Latest Mobile Phone Study Says Devices Are Safe

The controversy continues over the potential safety risks of mobile phones for humans. New research says there are no risks though some previous studies differed.

mobile phone safety

A new study about potential health risks to humans from mobile phones and power lines concludes that exposure to these magnetic field sources is not harmful, according to researchers at the University of Manchester in England.

The research, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, found "no scientific evidence that exposure to electromagnetic radiation at low levels poses a health risk," according to a Dec. 10 news story in The (London) Telegraph.

"Researchers looked [at] how weak magnetic fields (WMFs) affected flavoproteins, which are crucial to health and control the nervous system and DNA repair," The Telegraph reported. "If these proteins go wrong, then there are serious knock-on effects for human health. But after subjecting them to WMFs in the lab, it became clear that they were completely unaffected."

The University of Manchester study results, however, differ from previous studies conducted by others that "have suggested that electromagnetic fields emitted from mobile devices and power cables could cause infertility and cancer, including research in the 1970s which suggested they could be linked to childhood leukemia," the article continued.

Alex Jones, a research fellow at the School of Chemistry at The University of Manchester and the co-lead author of the paper, told The Telegraph: "There is still some concern among the public about this potential link, which has been found in some studies into cases of childhood leukemia, but without any clear mechanism for why."

In the experiments that were conducted, work was done using the flavoproteins, which transfer electrons from one place to another, he said. "Along the path the electrons take, very short-lived chemical species, known as radical pairs, are often created. Biochemical reactions involving radical pairs are considered the most plausible candidates for sensitivity to WMFs, but for them to be so, the reaction conditions have to be right."

Ultimately, the research "suggests that the correct conditions for biochemical effects of WMFs are likely to be rare in human biology," he told the newspaper.

The other co-lead for the research paper, Professor Nigel Scrutton, of the school's faculty of life sciences, told the newspaper that "more work on other possible links will need to be done but this study definitely takes us nearer to the point where we can say that power-lines, mobile phones and other similar devices are likely to be safe for humans."

The latest study adds to a continuing pool of research on this very controversial topic. New studies periodically are announced around the world, often with conclusions that are 180 degrees different from the studies that preceded them, making it confusing for people who want to know if their mobile phones are harming them.

In 2010, officials in the state of Maine sought warning labels on cell phones after being spurred by reports of a possible link between cell phone radiation and cancer, while officials in San Francisco suggested a city law to force retailers to display a phone's absorption rate level in print at least as big as the price. Both proposals came despite a paucity of hard scientific evidence for the proposed moves. The San Francisco initiative was prompted by an Environmental Working Group (EWG) report in September 2009 that warned of studies that allegedly found significantly higher risks for brain and salivary gland tumors among people using cell phones for 10 years or longer.

The issue remains a thorn in the side of the wireless industry, which argues that humans using such devices are not at risk.