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Cell Phone Studies Urged Amid Health Fears

Jan 18, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Cell Phones are continue to raise health concerns.  On Thursday, researchers from the U.S. National Research Council advised that further studies should be conducted on children and pregnant women to determine if cell phones or other wireless devices could damage health.  A few studies have indicated that there is a possible link between mobile telephone use and brain tumors, although far more show no connection. But because wireless devices have become almost ubiquitous, researchers want to ensure they aren’t responsible for cancer or other diseases.

In a recent series of studies, three separate European research groups looked at the effects of cell phone radiation emission on the brain.  The research revealed there is an increased risk of brain tumors in people who used cell phones for at least ten years.  Two studies found a link between brain tumor location and the side of the head where people reported they held their phones.  One study suggested the greatest risk for disease was is in people who began using cell phones prior to age 20.  Two of the studies—one conducted in England and the other in Germany—are part of a larger 13-nation Interphone Study, an effort sanctioned by the World Health Organizations.  These studies found an increased risk of a fatal cancer called glioma in people who had used cell phones 10 years or more.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asked the National Research Council for recommend on future studies. The Council, which advises Congress and the federal government on scientific matters, held a meeting with engineers and biologists—among others—and has released the full report which states that most studies have looked only at short-term effects on healthy adults and additional study needs to be conducted on multiple, long-term, low-intensity radiofrequency (RF) exposure.  "Measuring the amount of RF energy received by juveniles, children, pregnant women, and fetuses from wireless devices and RF base station antennas could help define exposure ranges for various populations," the council said in a statement.  "Although it is unknown whether children are more susceptible to RF exposure, they may be at increased risk because of their developing organ and tissue systems," it added.  "Additionally, Specific Absorption Rates for children are likely to be higher than for adults, because exposure wavelength is closer to the whole-body resonance frequency for shorter individuals."  The report also notes that children today will experience a longer period of RF field exposure from mobile phones than adults, because they will most likely start using them at an early age.

Researchers should also analyze the different types of antennas for the amount of RF energy they deliver to different parts of the body.

Most studies have looked at the way the electromagnetic fields created by phones warm tissue; however, the levels of the fields are thought too small to have a heating effect.  Instead, some researchers believe the fields have the power to disrupt chemical bonds within cells or damage DNA.  Graham Philips of PowerWatch—a nonprofit, independent advocacy group working in the United Kingdom’s electromagnetic field and microwave radiation health debate—states that "This is more evidence - and strong evidence too - that mobile phones have a biological effect."

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