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Cellphone Radiation: The WHO's take on things

We mentioned earlier that the LG Quantum ranked the best with respect to the smartphones with the lowest radiation emissions. On the heels of that report, we've learned the WHO has chimed in on the issue of whether or not cell phone radiation is dangerous or not.  No, not the rock group the Who but the World Health Organization.

In a joint press released issued today with the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the WHO classifies radio frequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans. This tags the electromagnetic fields as a Group 2B carcinogen that also includes lead, DDT pesticides, and chloroform. They base this possibility on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer associated with wireless phone use.

A more extensive report on the assessment by the WHO will be published in the July issue of The Lancet Oncology, but commenting on the findings, Dr. Jonathan Samet, chairman of the working group for this studying, states,:

"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."

Additionally, the Director of the IARC, Christopher Wild, commented:

"it is important that additional research be conducted into the long-term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands?free devices or texting."

It is nice that there isn't a rush to judgement on this issue (keeping things termed as "potential" or "possible" risk) and that it is recognized that additional research is needed to determine what connection exists between serious health issues and cell phone use.

Again, by no means are we suggesting you should stop using your Windows Phone.  But it never hurts to be informed on the equipment we use.  After the break you can catch the full press release from the WHO.

Source: IARC Via: CNN



Lyon, France, May 31, 2011 ‐‐ The WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer (1), associated with wireless phone use.


Over the last few years, there has been mounting concern about the possibility of adverse health effects resulting from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, such as those emitted by wireless communication devices. The number of mobile phone subscriptions is estimated at 5 billion globally.

From May 24–31 2011, a Working Group of 31 scientists from 14 countries has been meeting at IARC in Lyon, France, to assess the potential carcinogenic hazards from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. These assessments will be published as Volume 102 of the IARC Monographs, which will be the fifth volume in this series to focus on physical agents, after Volume 55 (Solar Radiation), Volume 75 and Volume 78 on ionizing radiation (X‐rays, gamma‐rays, neutrons, radio‐nuclides), and Volume 80 on non‐ionizing radiation (extremely low‐frequency electromagnetic fields).

The IARC Monograph Working Group discussed the possibility that these exposures might induce long‐term health effects, in particular an increased risk for cancer. This has relevance for public health, particularly for users of mobile phones, as the number of users is large and growing, particularly among young adults and children.

The IARC Monograph Working Group discussed and evaluated the available literature on the following exposure categories involving radiofrequency electromagnetic fields:

occupational exposures to radar and to microwaves;

environmental exposures associated with transmission of signals for radio, television and

wireless telecommunication; and

personal exposures associated with the use of wireless telephones.

International experts shared the complex task of tackling the exposure data, the studies ofcancer in humans, the studies of cancer in experimental animals, and the mechanistic and other relevant data.


The evidence was reviewed critically, and overall evaluated as being limited (2) among users of wireless telephones for glioma and acoustic neuroma, and inadequate (3)to draw conclusions for other types of cancers. The evidence from the occupational and environmental exposures mentioned above was similarly judged inadequate. The Working Group did not quantitate the risk; however, one study of past cell phone use (up to the year 2004), showed a 40% increased risk for gliomas in the highest category of heavy users (reported average: 30 minutes per day over a 10‐year period).


Dr Jonathan Samet (University of Southern California, USA), overall Chairman of the Working Group, indicated that "the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification. 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."

"Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings," said IARC Director Christopher Wild, "it is important that additional research be conducted into the long‐term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands‐free devices or texting."

The Working Group considered hundreds of scientific articles; the complete list will be published in the Monograph. It is noteworthy to mention that several recent in‐press scientific articles(4)resulting from the Interphone study were made available to the working group shortly before it was due to convene, reflecting their acceptance for publication at that time, and were included in the evaluation.

A concise report summarizing the main conclusions of the IARC Working Group and the evaluations of the carcinogenic hazard from radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (including the use of mobile telephones) will be published in The Lancet Oncology in its July 1 issue, and in a few days online.

(1) 237 913 new cases of brain cancers (all types combined) occurred around the world in 2008 (gliomas represent 2/3 of these). Source: Globocan 2008

(2) 'Limited evidence of carcinogenicity': A positive association has been observed between exposure to the agent and cancer for which a causal interpretation is considered by the Working Group to be credible, but chance, bias or confounding could not be ruled out with reasonable confidence.

(3) 'Inadequate evidence of carcinogenicity': The available studies are of insufficient quality, consistency or statistical power to permit a conclusion regarding the presence or absence of a causal association between exposure and cancer, or no data on cancer in humans are available.

(4) a. 'Acoustic neuroma risk in relation to mobile telephone use: results of the INTERPHONE international case‐control study' (the Interphone Study Group, in Cancer Epidemiology, in press)

b. 'Estimation of RF energy absorbed in the brain from mobile phones in the Interphone study' (Cardis et al., Occupational and Environmental Medicine, in press)

c. 'Risk of brain tumours in relation to estimated RF dose from mobile phones – results from five Interphone countries' (Cardis et al., Occupational and Environmental Medicine, in press)

d. 'Location of Gliomas in Relation to Mobile Telephone Use: A Case‐Case and Case‐Specular Analysis' (American Journal of Epidemiology, May 24, 2011. [Epub ahead of print]




There are 6 comments. Sign in to comment

Physboy says:

I have always informed my clients that they should not be holding the phone to their heads on a normal basis. It is good practice to use BT, or wired headsets rather than holding the phone to your head on a regular basis. The key phrase here is "regular basis"In addition, I always recomend that if you use a belt clip, to ensure that the back of the phone is facing away from the body as, the SAR ratings are determined when holding the phone in an orientation where the back of the phone is facing away from the head/body.

From my research it's known that Cellphone use is not directly linked to any Cancers. Phones radiation is non-ionizing and not able to break chemical bonds and cause mutations. However any further research is simply looking to see if Cellphone use can increase by inderect use. Also holding a phone to your head is fine as long as you don't hold it their for 8 hours a day.

Physboy says:

I suggest you do more research. Specifically the effect of non-ionizing radiation on animal cells, and causes of cancer. You might want to try reading the WHO report mentioned in this article as well, which completely contradicts your false claims.

George, please check your first sentence. Your earlier report credited the LG Quantum with the LOWEST radiation emission rating for current smartphones. Yes, that means it ranked highest in terms of radiation safety, but your opening sentence in this article doesn't quite make that clear.

Thanks. Hopefully the edit makes it more clearer.

Skycop says:

If you keep your phone in your pocket your G.I. Joes might end up M.I.A. Knowing is half the battle my friends.