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International Study: High Cell Phone Use May Raise Tumor Risk

202-667-6982
For Immediate Release: 
Monday, May 17, 2010

Washington, DC – The Interphone Study Group, a 10-year, 13-nation scientific collaboration coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a United Nations agency, has wrapped up its work without determining conclusively whether link exists between cell phone use and head and neck tumors. But some findings suggest that some heavy users might face increased risk of certain forms of brain cancer.

Ageny officials and lead investigator Dr. Elisabeth Cardis expressed concern about the undefined but troubling implications of heavy mobile use, particularly by young people.

Cardis announced that “because of concerns about the rapid increase in mobile phone use in young people − who were not covered by Interphone,” she will direct a new project, MobiKids, to be funded by the European Union, “to investigate the risk of brain tumors from mobile phone use in childhood and adolescence."

Agency officials said in a press release that the majority of people investigated in the Interphone study used cell phones an average of just 2 to 2.5 hours per month and 100 hours over their lifetimes. “It is not unusual for young people to use mobile phones for an hour or more a day,” they said. They suggested that whatever dangers arise from increasing use may be “tempered…by the lower emissions, on average, from newer technology phones, and the increasing use of texting and hands-free operations that keep the phone away from the head.” These questions, they acknowledged, require more intense study.

In the meantime Environmental Working Group believes the Interphone study’s troubling findings should move governments around the world to adopt right-to-know requirements so customers can see how much radiation various wireless devices emit at the point of sale. If it is true, as international researchers suspect, that phones with low emissions are safer than high-emission phones, then cell phone makers should be required to inform prospective buyers of their devices’ radiation levels, in clear, straightforward language on the product packaging.

“Our government has stuck to decades-old standards that pre-date the dramatic increase in cell phone use over the last ten years,” said EWG president and co-founder Ken Cook. “We believe consumers must be informed about radiation levels at point of purchase. We also hope consumer publications that review cell phones will note radiation levels.”

Last year EWG assembled the largest online database of wireless devices available, ranking each phone by its emissions level. EWG updated the guide in February to the 2010 crop of smart phones.

EWG has been working with the Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco and members of the California State legislature on two separate right-to-know initiatives. Newsom has introduced a measure before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to require that makers disclose each phone’s Specific Absorption Rate, or SAR level, on the box. California State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has introduced an EWG-sponsored bill, (Senate Bill 1212) that would take the Newsom proposal statewide.

The Interphone study found that people who used their wireless devices at least 30 minutes every day for 10 years were at increased risk of certain types of brain tumors.

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, in 2008, 71 percent of American children between 12 and 17 years old, owned cell phones. More than half use the device daily.

“The tween or teen who doesn’t have a cell phone is rare,” Cook said. “As scientists continue to raise disturbing questions about heavy cell hone use and tumors, at minimum parents should know which phones may be safer for their children.”

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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. http://www.ewg.org

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