Jury Still Out on Cell Phone Risk

Jury Still Out on Cell Phone Risk
August 01, 2000

The US Food and Drug Administration is meeting Tuesday to discuss the links between cellphones and cancer. Meanwhile, a panel of experts concludes that currently, there is not enough evidence to link wireless phones to brain cancer, but there is sufficient research to raise serious questions about the safety of the devices.

The report was based on research conducted by the Wireless Technology Research (WTR) program, which is funded by the wireless phone industry.

The legitimate questions about safety that have arisen from recent studies make claims of absolute safety no longer supportable,” co-authors Dr. George L. Carlo and Rebecca Steffens Jenrow, both of WTR in Washington, D.C., write in the report, which was released July 31 in the online journal Medscape General Medicine.

According to the report, the results of one WTR study fail to prove that radiation from cell phones is strong enough to break DNA. However, the results of another WTR study indicate that such radiation can cause genetic changes in blood.

“WTR-sponsored…studies do raise some questions about health risks associated with cellular phone usage,” Carlo and Jenrow write. In one such study, brain cancer death rates were more than three times higher in users of car cell phones, which have car-mounted antennas, than in users of hand-held devices.

“Taken together, the WTR research findings are not conclusive with respect to an increased risk of brain cancer or benign tumors associated with wireless phone usage,” the report indicates. However, consumers should be made aware of potential risks of wireless phones so that they can make their own decision about using the devices, the researchers conclude.

The experts make several recommendations, including the implementation of a reporting system to track health problems of wireless phone users, as well as continued follow-up of short-term studies. And they call for studies of digital phones, which were not widely in use at the time the reviewed studies were conducted.

The authors also recommend studies of the impact of wireless phones on children, whose brains may be more susceptible to radiation, as well as on pregnant women and fetuses.