Cell Phone Radiation Science Review on Cancer Risks and Childrens Health.pdf

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Cell Phone Radiation
Science Review on Cancer Risks and Children's Health
Table of Contents
Executive Summary
Section 1: Do cell phones cause cancer or other illnesses?
Section 2: Cell Phone Safety Standards
Section 3: Government Action on Cell Phone Radiation Levels
Section 4: Radiation - Bluetooth, Wired Headsets & Cordless Phones
Copyright © September 2009 by the Environmental Working Group. All rights reserved.
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Cell Phone Radiation Science Review
Executive Summary
More than 4 billion people around the world use cell phones (ITU 2009). Because cell phone technology has been
around for just two decades, scientists do not yet fully understand long-term health risks from cell phone radiation.
But recent research has prompted serious concerns about exposure to wireless emissions.
Prior to 2003, studies of cancer risk and cell phone
use produced conflicting results. FDA told consumers
that scientists had found no harmful health effects
from exposure to cell phone emissions. (FDA 2003).
Recent studies link cell phone radiation to:
Brain cancer: Two analyses of 25 original publications
identified a 50 to 90 percent increase in risk for two types
of brain tumors: glioma and acoustic neuroma (Hardell
2009, Kundi 2009).
But FDA's assurances were based on studies of
people who had used cell phones for just 3 years, on
an average (FDA 2003), not long enough to develop
cancer. At that time, studies had not addressed the
risks of longer-term exposures.
Salivary gland tumors: An Israeli study found an
increased risk of 50 to 60 percent for salivary gland
tumors among people with highest cell phone use
(Sadetzki 2008).
The research gap is closing. Scientists around the
world have recently associated serious health
problems with using cell phones for 10 years or
Behavioral problems: A study of 13,159 Danish children
showed 80 percent elevated risk for emotional and
hyperactivity problems among young children who use
cell phones and whose mothers also used cell phones
during pregnancy (Divan 2008).
A joint study by researchers in Denmark,
Finland, Norway, Sweden and the United
Kingdom found that people who had used cell
phones for more than 10 years had a
significantly increased risk of developing
glioma, a usually malignant brain tumor, on the
side of the head they had favored for cell
phone conversations (International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) 2008; Lahkola 2007).
French and German scientists reported an increased risk of glioma for long-term cell phone users (Hours
2007; Schuz, Bohler, Berg 2006). Analysis of all published cell phone-brain tumor studies found that people
who had used a cell phone for 10 or more years, the overall risk for developing a glioma on the cell phone
side of the head increased by 90 percent (Hardell 2009; Kundi 2009).
Cell phone use for 10 years and longer has been also associated with significantly increased risk of
acoustic neuroma, a type of benign brain tumor, on the primary side of cell phone use (IARC 2008;
Schoemaker 2005). An extensive review of published studies of acoustic neuroma found that long-term cell
phone users had a 60 percent greater risk of being diagnosed with the disease (Hardell 2009; Kundi 2009).
A study from Israel reported an association between frequent and prolonged mobile phone use and parotid
(salivary) gland tumors (Sadetzki 2008). Scientists analyzing data from Sweden and Denmark combined
found that people who had used cell phones for at least 10 years ran an increased risk of benign parotid
gland tumors (IARC 2008; Lonn 2006).
Multiple studies reported that the brains of young children absorb more radiation than those of adults (de
Salles 2006; Gandhi 1996; Kang 2002; Martinez-Burdalo 2004; Wang 2003; Wiart 2008), potentially
rendering them more vulnerable to brain tumors (NRC 2008b). Researchers in Sweden found the highest
risk of brain tumors among people who started using cell phones during adolescence (Hardell 2009).
Migraines and vertigo: A study of 420,095 Danish adults
showed that long-term cell phone users were 10 to 20
percent more likely to be hospitalized for migraines and
vertigo than people who took up cell phones more
recently. (Schuz 2009).
Scientists have known for decades that high doses of the radiofrequency radiation emitted by cell phones can
penetrate the body, heat tissues, trigger behavioral problems and damage sensitive tissues like the eyeball and
testicle (Heynick 2003; IEEE 2006).
Yet when cell phones went on the market in the 1980s, federal regulators did not require manufacturers to prove
they were safe (GAO 1994).
Recent studies raise particular concerns about the impact of cell phone emissions on children. The National
Research Council (NRC) has observed that "with the rapid advances in technologies and communications utilizing
[radiation in the range of cell phone frequencies], children are increasingly exposed... at earlier ages (starting at
age 6 or before)" (NRC 2008b). The NRC called for "investigation of the potential effects of RF fields in the
development of childhood brain tumor" (NRC 2008b).
Research by France Telecom scientists showed that under standard conditions of use, twice as much cell
phone radiation would penetrate a child’s thinner, softer skull than an adult’s (Wiart 2008). These results
confirm earlier findings that children’s heads absorb more radiofrequency radiation than adults (Gandhi
1996; Kang 2002; Wang 2003).
Children will be exposed to cell phone radiation for more years and therefore in greater total amounts than
the current generation of adults (NRC 2008b).
Few research studies have focused on the health hazards of
children’s cell phone use, even though the youth market is
growing. But one recent study of 13,159 Danish children
showed that young children who use cell phones and whose
mothers also used cell phones during pregnancy are 80
percent more likely to suffer emotional and hyperactivity
problems (Divan 2008).
Government actions: radiation standards and
public education
Health agencies in six nations — Switzerland,
Germany, Israel, France, United Kingdom, and
Finland — have recommended reducing children’s
exposures to cell phone radiation.
In response to the growing debate over the safety of cell
phone emissions, government agencies in Germany,
Switzerland, Israel, United Kingdom, France, and Finland and
the European Parliament have recommended actions to help
consumers reduce exposures to cell phone radiation,
especially for young children.
In 2008, the European Parliament passed a
resolution urging member countries to develop
lower radiation emission limits for cell phones.
Legislation introduced in the French Senate would
ban marketing and sales of phones for children
under age 6.
Brussels, Belgium; Salzburg, Austria; and
Christchurch, New Zealand have proposed strict
local cell phone radiation standards. Toronto has
issued guidance to parents on reducing children’s
cell phone use.
In contrast, the two U.S. federal agencies that regulate cell
phones, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the
Federal Communication Commission (FCC), have all but
ignored evidence that long term cell phone use may be risky.
The FCC adopted radiation standards developed by the cell phone industry 17 years ago. These standards, still in
use, allow 20 times more radiation to reach the head than the rest of the body. They do not account for risks to
While compiling a database of radiation emitted by more than 1,000 cell phones sold in the U.S., the
Environmental Working Group has found that emissions can vary by a factor of up to 8 from one phone to another.
The cell phone industry has reported 270 million wireless subscriptions by the end of 2008, equivalent to 87
percent of the U.S. population (CTIA 2009, ITU 2009). This number is only expected to grow. Consumers need —
at a minimum — easy access to cell phone radiation information so that they can make informed purchasing
decisions and protect themselves and their families from potential health concerns.
Studies: Cell phone radiation may cause tissue damage
Cell phones communicate via electromagnetic waves. During signal transmission, a comparable amount of
radiation travels outward, towards the base station, and inward, towards the ear or head of the cell phone user.
(IEGMP 2000).
Cell phone waves are in the “radiofrequency” range. They lack the penetrating energy of X-rays and radioactivity.
Scientists are still exploring how cell phone radiation may cause the harmful effects that some studies have
Scientific research conducted over the past decade has
associated cell phone radiation with increased risk of
developing brain and salivary gland tumors, neurological
symptoms such as migraine and vertigo, and
neurodevelopmental effects observed as behavioral problems
in young children (BioInitiative 2007; Divan 2008; Kundi 2009;
Sadetzki 2008; Schuz 2009).
Cell phones, radios and TV transmissions emit
non-ionizing radiation that has a longer
wavelength, lower frequency and lower overall
energy per photon than UV light, X-rays and
gamma rays (a form of radioactivity), which are
known as ionizing radiation because they have
enough power to eject an electron from its orbit
and leave behind a charged ion that can damage
cells and tissues.
The National Research Council has reported that exposure to
cell phone radiation may affect the immune, endocrine and
nervous systems, fetal development and overall metabolism
(NRC 2008b). Children are likely to be more susceptible than adults to effects from cell phone radiation, since the
brain of a child is still developing and its nervous tissues absorb a greater portion of incoming radiation compared
to that of an adult (Gandhi 1996; Kang 2002; Kheifets 2005; Schuz 2005; Wang 2003; Wiart 2008).
FCC industry radiation standards have little margin of safety
The FCC’s cell phone radiation standards closely follow the recommendations of the Institute of Electrical and
Electronics Engineers (IEEE) (FCC 1997). These standards allow 20 times more radiation to penetrate the head
than the rest of the body and do not account for risks to children.
FCC standards limit the radiation absorbed by a cell phone user’s brain and body to a specific absorption rate, or
SAR, measured by the amount of the phone’s radiation energy (in watts, W) absorbed per kilogram of tissue
Current FCC regulations permit SAR levels of up to 1.6 W/kg for partial body (head) exposure, 0.08 W/kg for
whole-body exposure, and 4 W/kg for exposure to the hands, wrists, feet and ankles (FCC 1997, 1999).
The FCC standards are based on animal studies conducted in late 1970s and early 1980s (Osepchuk 2003).
FCC, on the recommendation of the IEEE, adopted SAR level of 4 W/kg as the point of departure for determining
legal SAR limits for cell phones. In contrast to the FCC decision, an independent analysis by the EPA scientists
concluded, on the basis of the same body of data, that biological effects occur at SAR levels of 1 W/kg, 4 times
lower than the SAR level chosen by IEEE (U.S. EPA 1984). Exposure to radiofrequency radiation at these SAR
levels induces tissue heating that leads to behavioral alterations in mice, rats, and monkeys, that may be a
“potentially adverse effect in human beings” (IEEE 2006).
Current FCC standards fail to provide an adequate margin of safety for cell phone radiation exposure and lack a
meaningful biological basis.
For example, the FCC standard for the head is just 2.5 times lower than the level that caused behavioral changes
in animals. The standard that applies to hands, wrists, feet, and ankles has no safety margin whatsoever.
The FCC adopted IEEE’s proposal to allow 20 times more radiation to the head than the average amount allowed
for the whole body, even though the brain may well be one of the most sensitive parts of human body with respect
to radiofrequency radiation and should have more protection.
To receive the FCC approval for selling a cell phone in the U.S. market, manufacturers typically conduct the
phone's SAR tests themselves or contract with the private industry. Private industry organizations
(Telecommunication Certification Bodies) are also actively involved in all steps of determining the compliance of
cell phones and other wireless devices with the FCC rules (FCC OET 2008f).
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