US finds 'clear evidence' cellphone radiation causes tumours in rats
05 November, 2018, 19:42
Since mobile phones became commonplace in the 1990s, some campaigners have claimed that the radio frequency radiation (RFR) emitted by the devices using 2G or 3G connectivity could be directly linked to cancer growth in humans.
The two most significant findings: Male rats bombarded with high doses of cellphone radiation had a higher risk of a type of rare cancer called a schwannoma in the nerves surrounding the heart.
What does this mean for us?
At the exposure's lowest levels, it was equal to the maximum local tissue exposure allowed for mobile phone users, a level that rarely occurs during typical phone use.
The study involved radio frequencies long out of routine use. By contrast, people are mostly exposed in specific local tissues close to where they hold the phone. That said, the results do not apply to the newer 4G or 5G technologies and also do not apply to Wi-Fi.
"Animal studies like this one contribute to our discussions on this topic, but we must remember the study was not created to test the safety of cellphone use in humans, so we can not draw conclusions about the risks of cellphone use from it", Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, who was not involved with the study, said in a statement.
Costing $30m, the studies took 10 years to complete and are the most comprehensive assessment, to date, of health effects in animals exposed to RFR with modulations used in 2G and 3G mobile phones.
But the bottom line of the report is that people should not worry that they will get cancer from using their cellphones.
But the FDA has already taken issue with the findings. The rats and mice in the study were exposed to radiation across their entire bodies, while humans are usually exposed to radiation near where they keep their phones.
Exposure to RFR began in the womb for rats and at five to six weeks old for mice, and continued for up to two years, or most of their natural lifetime.
The animals were exposed to radio-frequency radiation levels equal to and higher than the highest level now allowed for mobile phone emissions.
But the results of the study do need proper context.
Researchers were able to control the amount of radio frequency the animals received - something that isn't possible with humans. This early generation of cellphone technology was used mainly in the 1990s.
Still, "we believe that the link between radio frequency radiation and tumors in male rats is real, and the external experts agreed", Bucher said. We believe the existing safety limits for cell phones remain acceptable for protecting the public health'.
In the NTP studies, the report notes, exposure was way more than what happens through average duration of cellphone usage.
According to Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, the U.S. FDA's director for Devices and Radiological Health, such animal studies are important in the discussion, but it was not created to test the safety of cellphones in humans and could therefore not be used to draw conclusions for humans.
"I have not changed the way I use a cell phone", Bucher said.
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