Cell Phone Safety Study Suggests No Risk of Cancer
Incidence ratios for all cancers for mobile
phone subscribers versus ratios for the general population in
Adapted from "Use of mobile phones and risk of brain tumours: update
of Danish cohort study", table 1.
A major study in Denmark found no increased risks of cancer among
cell phone users, suggesting that there is little evidence that exposure
to cell phones is related to tumors of the central nervous system. The
study, however, is unlikely to settle the ongoing public policy debate
over the safety of electromagnetic emissions from wireless devices.
The nationwide Danish cohort study examined the health records of all
citizens aged 30 and over, subdivided into cell phone subscribers and
non-subscribers, between 1990-2007. The risk of tumors for cell phone
users, even those with the longest exposure - over 13 years of mobile
phone use - was nearly identical to that of the overall population. In
addition, the study concluded that there was no correlation between cell
phone use and tumor location - that is, cell phone users were not any
more likely to get tumors in regions of the brain closest to where the
handset is usually held to the head.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, has drawn fire
from some scientists for its methodology and the sample size. As
wireless devices such as cell phones become more ubiquitous, so too has
public concern over the possible health effects of the radiation they
emit. This debate has been especially vocal in California, where
opposition to the installation of wireless smart meters by Pacific Gas &
Electric prompted a study on their safety by the California Council on
Science and Technology. Moreover, San Francisco passed a law due to go
into effect on Tuesday requiring warning labels on cell phones, warning
of health risks from prolonged exposure to the devices. However, implementation
has been delayed due to a lawsuit filed by a wireless industry
Conflicting messages from experts are likely to perpetuate confusion
in the public. The official position of the Federal Communications
Commission is that there is no scientific evidence to date that wireless
phone usage can lead to cancer. However, although citing no new evidence, the World Health Organization
issued a warning in June that cell phone electromagnetic fields are
"possibly carcinogenic to humans."
Despite the public ambivalence about the issue, many in the scientific community have
welcomed the new study and its implications for the safety of wireless devices overall.
"This is encouraging news about cell phones because smart meters use
similar technology," said CCST Senior Fellow Jane Long, principal
associate director at large at the Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory. "Smart meters are expected to have a much lower impact than
cell phones, and smart meters are a critically important part of
reinventing the energy system in a world that has to be concerned about
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