Cellphone safety still up in the air

A pedestrian is seen in silhouette talking on a cell phone at John F. Kennedy Plaza in Philadelphia

During that time, there have been no shortage of studies looking at the mobile phones and cancer - with evidence both supporting and contradicting a connection between the two - and still more research is ongoing.

"I think the reports don't go much further than what we reported earlier, and I have not changed the way I use a cellphone, no", said Bucher.

The FDA today reiterated its view that radiofrequency energy exposure associated with cell phone use is safe in light of a new study from the National Toxicology Program, which indicated a carcinogenic effect in rats. "These draft reports are bound to create a lot of concern, but in fact, they won't change what I tell people".

The FDA concluded, once again, that taking into account all the available scientific evidence there is no link between cell phone usage and adverse effects on human health. Based on limited research that shows a potentially elevated risk of schwannomas near the brain in people, the International Agency for Research on Cancer now lists radio-frequency fields as "possibly carcinogenic to humans".

"But if you're concerned about this animal data, wear an earpiece". The schwannoma evidence is "the strongest cancer finding in our study", said Bucher. "We believe the current safety limits for cellphones are acceptable for protecting the public health".

"International and USA organizations and health experts have maintained their longstanding conclusion that the scientific evidence shows no known health risk due to the RF energy emitted by cellphones", said Justin Cole, a spokesman for the trade group. Bucher said the findings related to brain tumors rose only to the level of "equivocal evidence of carcinogenic activity". Male rats exposed to the highest levels of radiofrequency radiation had about a 6% incidence of malignant schwannomas versus none in the control groups. The toxicology program released preliminary results two years ago and finalized them Friday. The difference could simply be the result of chance, STAT News reports.

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While this might seem concerning, none of the female rats developed these tumours and in another study of mice, neither gender had symptoms. It's a situation that allows us to find a potential biological event if one is going to occur. The rodents were exposed to radiation nine hours a day for two years, much more than what people experience even with heavy cellphone use. But "it's not like the sky is falling, a huge effect".

"It's not anywhere near as unsafe as cigarettes, but is there a real hazard from excessive use?"

Do cellphones cause cancer?

The 10-year, $25 million toxicological studies are the most comprehensive assessments to date of health effects and exposure to radio frequency radiation in rats and mice, according to the online notice from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a unit of the National Institutes of Health, the USA medical research agency.

Unlike ionising radiation such as that from gamma rays, radon and X-rays, which can break chemical bonds in the body and are known to cause cancer, radiofrequency devices such as cellphones and microwaves emit radiofrequency energy, a form of non-ionising radiation.

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