Health experts worldwide continue to debate the dangers of cell phone radiation and that debate has been fueled by recent actions by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which issued and then rescinded cautionary advice on the use of cell phones.
On January 2, 2016, Danny Hakim, an investigative reporter at the New York Times, published a report on the CDC’s actions, based on more than 500 pages of CDC internal documents, including e-mails.
“CDC officials began debating how to back away from their recommendation of caution, internal emails show. One official proposed saying instead that other countries — ‘specifically the United Kingdom and Canadian governments’ — recommended caution. Others suggested pointing to determinations by agencies in Finland, Israel and Austria. Ultimately, though, no other country was mentioned.”
Hakim’s piece does not resolve the difference of opinion between CDC officials and their counterparts in other countries. If, as Hakim writes, “Mainstream scientific consensus holds that there is little to no evidence that cell phone signals raise the risk of brain cancer or any other health problems,” why do the other countries recommend caution? Microwave News asks.
Dr. Christopher J. Portier, former director of the National Center for Environmental Health, the CDC division that made the changes, disagreed with the decision to withdraw the revised version. “I would not have removed it,” he said in an interview. “I would have been in support of a recommendation that parents look carefully at whether their children need cellphones or not.” Dr. Portier, said he believed parents should have been presented “with enough information to say caution isn’t ill advised, because we really don’t know, and there are enough indicators to say we should be cautious,” according to the Times. Many health experts consider it prudent to advise cell phone users, especially children, not to place the handset against their heads.
The study cited most often in support of cell phone warnings is Interphone, a multination review published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization. Interphone found “over all, no increase in risk” for cancer, but did find “some indications of an increased risk of glioma,” a type of brain tumor, among the heaviest 10 percent of cellphone users, though the researchers said they did not have evidence to conclude there was a causal relation. The principal investigator for Interphone, Dr. Elisabeth Cardis, said, “I can’t say for sure there’s an effect, but I can’t say for sure there’s no effect.”
Two of seven Interphone studies into acoustic neuroma (a benign tumor of a nerve between the ear and brain) reported a higher risk after using cell phones for 10 years. A Swedish report said it was 3.9 times higher and an Israeli study found heavy users were about 50 per cent more likely to suffer tumors of the parotid salivary gland. In addition to concerns about brain tumors and effects on the developing brains of children, researchers have raised concerns about effects on fertility on men who carry cell phones in their pants pockets.