Some scientists have reported that the RF waves from cell phones produce effects in human cells (in lab dishes) that might possibly help tumors grow. However, several studies in rats and mice have looked at whether RF energy might promote the development of tumors caused by other known carcinogens (cancer-causing agents). These studies did not find evidence of tumor promotion.
While the Federal Communication Commission limits how much radiofrequency radiation can come out of your cellphone, the Food and Drug Administration can have a say about whether those limits are safe. So the FDA asked the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a division within the National Institutes of Health, to investigate. Based on the NTP’s results, as well as hundreds of other studies, the FDA is still confident that the current limits on cellphone radiation are safe, according to a statement from Jeffrey Shuren, the director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
1. Keep your distance. Do not keep your cell phone next to your body or in your bra. Some athletic wear companies are now making bras with cell phone pockets, as seen in the picture above. PLEASE do not put your phone in the pocket unless your phone is on airplane mode. There is evidence offered by the Environmental Health Trust to suggest that women who keep a cellular phone in their bra may develop breast cancer. Research also indicates that men who keep their cell phones on their belt or near their reproductive organs may have lower sperm counts and less sperm motility.
In addition to the increased brain cancer risk, in male rats there was also “clear evidence” of a link between the radiation and malignant heart tumors and “some evidence” of a link to adrenal-gland tumors, according to the release. In mice and in female rats, however, the link between radiation and tumors was “equivocal,” or uncertain. The hierarchy, from most to least certain, of characterizations used by the NTP is: “clear evidence”; “some evidence”; “equivocal evidence”; and “no evidence.”Today’s cellphones use higher-frequency radiation that is less able to penetrate animal tissues than the radiation used in the study, the Times reports. Further, since cellphones became popular, epidemiologists have not observed an overall increase in the frequency of brain cancers known as gliomas in humans.
But, dear reader, don’t think we’ve reached a “case closed” moment: Unfortunately, even the best evidence on cellphones and brain tumors is far from ideal. Remember, these cohort studies are still observational research — not experimental studies like RCTs. That means they can’t tell us about causation, and there are still many ways they could be biased.
*SAR values are from tests conducted by Pong Research Corp on March 29, 2012 and submitted to the FCC on May 31, 2012. Because the SAR values were submitted to the FCC in graph form, EWG estimated numerical SAR values based on the chart available in WT Docket 11-186 (http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7021921006). Pong’s filing to the FCC did not indicate whether SAR measurements were done at the head or in a body-worn configuration. In a personal communication, Pong informed EWG that the SAR measurements were done in a body-worn configuration, with the same distance from the test mannequin used by the phone manufacturer. Tests in the body-worn configuration were done at a 10 millimeter separation distance.
Four years ago -- before I bought my first iPhone -- I wouldn’t buy certain model cell phones because their radiation emission levels were too high. I became obsessed with researching this in the buying process, especially after finding out that a man I knew died of brain cancer and was an early mobile phone user. Suspicion was that the phone caused the cancer.
The studies are notable for their sizes. Researchers at the National Toxicology Program, a federal interagency group under the National Institutes of Health, tested 3,000 rats and mice of both sexes for two years—the largest investigation of RF radiation and cancer in rodents ever undertaken in the U.S. European investigators at the Ramazzini Institute in Italy were similarly ambitious; in their recent study they investigated RF effects in nearly 2,500 rats from the fetal stage until death.
The average radiation level of a Bluetooth earpiece is 0.23 watts per kilogram (W/Kg) according to RF Safe. This is 10 to 100 times higher than the amount of radio frequency (RF) exposure needed to create “leaks” in the blood-brain barrier, allowing for toxins (not to mention the radiation itself!) to pass through into the brain. It’s best to just say NO to Bluetooth!
Researchers have carried out several types of epidemiologic studies in humans to investigate the possibility of a relationship between cell phone use and the risk of malignant (cancerous) brain tumors, such as gliomas, as well as benign (noncancerous) tumors, such as acoustic neuroma (tumors in the cells of the nerve responsible for hearing that are also known as vestibular schwannomas), meningiomas (usually benign tumors in the membranes that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord), and parotid gland tumors (tumors in the salivary glands) (3).