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Mobile Phone Radiation Study Tests Brain Cells
West Australian
January 10, 2002

Habitual, long-term mobile phone users could soon know if they are at risk of developing cancer.

In what's claimed to be a world-first study, which began at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital today, human brain cells are being used to test the long-term effects of mobile phone radiation.

The study will use a Transverse ElectroMagnetic (TEM) Cell device to simulate the impact of chronic, intermittent exposure of the brain to electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones over a long period.

Testing will be done by researchers at the hospital's Centre for Immunology.

Dr Peter French, the project's chief investigator, said the research would determine whether exposure to the radiation activated heat-shock proteins.

He said the trial would test the centre's hypothesis, released last year, that mobile phone radiation could cause cancer in chronic long-term users.

"If heat-shock proteins are activated over a long period of time, there is evidence that cells can become dysfunctional, so therefore there is the potential that long-term heavy mobile phone use may cause the cells to become cancerous and that's what we're going to test," Dr French said.

Testing would either prove the centre's hypothesis, show there was no effect on human brain cells or that the cells could become immune to electromagnetic radiation through repeated exposure, he said.

"Our theory would say that occasional use of mobile phones is unlikely to do any damage, so it's long-term heavy use that's the critical condition," he said.

During the study, brain cells will be exposed to electromagnetic radiation in four, one-hour time slots each day, he said.

Test results were expected in three to six months, with the research to be published by the end of the year.

The centre's director, Professor Ronald Penny, said the research was unique.

Most studies have focused on short-term exposure on animal cells, which did not help understand the effects of years of regular mobile phone use on human brain tissue, he said.

"As mobile phones become increasingly prevalent throughout our society, it is crucial that we understand as much as possible about the long-term impact of electromagnetic exposure, if any, on human health," Professor Penny said.

"Much of the research is conflicting and, therefore for the community, industry and government, it is important that we come up with some definitive answers."

The TEM Cell device, worth $150,000, has been supplied by Telstra Research Laboratories.

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