The Swedish study, the largest ever conducted on the hazards of cell phones, points to an alarming trend: cell phone use increases the risk of cancer, and tumors in young people under the age of 20.
Today’s young people may suffer an “epidemic” of the disease in later life, according to the study. At least nine out of 10 British 16-year-olds have their own handset, as do more than 40 percent of primary schoolchildren. And in the U.S., even more teenagers are hooked up to cell phones.
Last week the European Parliament voted by 522 to 16 to urge ministers across Europe to bring in stricter limits for exposure to radiation from mobile and cordless phones, Wi-fi and other devices, partly because children are especially vulnerable to them.
Studies like the Swedish study have prompted hearings by the United States Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee/ The Committee announced last week their beginning examination of the link between tumors and cell phone use.
Children are more at risk because their brains and nervous systems are still developing and because — since their heads are smaller and their skulls are thinner — the radiation penetrates deeper into their brains, the study says.
Professor Lennart Hardell of the University Hospital in Orebro, Sweden headed the Swedish study. Professor Hardell told the recent conference that “people who started mobile phone use before the age of 20 had more than five-fold increase in glioma,” a cancer of the glial cells that support the central nervous system. The extra risk to young people of contracting the disease from using the cordless phone found in many homes was almost as great, at more than four times higher, he says.
Those who started using mobiles young, he added, were also five times more likely to get acoustic neuromas, benign but often disabling tumors of the auditory nerve, which usually cause deafness, Hardell says. By contrast, people who were in their twenties before using handsets were only 50 per cent more likely to contract gliomas and just twice as likely to get acoustic neuromas.
“Children under 12 should not use mobiles except in emergencies and that teenagers should use hands-free devices or headsets and concentrate on texting,” Hardell says. “At 20 the danger diminishes because then the brain is fully developed.”
He says, that the hazard to children and teenagers may be greater even than his results suggest, because the results of his study don’t show the effects of their using the phones for many years. Most cancers take decades to develop, longer than mobile phones have been on the market.
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