Cellular phones and smartphones have become a near-indispensable part of life for a large swath of America. It is difficult to go anywhere – from the boardroom to individual dining room tables – and not find individuals using their phones to send or receive text messages, check their social media accounts, or amuse themselves with games. All of this cell phone usage may come at a cost to our health, however: new research administered by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) and other organizations has reinforced the belief among some researchers that radiation from cellular phones can lead to cancer in humans. Although the research conducted by the National Toxicology Program focused on cell phone radiation’s cancerous effects on lab rats, some are sounding the alarm over what this can mean for human health.
Study Shows Cell Phones Emit Potentially-Dangerous Radiation
Cellular telephones emit energy in the form of radiofrequency (RF) energy, which is itself a type of electromagnetic radiation. Electromagnetic radiation is emitted by objects such as the Sun, X-ray machines, microwaves, computers (including laptops and tablets), televisions, cellular telephones, and even digital utility meters (also called “smart” meters). Not all electromagnetic radiation is the same: electromagnetic radiation can be classified as either “ionizing” or “non-ionizing” depending on the frequency and wavelength of the specific device’s radiation. Ionizing radiation has a higher frequency, and shorter wavelength whereas the frequency of non-ionizing radiation is lower and the wavelength longer.
It has been known for some time that humans who are exposed to ionized electromagnetic radiation experience a higher rate of cancer than other humans. It is for this reason, for example, that the dentist’s office or hospital take precautions when taking an X-ray of your mouth or other parts of your body, or why you are encouraged to wear sunscreen if you plan to be outside for any length of time. What has not been as clear is whether non-ionized radiation exposure also carries with it an increased risk of cancer in humans. While one of the byproducts of exposure to the non-ionized electromagnetic radiation emitted by cellular telephones is heating of the tissue closest to the device – heating of the ear or of the face, for example – previous research and studies were not able conclusively determine if the amount of tissue heating that does occur was sufficient to sound the alarm over a potential increase in one’s increase for cancer.
The National Toxicology Program’s Newest Study Shows Increased Cancer Risks in Rats and Mice Exposed to Non-Ionized Radiation
The National Toxicology Program’s study into the effects of radiofrequency energy exposure in lab rats and mice was not the only one of its kind. The Italian-based Ramazzini Institute (RI) also engaged in a similar study that looked to determine whether lab mice and rats exposed to radiofrequency energy were more likely to develop cancer. Both studies are remarkable because of the large number of rats and mice studied (NTP studied 3,000 male and female rats and mice; RI studied approximately 2,500) as well as the duration of the studies (NTP’s study lasted approximately two years, whereas RI’s study followed the subject lab rats and mice from near-birth until their deaths.
The two studies are also interesting in the way that each exposed its rats and mice to RF energy. In the United States, the NTP study exposed the rats and mice to RF energy emitted from sources that were in close proximity to the rats and mice. This “near-field” exposure was meant to simulate the effects of having a cellular telephone placed up to one’s ear or face (when talking or texting, respectively). The European RI study, by contrast, exposed its rats and mice to RF energy from sources that were farther away than in the NTP study. This was meant to examine the effects of RF energy exposure from sources such as televisions, wireless internet access points, other people’s cellphones (cellphones continuously emit RF energy when they are powered on, even when not being used to send a text or place a call), and other similar devices.
The results of the studies should be enough to cause some concern and prompt additional research and study. The studies concluded that rats exposed to “prolonged” doses of RF energy –even if such doses were from sources emitting longer wavelengths and lower frequencies – were more prone to develop a schwannoma, a cancerous tumor that affects Schwann cells (which are a type of nerve cell). Moreover, a comparison of the results from the NTP study and the RI study do not show any significant difference in the risk of developing schwannoma between those rats and mice who were exposed to RF radiation from “near” sources and those who were exposed to RF radiation from “far” sources.
Does This Mean I Need to Stop Using My Cellphone?
Before you gather up your and your family’s cellphones and take them to the dumpster, researchers associated with the NTP study are quick to identify some of the limitations of the studies’ results. Most significantly, the type of cancerous tumor that was seen in rats and mice exposed to RF radiation – schwannoma – is decidedly rare in humans. Thus, researchers point out, even if RF radiation exposure due to cellphones has a link to the development of cancer in lab rats and mice, it is statistically unlikely that similar exposure to a human being would result in the development of schwannoma tumors in that human being.
Specifically, additional research and study are needed to address two critical questions:
(1) First, does RF radiation exposure to a human being results in that person developing a higher risk of developing additional types of cancer other than schwannoma tumors? Even if the risk of a human developing schwannoma is low, if RF radiation exposure can lead to the development of other types of cancer, this would certainly be important information that users of cellphones would – and deserve – to know.
(2) Secondly, additional research and study is needed to determine whether the development of cancer in human beings occur at different levels of exposure than rats or mice? The rats and mice that were involved in the NTP and RI studies developed schwannoma after exposure to very low levels of RF radiation, but this does not necessarily mean that humans exposed to similarly-low levels would also see an increased risk of developing cancer. It is critical to know at what level of exposure to RF radiation that the risk of cancer development increases in humans: perhaps the amount of RF radiation emitted by cellphones is so low that it has no impact whatsoever in the development of cancer in humans. However, and again, potential users of cellphones deserve to know the precise nature of the risks they accept whenever they send a text or accept a call.
What are My Next Steps?
Parker Waichman LLP may be able to assist you, or a loved one in the event of a brain tumor caused mobile device radiation. You may have legal rights Time is critical in these situations, so it is important that you reach out to Parker Waichman LLP by calling 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) as soon as possible.
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