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Federal agencies at odds over cellphone cancer risk
04 November 2018, 12:15 | Silvia Roy
Federal agencies at odds over cellphone cancer risk
Still, experts argue, even a small demonstrated rise in cancer risk could have wide implications, given that billions of people use cellphones. Cell phones' potential link to cancer has been an area of study because cell phones emit radiofrequency radiation or radio waves from their antennas, which is a form of electromagnet radiation, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
"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. The FDA also said the findings should not be applied to human cellphone use.
Cancer experts say rates of brain tumors in humans haven't increased in 40 years. The RFR levels in the studies ranged from 1.5-6 watts per kilogram in rats, and 2.5-10 watts per kilogram in mice.
The end result for most of this research has been "inconclusive" or uncovered "some" evidence of a link between our cell phones and cancer.
Then, the central issue at hand: "In both studies (GSM and CDMA), exposure to RFR in male rats resulted in higher numbers of animals with tumors of the heart and brain". The final verdict: cellphone radiation may sometimes cause tumors in rats at high, continuous doses, but not in people.
On the other hand, researchers noted the unexpected finding of longer lifespans among the exposed male rats.
Some females and some mice developed tumors, but it was mainly male rats exposed to the highest levels of radiation that developed life-threatening cancers.
Some scientists have warned that 5G - which uses milimeter waves, rather than the microwaves that were the basis of previous generations - may in fact be more unsafe, but its far too soon to tell for sure. Many epidemiologists see no overall rise in the incidence of gliomas in the human population. It focused on 900 megahertz, a frequency typical of the second generation of cellphones. For comparison, fourth generation (4G) and fifth generation (5G) phones employ much higher frequencies, which are "far less successful at penetrating the bodies of humans and rats", the New York Times reports. They employ much higher frequencies, and these radio waves are far less successful at penetrating the bodies of humans and rats, scientists say.
The NTP researchers are planning future studies on the effects of newer technologies, and these studies will use different methods so that they will be completed in weeks to months, rather than years.
According to John Bucher, Ph.D., NTP senior scientist, the exposures used in the studies can not be compared directly to the exposure that humans experience when using a cell phone.
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While this suggestion has been dismissed by a number of researchers, studies undertaken over a number of years by the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences appears to have found evidence that, at the outset, would appear to confirm these fears.
He said the overall findings of the study - 384 pages devoted to rats, 260 to mice - had been conveyed to the Federal Communications Commission and the FDA. Bucher declined repeatedly to assess the hazard.
"I have become, based on these studies, a little more aware of my use of cellphones and if I make a short call I have absolutely no hesitation at all in picking up the phone and using it in a traditional manner", he said.
Those who study risk aren't hanging up.
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