US Study on Cellphone Radiation Won't Settle Debate

Rare cancer found in heavy users of mobile phones have now been found in rats

Some studies have found limited evidence of an increased risk of cancer from mobile phone use, according to the online notice from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The schwannoma evidence is "the strongest cancer finding in our study", said Bucher.

These results have not led to Bucher's changing his cellphone habits, but he did note that the heart tumors in rats, malignant schwannomas, are similar to acoustic neuromas, or benign tumors in people in the area of the nerve connecting the ear to the brain. But there was overall little difference in the actual health outcomes of exposed mice and rats compared to their untouched counterparts by the experiment's end - some control groups even died sooner than those exposed to the radiation.

Animals were exposed to radiofrequency radiation associated with the two most common types of cell phone networks: global system mobile communications (GSM) and code division multiple access (CDMA). They are much lower in energy.

John Bucher, a senior scientist involved in the 10-year study, was cautious in his interpretation of the results in a conference call with journalists on Friday.

High exposure to the type of radiofrequency radiation emitted by mobile phones has been linked to tumours in the hearts of male rats, but not female rats or any mice, according to a draft of United States government studies. And earlier this December, the California Department of Public Health released its long debated-over and controversial guidelines on how to lower your exposure to mobile phone radiation, amidst criticisms the guidelines were overzealous and would only further stoke confusion for the public.

The experiment involved placing rats and mice into special chambers and exposing them to different levels of radiation that mimic 2G and 3G phones, which were standard when the study was launched, for 9 hours a day. Bucher said the findings related to brain tumors rose only to the level of "equivocal evidence of carcinogenic activity". Radiation exposure began in utero and continued for 2 years. That's according to new draft reports of research conducted by U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP). "Even with frequent daily use by the vast majority of adults, we have not seen an increase in events like brain tumours". "We believe the current safety limits for cellphones are acceptable for protecting the public health".

The Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, has been aggressively dismissive of any link, saying in no uncertain terms that the "weight of scientific evidence does not show an association between exposure to radio frequency from mobile phones and adverse health outcomes". "I wouldn't change my behavior based on these studies, and I haven't", he said.

Nevertheless, the findings are potentially a concern for device makers, especially the world's three biggest smartphone sellers, Apple Inc, Korea's Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and China's Huawei Technologies.

Following the release of the NTP study, the FDA Director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Jeffrey Shuren, issued a statement expressing confidence that the current regulations around cellphone radiation are sufficient to protect the health of their users.

Samsung and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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