A U.S. government-sponsored study says mobile phone exposure causes brain
damage in rats.
The study, published yesterday in the online edition of the journal
Environmental Heath Perspectives, is said to represent the first time
researchers have found damage to neurons in rats brains exposed to radiation
from mobile phones. The experiments used GSM mobile phones, which are
commonly used around the world.
Jo-Anne Basile, vice president of external and industry relations at the
Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, declined to comment on
the new data because she has not seen the study.
Basile urged caution. "You cannot make a judgment based on a single study.
You want to look at the way research is trending and at the preponderance of
scientific evidence." She said research continues to show no adverse health
effects from mobile phones, adding that handset emissions are subject to
strict government guidelines.
The industry claims mobile phones do not pose a health risk. Government
health officials here and overseas say research to date has not linked
wireless handsets to adverse biological effects in humans, but they say they
cannot guarantee phones are safe and that more research is needed. There are
140 million mobile phone subscribers in the United States.
A federal judge in Baltimore last September dismissed an $800-million brain
cancer suit against Motorola Inc., but U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake
still has a slew of similar cases pending before her. The $800 million
lawsuit is being challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth
Circuit in Richmond, Va.
Environmental Health Perspectives is the journal of National Institute of
Environmental Health Sciences, of Research Triangle Park, N.C., a branch of
the Department of Health and Human Services.
The health agency said researchers, led by Leif Salford of the Department of
Neurosurgery at Lund University in Sweden, studied 12- to 26-week-old rats
because their developmental age is comparable to that of human teenagers,
which are among the heaviest users of mobile phones.
“The situation of the growing brain might deserve special attention since
biological and maturational processes are particularly vulnerable,” the
researchers stated. “We cannot exclude
that after some decades often of daily use, a whole generation of users may
suffer negative effects as early as middle age.”
The researchers acknowledged the study sample was small, but said the
combined results are highly significant and exhibit a clear, dose-response
relation. Establishing causation is a key element in litigation.
“Scientists have been looking for some time at the possible effects of
exposure to the energy coming out of cellular phones,” said Jim Burkhart,
science editor for Environmental Health Perspectives. “These scientists
decided to look in a new place, studying potential nerve damage, rather than
cancer growth. Their results suggest a strong need for further study, as we
all rely on cell phones more and more.”