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New Studies Link Cell Phone Radiation, Tumors

Two new international studies implicating cell phone in some forms of brain tumors are deepening scientists’ worries about the long-term consequences of human exposure to cell phone radiation, especially among children and heavy cell phone users.

  • An Australian-European research team reported in the September 2009 issue of Surgical Neurology that using a cell phone for a decade “approximately doubles the risk of being diagnosed with a brain tumor on the same (“ipsilateral”) side of the head as that preferred for cell phone use.”
  • U.S. and South Korean scientists, evaluating data from 23 worldwide studies in the October 2009 Journal of Clinical Oncology, cited “evidence linking mobile phone use to an increased risk of brain tumors, especially among users of 10 or more years.”

“Academic studies with data over 10 years are consistently finding an increased risk of tumors, exactly as we have reported,” said Environmental Working Group Senior Scientist Olga Naidenko, Ph.D..

EWG study echoed

Naidenko, lead author of EWG’s September 2009 report, Cell Phone Radiation: Science Review on Cancer Risks and Children’s Health, says both new studies bolster EWG findings that over the long term, people should take steps to minimize exposure to cell phone emissions, especially their children’s use of the devices.

“Now that four-fifths of the American population are using cell phones,” Naidenko said, “the U.S. government should take a hard look at these findings and update its last-century standards.”

Industry studies found lower risks

Joel Moskowitz, Ph.D., director of the University of California-Berkeley Center for Family and Community Health, and an author of the U.S.-South Korean analysis, said he and his colleagues had observed a “very disconcerting” pattern: “a large discrepancy” between rigorously-designed studies, generally those conducted by financially independent research institutions and “low-quality” studies funded mostly by the cell phone industry.

Industry-financed studies, Moskowitz said, tended to conclude that cell phone use was harmless, or actually beneficial.  “It almost seems like they’ve stacked the deck to not find an effect” from cell phone radiation, Moskowitz told Environmental Working Group in an interview last week.

The industry-backed studies “do find some inflated risks in terms of long term users,” Moskowitz said,  “but they dismiss [these findings] as not significant.”

By contrast, he said, “the higher quality studies have produced “very systematic and consistent evidence that there are [health] effects, and they see stronger effects where you’d most expect to see them — with longer exposure and on the same side of the brain where the phone is used.”

Conflicts of interest questioned

Because of reservations about potential conflicts of interest, the team, led by researcher-physician Seung-Kwon Myung of the South Korean National Cancer Center, who conducted the initial research while a visiting scholar at U.C.-Berkeley, took the unusual step of analyzing studies according to financial backing.   “We feel the need to mention the funding sources for each research group,” the research paper noted, “because it is possible that these may have influenced the respective study designs and results.”

Scientists urge global cell phone regulation reviews

The Australian-European study, led by Vini Khurana, Ph.D., of the Canberra Hospital Department of Neurosurgery and the Australian National University, reviewed 11 international studies of epidemiological data concerning long-term cell phone users.  The scientists found significant associations between glioma, an often malignant brain tumor and acoustic neuroma, a usually benign tumor, but not another generally benign brain tumor called a meningioma.

Although more study should be done, the scientists said, enough is known about the dangers of cell phone radiation to warrant “reassessment by governments worldwide of cell phone and also mast radiation exposure standards and the usage and deployment of this technology.”   They added:

“If the epidemiologic data continue to be confirmed, then in the absence of appropriate
and timely intervention and given the increasing global dependence on cell phone technology especially among the young generation, it is likely that neurosurgeons will see increasing numbers of primary brain tumors, both benign and malignant.”

Cautions for youthful cell phone

Moskowitz agreed.  “You certainly don’t want to be exposing your adolescents, children or babies to unnecessary risks when there are simple things you can do to protect them,” he said.

He advocated encouraging young cell users to send text-messages, because holding a phone 10 inches from the head reduces radiation exposure by a factor of 400.  As well, he said, children and adults alike should not keep their phones in pants pockets or in belt holsters because the devices are emitting radiation whenever they’re switched on.

None of this is the last word on cell phone radiation.  Other studies are in the works, including a nine-year, multi-national research project under the aegis of the World Health Organization and a series of studies backed by the U.S. government’s National Toxicology Program.    Many more academic and government studies are underway.  There’s no guarantee that any of these efforts will provide definitive answers.

So in the meantime, consumers are smart to take sensible, practical precautions, for themselves, and especially for their children.

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9 Responses to “New Studies Link Cell Phone Radiation, Tumors”

  1. Mike O'Brien says:

    Do the same issues apply to mobile phone masts, particularly, 3g?

    • Elaine Shannon says:

      Mike, good question. We’ll check it out and get back to you.

    • Elaine Shannon says:

      Dear Mike,

      We haven’t done a detailed study of emissions from masts, but in the FAQs for the cell phone report, we say:

      Cell phones communicate via radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation. Cell phone towers send high-power outgoing signals that travel hundreds of meters to establish contact with individual cell phones. These signals essentially bathe the body in low levels of sustained radiation. Risks from these whole-body exposures may be very different from risks associated with concentrated, intermittent cell phone radiation that penetrates a small area of the head. Scientists do not yet understand the effects of long-term exposure to cell phone tower radiation — the necessary studies have not yet been completed.

  2. gandolph says:

    I’m a physicist and I wrote a blog that compares cell phone radiation to the radiation leaked from microwave ovens. Please check it out:

  3. Elaine Shannon says:

    Gandolph, thanks for sending this. We’ll click now. Elaine

    • Elaine Shannon says:

      Interesting calculations. Some skepticism here about whether the SAR limits are low enough. Remember, they were sest in the early ’90s. Dr Naidenko says there are strong reasons to doubt that the current SAR limits are sufficiently protective.

  4. Mike O'Brien says:

    Thank you Ken, we are holding a Special Health Scrutiny Committee meeting at 5pm onThursday 5th November at Gun Wharf Chatham Kent ME4 to discuss the possible health implications of mobile phone masts. If any of your members are in the area, please come along. My website gives full details of attendees.
    Kind regards

  5. Nice Post. I searched the whole cyberspace for informations like u shared it on this post “New Studies Link Cell Phone Radiation, Tumors | Kid-Safe Chemicals Act Interactive Magazine | Environmental Working Group”. Thank you a lot, it had helped.

  6. Jane Swenson says:

    correction on cell phone emissions:

    cell phones emit radio waves. radio waves have incredibly long wavelengths (meaning they are very low-energy photons). they’re fine. look at a chart about light. uv waves pack MUCH more energy than radio waves.

    if not, we’d be getting cancer from our car radios.

    other than this article, i really like your website and what you are doing.