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Top Scientists Urge More Research On Cell Phone Use And Brain Cancer
Journalist: Anna Boyd
September 26, 2008

Cell phone use has been a subject of controversy for years with many researchers blaming cell phone radiation for an increased risk of brain tumor or salivary gland cancer, for low motility of sperm or for behavioral problems in children whose mothers used cell phones in excess while pregnant.

Studies have poured for years but with no clear connection between cell phone radiation and negative effects on human body. But the situation is not new. It took 50 years for tobacco companies to admit that there is a clear connection between smoking and lung cancer, with many people dying meanwhile. It could be the same situation in the case of cell phone use, David Carpenter, director of the Institute of Health and Environment at the University of Albany, said in testimony before a subcommittee of the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform.

“Precaution is warranted even in the absence of absolutely final evidence concerning the magnitude of the risk,” especially for children, Dr. Carpenter added.

He was not the only scientist sustaining that there is an increased risk of brain tumor in those exaggerating with the cell phone use. Ronald Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, one of the top US cancer research centers, reminded the committee members that a brain tumor can take dozens of years to develop. Therefore, more studies need to be done in order to have a clear connection between cell phones and brain cancer. But this should not be translated into a message like the one provided by the cell phone makers, namely there is no evidence that cell phones have a negative impact on our health.

In fact, Dr. Ronald Herberman is not at his first attempt to warn people on cell phones. In a memorandum addressed to 3,000 faculty and staff at the Pittsburgh Institute at the end of July, he cautioned about the risks of mobile phone use. He urged his colleagues to limit mobile phone use, especially that of their children, because of a possible risk of cancer from electromagnetic radiation.

“Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn’t wait for a definite study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later,” Dr. Herberman said in the memorandum at the time.

He also added that countries as France and Germany have already issued recommendations that exposure to electromagnetic fields should be limited, while Toronto’s Department of Public Health is urging teenagers and young children to limit their use of cell phones in order to avoid possible health risks.

Children are especially at danger since their organs are still developing, a process that might be threatened by the electromagnetic radiation of cell phones, Dr. Herberman said.

Two months after these warnings, he and his research fellow Dr. Carpenter highlight once again the risks of cell phone use this time in front of a US House Committee urging for a large-scale study of the long-term effects of cell phone use. They cited the results from a study recently presented by Dr. Lennart Hardell of Orebro University in Sweden. According to this study, people using cell phones have double the risk of developing malignant brain tumors and acoustic neuromas (tumors on the hearing nerve).

Moreover, people under age 20 were more than five times as likely to develop brain cancer. And this should not be a curiosity considering the fact that more children are exposed to cell phone radiation when their brain is not fully developed. In addition to the Swedish study, Dr. Herberman held a model for lawmakers showing how radiation from a cell phone penetrates far deeper into the brain of a five-year-old than that of an adult.

On the other hand, Steve Largent, CEO of CTIA (the International Association for Wireless Telecommunications) issued a statement Wednesday saying it supports the Federal Communications Commission’s safety guidelines, which are based “on published scientific research showing that there is no reason for concern.” CTIA refused to appear in front of the US House committee.

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