Cell-Phone Use Possibly Cancer-Causing, WHO Group Says

31 May

Mobile phones may cause brain cancer in humans, a World Health Organization agency said today, citing a review of studies.

Exposure to radio-frequency electromagnetic fields from handsets is greater than that from mobile-phone towers and base stations, Robert Baan, the senior scientist in charge of the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s report on the subject, said on a conference call with reporters today. The fields are “possibly” carcinogenic, the same category as diesel fuel, chloroform and working as a firefighter, according to the IARC, based in Lyon, France, which classifies cancer risks and makes recommendations to authorities.

“There is some evidence for an increased risk of glioma,” or brain cancer, said Kurt Straif, head of the IARC Monographs Program. “It’s not at the moment clearly established that the use of mobile phones does in fact cause cancer.”

This is the first time an agency working group has surveyed research on radiofrequency electromagnetic fields to make a definitive recommendation, Nicolas Gaudin, an IARC spokesman, said in an e-mail before the announcement. The agency didn’t issue guidelines for cell-phone use and said more study is needed.

Concerns have risen in recent years that cell phones might be harmful to the health of the estimated 5 billion people who use them worldwide, the WHO agency said. The U.S. Federal Communication Commission has said devices with a specific absorption rate, the amount of radio-frequency energy absorbed by the body, within a set limit are safe.

Lowering Exposure

Holding a phone next to the ear for voice calls exposes users to the highest energy levels, Straif said on the call.

“If you use it for texting, or if you use a hands-free set for your voice calls, this is lowering exposure by at least an order of magnitude,” he said.

The IARC considers studies in its reviews that may have flawed data, John Walls, vice president of public affairs for the CTIA wireless industry trade group in Washington, D.C., said in an e-mailed statement today. The classification doesn’t mean mobile phones cause cancer, Walls said.

Spokespeople from Nokia Corp., the world’s largest manufacturer of handsets, and Apple Inc. (AAPL), the maker of the iPhone, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The working group of 31 scientists from 14 countries included exposure to radiation from radar and microwaves and environmental exposure associated with radio, television and wireless signals in its recommendation along with mobile-phone exposure.

2004 Study

The most recent research they considered dated to 2004, and exposure levels from handsets have dropped over time, said Jonathan Samet, a University of Southern California professor and chairman of the working group.

The age of the studies also means the participants had used their phones for no more than 10 to 15 years, leaving open the question of the effect of longer-term exposure. The agency said the evidence was limited, and it may re-evaluate today’s recommendation once more recent research is available.

About a quarter of the more than 900 agents the agency has evaluated were determined to be “possibly carcinogenic.” The IARC lists substances as carcinogenic, probably carcinogenic, possibly carcinogenic, not classifiable and probably not carcinogenic. More than half the substances it has reviewed are listed as not classifiable.

Sourced from: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-31/who-group-finds-cell-phone-radiation-possibly-carcinogenic.html

Author: By Naomi Kresge

 

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