WHO Panel Says Cell Phones May Cause Brain TumorsJun 1, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP
After years of denying there is any risk, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced yesterday that it now considers cell phones to be "possible carcinogens." The reclassification followed an 8 day meeting in Lyon, France that involved 31 scientists from 14 countries that was convened by WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to review studies on cell phone radiation and cancer.
The group analyzed hundreds of existing studies, including two that have not been published. Though the research on cell phone radiation and cancer was limited and inconclusive, the scientists determined that there "could be some risk" associated with brain tumors. In a statement issued by the IARC, the group noted a possible connection between cell phone radiation and brain tumors called gliomas and acoustic neuromas in the heaviest cell phone users. They were not able to draw conclusions for other types of cancers.
The studies reviewed by the scientists included the massive Interphone study that was published last year. That study showed participants who used a cell phone for 10 years or more had doubled the rate of gliomas.
Despite denying any link between cell phone radiation and cancer, some mobile phone manufacturers do warn consumers to keep their distance from the devices. For example, the users manual for the iPhone 4 states that "When using iPhone near your body for voice calls or for wireless data transmission over a cellular network, keep iPhone at least 15 millimeters (5/8 inch) away from the body."
“Possible Carcinogen” is WHO’s third highest cancer rating. It is defined as: "A positive association has been observed between exposure to the agent and cancer for which a causal interpretation is considered by the Working Group to be credible, but chance, bias or confounding could not be ruled out with reasonable confidence." Chloroform, marine diesel fuel, gasoline, and coffee are among other common items listed in this classification.
The new classification means "there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk," Dr. Jonathan Samet, the chairman of the panel and a professor at the University of Southern California, said in an IARC statement.