Cell Phones Classified as Possible Carcinogen

World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified cell phone radiation as a ‘Possible Human Carcinogen’ (Class 2B) (http://electromagnetichealth.org/electromagnetic-health-blog/iarc-rf-carc/). This provides the 1st official scientific basis on which governments, schools and parents can now legitimately call for precautionary behavior regarding these radiation-emitting devices.

IARC Press Release: http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2011/pdfs/pr208_E.pdf.

IARC Director Dr. Christopher Wild stated, “Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and finding 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 IARC decision was a true watershed event. IARC’s own 13-country Interphone study downplayed brain tumor risk when published last May, with news headlines heralding “No Risk Found”. While that statement was true for overall results, what much of the media coverage, and the press announcement, omitted to mention was that in the category of people who had used cell phones for 10 years or longer, the research showed a clear increased risk for brain tumors in heavy users. It is important to note that was considered ‘heavy use’ in these studies would be considered common exposures today.

Two of the lead authors of the Interphone study, Drs. Elizabeth Cardis and Dr. Siegal Sadetski, later boldly took it upon themselves to publish a clarification of risks found in the Interphone study, urging caution. http://electromagnetichealth.org/electromagnetic-health-blog/interphone-scientists-urging-caution/.

The WHO’s classification of cell phone radiation as a ‘possible carcinogen’ was based on science showing increased risk for glioma, or brain tumors.  While gliomas can be either malignant or benign, they always carry a poor prognosis according to experts. (Ohgaki H and Kleihues P. Population-based studies on incidence, survival rates, and genetic alterations in astrocytic and oligodendroglial gliomas.  Review article. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol, Vol 64, N° 6, June 2005, pp 479-489).

The IARC Working Group was not asked to quantify the magnitude of the cancer risk, though independent assessments of the science indicate a doubled risk of both glioma and acoustic neuroma after 10 years of cell phone use.

Besides gliomas, other cancers linked in research to cell phone use include meningiomas, acoustic neuromas, salivary gland tumors, eye cancer, testicular cancer and leukemia, though there evidently was not sufficient evidence to classify cell phones as a cancer risk for these types of cancer now, nor occupational exposures, which were also reviewed by IARC.

While health advocates are pleased with the recognition of cancer risk from cell phones, several scientific experts, such as 20+ year IARC veteran, Dr. Annie J. Sasco, MD, DrPH, cancer researcher at the Bordeaux Segalen University, France, say the present evidence actually justifies a class 2A classification, or “Probably Carcinogen”.

Sasco says the fact that much of the research was sponsored by the cell phone industry may have impacted the classification.

“That may explain why there is not sufficient evidence in experimental animals, but that’s not good enough for automatically going down to 2B. I, myself, feel it would have been appropriate to have a 2A classification.”

Sasco says, “Industry funded studies are more likely not to demonstrate any detrimental effects of EMF and even when an effect is found and reported, it is common to find in the paper a discussion of why such an effect could be the result of bias (competing causes of death, benign rather than malignant tumors and the like), rather than a true effect. This may have led the animal evidence to be classified as less than sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity.”

The Elephant in the Room

Microwave radiation emitted by cell phones is the same kind of radiation emitted by other wireless technologies, such as WiFi routers, portable phones, wireless baby monitors and cell towers. The distinction is that the cell phone has more power at the head, and they operate at different frequencies. Given society is blanketing itself in this radiation, and the radiation is known to cause DNA damage, cancer, impaired fertility, cognitive impairment, such as memory changes, interference with learning and wildlife and ecosystem effects, we feel it is urgent that federal research funding be immediately allocated to examining this issue.

See the range of symptoms from exposures to cell towers, which are similar to exposures to Wi-Fi, below:

Frequency of Electromagnetic Sensitivity Symptoms
Based on Distance to a Cell Phone Base Station

Source: Santini 2001, La Presse Medical, graphically depicted by Dr. Magda Havas (www.magdahavas.com)

Joel Moskowitz, PhD, Director of the Center for Family and Community Health at University of California, Berkeley, is calling for a $1 annual surcharge on all cell phones to fund research on cell phones. This would handily fund a $300m U.S. research program on biological impacts of the microwave radiation to which we are constantly being exposed.

See recent recommendations by Dr. Moskowitz : “Cell Phone Radiation and Health Recommendations”.

Why have global public health bodies not acted sooner, allowing a trillion dollar industry to emerge, now deeply intertwined with our economy, without sufficient pre-market health testing? What is it about the human psyche that creates a deep resistance to look at the truth, where proper steps to protect human health and the planet are taken far too little and far too late?

With electromagnetic fields from cell phones and wireless technologies, we are taking risk of unacceptable proportions for the DNA and fertility of the human species, as well as for the ecosystem, such as the crop pollinators (i.e. bees) which are necessary for our food supply.

If you would like to see the U.S. Congress focus more on this important public health concern, please sign the EMF Petition to Congress at www.ElectromagneticHealth.org.

Please ask your representatives in Congress to:

1. Mandate the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revisit its exposure guidelines for radiofrequency radiation (RF) immediately.

2. Repeal Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which took away the rights of state and local governments to stop the erection of cell towers and wireless antennas in their communities based on “environmental” grounds (defined by FCC as “human health”).

3. Declare a national moratorium on further wireless infrastructure build-out, including the Wi-Max roll-out currently underway, a joint venture of Sprint, Time Warner Cable, Google, Clearwire and others.

4. Establish cell phone and wireless-free neighborhoods, transportation options, government buildings, and public spaces; require employers to establish wireless free zones; and, mandate the removal of cellular and wireless technologies from public schools and their properties.

Camilla Rees is founder of ElectromagneticHealth.org (www.ElectromagneticHealth.org) and the Campaign for Radiation Free Schools (Facebook), co-author of “Public Health SOS: The Shadow Side of the Wireless Revolution” and co-founder of the International EMF Alliance.

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  • Yogalena

    I'm going to post this on my monthly Yogalena newsletter.  Thanks!

  • Hi,
    Well this is something that we have been hearing about for the last 5-6 years now and still till date there is no concrete information about it.
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