New study revives old cell phone and cancer risk debate

A new U.S. government study found a link between cell phones and malignant cancer in male rats, the Wall Street Journal reported.

As IEEE Spectrum put the findings, they are “weak but positive.”

The $25 million study by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) and overseen by the National Institutes of Health found “low incidences” of two types of tumors – one in the heart and one in the brain.

The report will likely revive the decades-long debate over the health risks of exposure to cellphone radio frequencies.

Ron Melnick, who ran the NTP project until 2009 and reviewed the study’s results, told the Journal:

Where people were saying there’s no risk, I think this ends that kind of statement.

The government’s official position has long been that scientific evidence so far has not pointed to any health dangers with cell phone use.

But the World Health Organization in 2011 classified cellphone radiation as a “a possible carcinogen.” However, as many pointed out then, coffee and some pickled vegetables also are considered possible carcinogens.

And so the debate has been mostly quiet, with some cities such as Berkeley, passing ordinances to require merchants and cell phone manufacturers to post safety guidelines.

The CTIA, which represents the cell phone industry, told NBC Bay Area that “the overwhelming scientific evidence refutes Berkeley’s ill-informed and misleading mandatory warnings about cellphones, according to the FCC and other experts.”

Now with this study, federal government cellphone guidelines will likely go through “tweaks,” The Hill reports. The same results were not seen in female rats. 

John Boucher, NTP’s associate director, said in a conference call Friday that the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees cellphone safety guidelines, has been briefed.

It is too early to say what the relevance of the study is. But he said that he hasn’t changed the way he uses a cellphone as a result. 

Already, there’s been reaction. Some point out that the rats had experienced constant and high-level exposure to the radio frequency radiation and urge caution.

Above: Person holding smartphone. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup, File)


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