US Senate Hearing on the health effects of mobile phone use

International experts have provided evidence to a Senate subcommittee on the health effects of mobile phone use.

Dr Devra Davis, a Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh said that she had recently confirmed overseas studies showing that “persons using a cell phone for a decade or longer have significantly elevated risks of acoustic neuroma.”

She called for governments to make available individuals’ privacy-protected records of mobile phone use for research and suggested a levy of $1 on the sale of every mobile phone for three years go to independent research. She also suggested that the Federal government create a cabinet level inter-agency group on mobile phone research.

Dr Davis discussed how industry had influenced researchers and said, “studies funded by industry directly are overwhelmingly negative and find no effect of RF in animals or humans. Those studies that are independently funded and have examined people for a decade or longer tend to be positive and find that RF is linked with a host of ailments, ranging from cardiac disturbances to fatal brain tumors.”

Dr Siegal Sadetzki, advisor to the Israeli Ministry of Health, said that she had found an elevated number of salivary gland tumours in people who had used mobile phones for more than ten years. She said that, given the long latency time for tumour development and the short history of mobile phone use, it was still too early to see the full impact of health risks.

Dr Sadetzki called for precautions, citing precautionary policies in other countries. “There are now 4 billion people, including children, using cell phone technology. Consequently, even if there is only a small individual risk per person, the great number of users, together with the increasing amount of use could eventually result in considerable damage. Therefore … some public health measures with special emphasis for children should be instituted.”

The call for precaution was echoed by Dr Dariuz Leszczynski, from Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority. “The existence of data suggesting the possibility of increased risks of brain cancer is, in my opinion, sufficient to advise precautions and to request further research to clarify this issue.”

Dr Leszczynski also questioned the relevance of international safety standards. “In my opinion the current safety standards are not reliable in the context of the lack of studies on human volunteers, children and on effects of long-term exposures in humans.”

Dr Olga Naidenko is a Scientist for the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit research and advocacy organisation. She said that consumers have a right to know the level of radiation their phones emit and referred to the EWG’s recent publication of SAR levels. She said that the latest science points to potential risks to children’s health and that federal radiation standards need to be updated.

She referred to policies that have been adopted overseas and called for precautions such as:

  • using a headset or speakers
  • talking less
  • holding phone away from body
  • texting rather than talking
  • avoiding poor signal areas
  • limiting children’s use and
  • avoiding radiation shields.

Dr Linda Erdreich, a senior scientist at Exponent’s Health Sciences Centre for Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Computational Biology, was a voice of dissent. She said that “the current scientific evidence does not demonstrate that wireless phones cause cancer or other adverse health effects”. Dr Erdreich testified on behalf of the CTIA, a mobile phone industry group.

from 'EMR and Health' Dec 2009, vol 5 no 4