Reports on Cell Phone Radiation Can Be Misleading

Responding to Cell Phone Radiation

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a statement on the “possible” threat of cell phones on May 31, 2011. Suddenly Facebook, Twitter, newspapers and news television blazed with headlines about the threat of cell phone use.

How should a cell phone user respond to this report?

First, it is essential to remember that the statement does say that cell phone use causes cancer. Inflamed headlines can cause inflamed emotions, and suddenly the cautious wording of the report is exaggerated across the web.  The statement acknowledges that much of the research is inconclusive.

Secondly, this statement is based on a review of current research. Much of the current research on cell phone use is contradictory. Thus the FCC states on their website: “There is no scientific evidence that proves that wireless phone usage can lead to cancer or a variety of other problems, including headaches, dizziness or memory loss.” The FDA posts on their website, “The majority of studies published have failed to show an association between exposure to radio frequency from a cell phone and health problems.”

Research in the area of cell phone use, computer use, and other modern conveniences that emit radio frequency is ongoing and still inconclusive. In fact, the IARC panel which issued the statement acknowledges the inconclusive results. Dr. Jonathan M. Samet, led this panel and is quoted in New York Times as saying, “We found some threads of evidence about how cancer might occur but have to acknowledge gaps and uncertainties.”

Dr. Meir Stampfer, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School told the Times that the evidence does not support concern and compares this with exposure to the sun or “any number of normal everyday activities.” And Donald Berry, a professor of biostatistics at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, responded to the Associated Press by saying, “This is not something I worry about and it will not in any way change how I use my cellphone.”

Finally Dr. Christopher West, Director of the IARC, concludes, “Clearly it will not be the last word on the topic and in fact one of the interesting outcomes of the monograph is that it identifies where there are gaps in the knowledge on a certain research area. I think it’s a value of this process therefore it’s suggest interesting areas of future research that will improve the evidence base which we have in order to make decisions about the usage of mobile phone in the future.”

So how should a cell phone user respond? Cell phone users should feel safe to continue using their devices normally. If the exposure causes concern, users can simply choose to use a headset or speakerphone when possible.

-Doug Floyd

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