World Health Organization Classifies Cell Phone Radiation as “Possibly Carcinogenic”

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by Matthew L. Schafer
(Note: This article originally appeared on the media website LWR.
On Tuesday, with almost 91% of Americans now using cell phones, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified radio-frequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic” to humans. About 5 million people worldwide have cell phone subscriptions.

“[T]he evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a [the conclusion that cell phone use may cause cancer],” Dr. Jonathan Samet, Chairman of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, said in the report. “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 cancer risk.”

According to the report, mobile phone use may increase the risk of developing glioma and acoustic neuroma. Glioma is a type of cancer that attack the brain’s glial cells, which normally act to protect the brains neurons. Acoustic neuroma affects cells that are responsible for the protective the myelin sheath around nerves outside the brain.
Just last May, the WHO stated that “no adverse health effects have been established for mobile phone use.” It also noted that the results of the studies as of 2010 “have too many limitations to completely rule out an association.”

“IARC conducts numerous reviews and in the past has given the same score to, for example, pickled vegetables and coffee,” John Walls, Vice President of Public Affairs for the industry group The Wireless Association, said. “This IARC classification does not mean cellphones cause cancer.”

The IARC classified the electromagnetic frequency given off by cell phones as a “Group 2b” carcinogen. Some other Group 2b carcinogens include: DDT (the controversal pesticide), lead, and gasoline. Group 2b is the lowest level of confidence that the IARC uses when classifying something as carcinogenic, followed by Group 2a (“probably carcinogenic to humans”), and Group 1 (“carcinogenic to humans”).
The IARC, which met from May 24-May 31, reviewed hundreds of previous studies to come to its conclusion of the possible link between cell phones and cancer. It did not conduct any new research. IARC has also been criticized in the past for its lack of transparency in classifying chemicals and other compounds as carcinogenic.
This recent classification adds to a growing swell of controversy surrounding cell phone use and cancer. Just last June, the City of San Francisco passed its widely publicized “Cell Phone Right to Know” ordinance.

The ordinance required cell phone retailers to disclose the phone’s “SAR” rating, which is short for specific absorbtion rate and measures how much radiation is absorbed by the body. Just days after San Francisco passed the law, The Wireless Association filed a lawsuit claiming that the law would cause “consumer confusion.” Ironically, after the long controversy over the law, San Francisco finally gave up fighting the suit just three weeks ago, and discontinued the legislation.
While it’s still unclear whether cell phones do, in fact, cause cancer, it is clear that people likely won’t stop using cell phones no matter the science. As Maureen Dowd said of society’s love affair with technology, “We don’t yet really know the physical and psychological impact of being slaves to technology… We’re living in the cloud, in a force field, so afraid of being disconnected and plunged into a world of silence and stillness that even if scientists told us our computers would make our arms fall off, we’d probably keep typing.”

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by Marlowe Hood
PARIS (AFP) – Mobile phone users may be at increased risk from brain cancer and should use texting and free-hands devices to reduce exposure, the World Health Organisation’s cancer experts said Tuesday.
Radio-frequency electromagnetic fields generated by such devices are “”possibly carcinogenic to humans,”” the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced at the end of an eight-day meeting in Lyon, France.

Experts “”reached this classification based on review of the human evidence coming from epidemiological studies”” pointing to an increased incidence of glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, said Jonathan Samet, president of the work group.
Two studies in particular, the largest conducted over the last decade, showed a higher risk “”in those that had the most intensive use of such phones,”” he said in a telephone news conference.
Some individuals tracked in the studies had used their phones for an average of 30 minutes per day over a period of 10 years.
“”We simply don’t know what might happen as people use their phones over longer time periods, possibly over a lifetime,”” Samet said.
There are about five billion mobile phones registered in the world. The number of phones and the average time spent using them have both climbed steadily in recent years.

The IARC cautioned that current scientific evidence showed only a possible link, not a proven one, between wireless devices and cancers.
“”There is some evidence of increased risk of glioma”” and another form of non-malignant tumour called acoustic neuroma, said Kurt Straif, the scientist in charge of editing the IARC reports on potentially carcinogenic agents.
“”But it is not at the moment clearly established that the use of mobile phones does in fact cause cancer in humans,”” he said.
The IARC does not issue formal recommendations, but experts pointed to a number of ways consumers can reduce risk.
“”What probably entails some of the highest exposure is using your mobile for voice calls,”” Straif said.
“”If you use it for texting, or as a hands-free set for voice calls, this is clearly lowering the exposure by at least an order of magnitude,”” or by tenfold, he said.
A year ago the IARC concluded that there was no link between cell phones and brain cancer, but that earlier report was criticised as based on data that was out of date.

The new review, conducted by a panel of 31 scientists from 14 countries, was reached on the basis of a “”full consensus,”” said Robert Baan, in charge of the written report, yet to be released.
“”This is the first scientific evaluation of all the literature published on the topic with regard to increased risk of cancer,”” he said.
But the panel stressed the need for more research, pointing to incomplete data, evolving technology and changing consumer habits.
“”There’s an improvement in the technology in terms of lower emissions but at the same time we see increased use, so it is hard to know how the two balance out,”” Baan noted.
The IARC ranks potentially cancer-causing elements as carcinogenic, probably carcinogenic, possibly carcinogenic or “”probably not carcinogenic””. It can also determine that a material is “”not classifiable””.
Cigarettes, sunbeds and asbestos, for example, fall in “”Group 1″”, the top threat category.
Cell phones now join glass wool and gasoline exhaust in Group 2B as “”possibly carcinogenic””.
Industry groups reacted cautiously, pointing to other common consumer items — including coffee and vegetables pickled in chemicals — that are included in the same category.
“”In France, the health ministry already applies a precautionary approach to cell phones because it considers that no danger has been established, that doubts remain and, thus, that more research is needed,”” the French Federation of Telecoms said in a statement.
Some consumer advocacy groups said the new classification was overdue.

“”As of today, no one can say the risk does not exist, and now everyone — politicians, telecoms, employers, consumers and parents — have to take this into account,”” said Janine Le Calvez, head of PRIARTEM, a consumer advocacy group concerned with cell phone safety.

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