studies following the health of mobile phone users over a long period of time are already underway in Europe. Being conducted with the support of GSMA members, these studies will reportedly involve up to 250,000 subjects.

The debates whether microwaves from cell phones are harmful or not are lasting for a long time. Dr. Jonathan M. Samet, a physician and epidemiologist at the University of Southern California, said that the decision to classify mobile phones as “might cause cancer” was mainly based on health-event patterns that indicated an increased risk of a brain tumor called a glioma among heavy mobile users.

However, these latest findings were rejected by another team of experts from the University of Maryland. Christopher Davis, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Senior Research Scientist Quirino Balzano commented: “We believe this study is flawed, as there is no mechanism other than heating by which the radio-frequency fields from a cell phone could affect human tissue. The highest temperature elevations that occur in the brain during cell phone use as a result of the radio-frequency fields from the cell phone are on the order of 0.1 – 0.2 degree of Celsius, temperature elevations that are smaller than those resulting from physical activity”

The IARC findings, which are the subject to the examination by national public health agencies and the WHO itself before any policy recommendations, have been taken up by Environmental Health Trust (EHT). The EHT, a US-based nonprofit organization dedicated to identifying and controlling environmental health hazards, relaunched their call on the US Federal Government to take actions (cf. Smart Insights Weekly #11-04).

EHT is requesting that the US Federal Government to review existing standards for cell phones and adopt state-of-the-art approaches for their implementation, mandate that all cell phones to be sold with headsets, to conduct a national survey of institutional exposures to microwave radiation from cell phones and other devices, the last survey of such kind was conducted in 1980.

Meanwhile, the GSMA comments that over the past decade more than 30 authoritative, independent expert scientific reviews undertaken around the world, including those carried out by the World Health Organization, have concluded that present safety standards for mobile phones and base stations provide protection for all persons against all established health hazards.

However, the IARC conducted a 13-country study called Interphone in 2010, which found no clear link between cell phones and cancer (cf. SIW #10-21). Moreover, according to CBS New York, the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Federal Communications Commission have found no evidence that cell phones are linked to cancer as well.

Still, as the journalists of the Virginia Pilot, a news agency in Southeast Virginia and North Carolina, US, well noticed, “various studies in various places have reached various conclusions. But while that kind of intellectual chaos may serve science, it confuses the rest of us”

The surveys on the cell phone’s impact on the human health should be conducted on a long-term base and with as many as possible individuals, thus rendering them very costly. May be this money should be spent on other more actual issues or its better to wait another 15 years, when the real impact is expected to take effect, to find out more about this unclear subject… or may be not.