German mobile phone review

Following a review of the scientific literature, German scientists have recommended precautions for the use of mobile phones.

A comprehensive research review by 25 German scientists has found evidence of risk from mobile phone radiation. On the basis of their findings, scientists recommended a precautionary approach to the use of mobile phones. “Keep mobile phone calls short, don’t call in a moving car without external antenna, don’t make mobile phone calls at a long distance from the antenna tower,” they urged.

The review was conducted by the Human Environment Technology project (COURAGE) at Juelick Research Institute, Germany and financed by telecommunications company T-Mobile. It comprised a review of scientific research on mobile phone radiation conducted between 2000 and 2004 in a series of workshops.

The project drew no conclusion about the overall risk of mobile phone use, but considered the following six research endpoints:

  • genotoxic effects
  • animal cancer experiments
  • epidemiological studies on cancer
  • effects on the central nervous system, cognitive function and sleep
  • well-being
  • blood-brain barrier.

The conclusions of the project, released on 9 May, were that mobile phone radiation affects the central nervous system, the brain, causing changes in reaction times and accuracy, and causes DNA damage.

However, the researchers did not find evidence that mobile phone radiation caused or promoted the growth of cancer.

On the question of well-being, the consultants were ambivalent. With the exception of headaches, research on symptoms was not strong enough to draw a conclusion. While there was evidence of a connection between mobile phone use and headaches, the researchers expressed uncertainty as to whether these were caused by radiation or by stress.

The report suggested that some groups may be at greater risk from mobile phone radiation than others. While young, healthy people may not be at risk, the radiation is potentially harmful for children, the elderly, the sick, babies and pregnant women.

The report gave no certainty about what sort of mechanism could be responsible for these effects. It did, however, consider that this mechanism would be non-thermal, ie does not produce significant heating in the body. This is of great importance for public health protection, as current international standards are based on the heating effects of radiation, and do not protect against athermal levels of exposure.

The report did not consider the long-term impact of exposure to radiation and other environmental stressors such as chemicals that are found in the everyday environment.

The report is available in German at

from 'EMR and Health' June 2005, vol 1 no 2