The wireless industry strove to downplay the claims of a report issued May 31 by the World Health Organization alerting the public to a possible connection between mobile phones and brain cancer.
After the World
Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer issued a
warning of a heightened risk of a type of brain cancer from heavy use of mobile
phones, wireless industry experts have claimed that the research to date was
not substantive enough to support the report's conclusion.
From May 24 to
31, 31 scientists from 14 countries met in Lyon, France, to discuss
non-ionizing radiation and the exposure to radio-frequency electromagnetic
fields, which mobile phones emit. In particular, the IARC examined whether cell
phone use could be linked to the development of a form of brain tumors called
evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion
and the 2B classification," Dr. Jonathan Samet, from the University of
Southern California and chairman of the WHO working group that met, said in a
statement. "The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and
therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and
An IARC 2B classification
means that an item has been found to be "possibly carcinogenic to
The IARC based
its May 31 warning on hundreds of scientific articles and conducted no
additional research. The full report will be published on the IARC's
research used by the IARC as a basis for its report included the results of its
Interphone project, an international study on the risk of cancer when using
mobile phones. Interphone concluded that a risk of cancer did not exist among
cell phone users despite the most intensive mobile users experiencing a
possible slight increase in tumors.
Meanwhile, CTIA-The Wireless Association downplayed the
IARC's warning. The results can be compared with the same scores given to
"pickled vegetables and coffee," John Walls, vice president of public
affairs for CTIA, said in a statement. "This IARC classification does not mean
cell phones cause cancer," Walls said. "Under IARC rules, limited
evidence from statistical studies can be found even though bias and other data
flaws may be the basis for the results."
In the past,
both the Federal Communications Commission and the Food and Drug Administration
have indicated that not enough information exists to link mobile phone usage
with health problems.
On its Website,
the FDA states that if a health hazard exists with cell phones, it would
require manufacturers to "repair, replace or recall the phones so that the
hazard no longer exists."
Cancer Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, described
the IARC report as "neither new research nor at odds with previous
findings." Still, like with IARC, NCI recommended continued monitoring of
brain-cancer patterns, particularly for young users.
NTP (National Toxicology Program
at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has been conducting
a study on mobile phone radio-frequency exposure using rodents. "The
studies are designed to mimic human exposure and are based on the frequencies
and modulations currently in use in the United States," NCI reports.