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It'd be wrong to say that there is no evidence of harm at all. In fact, the re-classification by the IARC came about in the first place because the Working Group contributing to the Interphone study acknowledged "limited evidence" of an increase in glioma (a type of tumour, commonly found in the brain) among phone users in one of the studies. In this study, which concluded in 2004, researchers found that participating phone owners who had used their handsets for calls for more than 30-minutes a day, over a period of ten years, had an increase incidence of glioma.
Still, despite the odds, these fears could be around for a while — because it’s hard to prove that cellphone radiation doesn’t cause harm. There are just too many combinations of genes, environmental exposures, patterns of cellphone use, plus a healthy helping of random chance to consider. It’s why we’re still having the conversation about whether coffee, for example, is good or bad for us. So while the bulk of evidence points to no health effects from cellphone radiation, the scientific literature is still somewhat mixed, Foster says. “Someone who wants to worry can pick and choose and find a lot of evidence that would support their theories.”
Several studies that will provide more information are under way. Researchers from the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Spain are conducting another international case–control study—Mobi-Kids—that will include 2000 young people (aged 10–24 years) with newly diagnosed brain tumors and 4000 healthy young people. The goal of the study is to learn more about risk factors for childhood brain tumors.
Most of these early studies did not find an increase in the risk for developing tumors among mobile phone users. The main problem characterizing these studies stems from the fact that the development of cancer (in particular brain tumors) takes a very long time (at least 10-20 years and up to 40 years or more), while mobile phone technology is relatively new (as aforesaid, popular use began only in the mid-90s). Hence, these studies could not demonstrate risk even if such existed.
“The near field plume is the one we’re most concerned with. This plume that’s generated within five or six inches of the center of a cell phone’s antenna is determined by the amount of power necessary to carry the signal to the base station,” he explains. “The more power there is, the farther the plume radiates the dangerous information-carrying radio waves.”
The exact source of radiation in a cell phone is from the transmitter, a device located near the antenna that converts audio data into electromagnetic waves. The amount of radiation a cell phone can emit is limited by legal restrictions in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Additionally, the average radiation levels of most mobile phones are available to the public, courtesy of the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S.
An analysis of data from all 13 countries participating in the Interphone study reported a statistically significant association between intracranial distribution of tumors within the brain and self-reported location of the phone (7). However, the authors of this study noted that it is not possible to draw firm conclusions about cause and effect based on their findings.