NEW REPORT: Radiation From Cell Phones May Cause Cancer
(CNN) -- Radiation from cell phones can possibly cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization. The agency now lists mobile phone use in the same "carcinogenic hazard" category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform.
Before its announcement Tuesday, WHO had assured consumers that no adverse health effects had been established.
A team of 31 scientists from 14 countries, including the United States, made the decision after reviewing peer-reviewed studies on cell phone safety. The team found enough evidence to categorize personal exposure as "possibly carcinogenic to humans."
What that means is that right now there haven't been enough long-term studies conducted to make a clear conclusion if radiation from cell phones are safe, but there is enough data showing a possible connection that consumers should be alerted.
"The biggest problem we have is that we know most environmental factors take several decades of exposure before we really see the consequences," said Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
The type of radiation coming out of a cell phone is called non-ionizing. It is not like an X-ray, but more like a very low-powered microwave oven.
"What microwave radiation does in most simplistic terms is similar to what happens to food in microwaves, essentially cooking the brain. So in addition to leading to a development of cancer and tumors, there could be a whole host of other effects like cognitive memory function, since the memory temporal lobes are where we hold our cell phones."
The voices urging caution to consumers have gotten louder in recent years.
The European Environmental Agency has pushed for more studies, saying cell phones could be as big a public health risk as smoking, asbestos and leaded gasoline. The head of a prominent cancer-research institute at the University of Pittsburgh sent a memo to all employees urging them to limit cell phone use because of a possible risk of cancer.
"When you look at cancer development -- particularly brain cancer -- it takes a long time to develop. I think it is a good idea to give the public some sort of warning that long-term exposure to radiation from your cell phone could possibly cause cancer," said Dr. Henry Lai, research professor in bioengineering at University of Washington who has studied radiation for over 30 years.
Results from the largest international study on cell phones and cancer was released in 2010. It showed participants in the study who used a cell phones for 10 years or more had doubled the rate of brain glioma, a type of tumor. To date, there have been no long-term studies on the effects of cell phone usage among children.
"Childrens' skulls and scalps are thinner. So the radiation can penetrate deeper into the brain of children and young adults. Their cells are dividing faster rate, so the impact of radiation can be much larger." said Black of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Manufacturers of many popular cell phones already warn consumers to keep their device away from their body.
The Apple iPhone 4 safety manual says for users' radiation exposure to not exceed FCC guidelines, "When using iPhone near your body for voice calls or for wireless data transmission over a cellular network, keep iPhone at least 15 mm (5/8 inch) away from the body."
Blackberry Bold advises users to, "keep the BlackBerry device at least 0.98 in. (25 mm) from your body when the BlackBerry device is transmitting."
Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>
BREWSTER, Wash. - Deputies and officers in Okanogan County are investigating after a shooting Sunday morning. Okanogan County Sheriff's deputies and officers from the Brewster police Department responded to a call at 502 North Star Road in Brewster for a report of a 19-year-old man with a gun.>>
ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - The mother of a Pennsylvania teenager says she went from not eating or sleeping to crying tears of relief when her missing daughter was located in a popular Mexican resort city. Miu Luu tells The (Allentown) Morning Call she's happy 16-year-old Amy Yu has been found. Federal agents and Mexican authorities found Amy and 45-year-old Kevin Esterly Saturday in Playa del Carmen.>>
HAYDEN LAKE, Idaho - The Kootenai County Sheriff's Office reports two teenagers were rescued from the water after falling through thin ice on Avondale Lake in Hayden Lake, Idaho, Saturday afternoon. Northern Lakes Fire and Rescue, Coeur d’Alene Fire and Rescue, and the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office all responded.>>
DETROIT - The No Irish Pub opened Saturday in Corktown during Detroit's St. Patrick's Day Parade. The pub raised eyebrows and turned heads for refusing to serve Irish people, specifically on a day when "everyone's a little bit Irish." Those behind the idea say they want people to experience how Irish people used to be treated in America.>>
TACOMA, Wash. (AP) - Two former Pierce County sheriff's deputies are suing the county, saying the agency tried to cover up how a man who killed his wife and himself obtained the gun he used in the killings.>>
Authorities in Mississippi say a 9-year-old boy has shot his 13-year-old sister in the head and wounded her after an argument over a video game controller. Monroe County Sheriff Cecil Cantrell told local news outlets that the girl wouldn't give up the video game controller when her brother wanted it on Saturday. He says the boy shot the girl in the back of the head and that the bullet entered her brain.>>