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Swiss Cell Phone Findings Troubling for Children’s Health

(202) 667-6982
For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, July 28, 2011

Washington, D.C. – Although parents are likely feeling reassured by the first media headlines about a new Swiss study of brain tumor risk in children using cell phones, the findings are actually quite troubling, according to a review by Environmental Working Group.

The CEFALO research published today is a retrospective case-control study that analyzed cell phone use as a potential risk factor among children and adolescents who were diagnosed with brain tumors. The study included 352 patients ages 7-to-19 in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland. Only 5 percent of the children and teenagers in the study had used cell phones for longer than 5 years.

When results for all durations of cell phone use were pooled together, researchers did not see a statistically significant elevation of brain tumor risk. However, this broad aggregation of the results masks important signals in the underlying data.

Notably, the researchers defined as “regular users” “all subjects who had an average of at least one call per week for at least 6 months.” As nearly every cell phone user would affirm, one call a week is an extraordinarily low, and hardly typical, frequency of use.

The underlying data reveals troublesome and provocative trends. The study found an elevated risk of brain tumors among children who had used cell phones longer than 2.8 years. Even more worrisome, when the scientists analyzed much more reliable cell phone use data obtained from the cell phone companies themselves, they saw a “statistically significant trend of increasing risk with increasing time since first subscription…”

“Given that in studies of adult cell phone users a statistically significant increase in cancer risk was observed only in those that looked at exposure periods of longer than 10 years, EWG finds it very troublesome that some elevation of risks for children and teenagers was observed from as little as three years” in the latest research, said EWG senior scientist Olga Naidenko, Ph.D. “These results should be of great interest to parents who want to take a precautionary approach to their children’s cell phone use.”