Major Cell Phone Study Launched

The BBC just announced that the largest study of its kind on mobile telephone use will commence in London. About 250,000 mobile phone users from five European countries will be recruited for the research that is expected to take place over 20-30 years, added the BBC. The new study, entitled Cosmos, is a cohort study funded in the UK by the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research programme for the first five years, said the BBC.

Studies have been conducted with conflicting information that many feel is due to the shorter nature of these prior studies, said the BBC. Scientists argue that studies conducted, to date, have been too short to detect longer-term illnesses, such as <"">cancer, noted the BBC.

We recently wrote that, in the state of Maine, cell phones could carry a message warning about the devices’ risk of cancer. The Maine proposal involves a color graphic of the brain of a child with the word “warning” in large, red lettering, said the Daily News previously. The warnings would also recommend that cell phones be kept away from the body, especially in children and expectant mothers, added the Daily News. Just prior, we wrote that San Francisco was seeking similar warnings that, according to The Associated Press, would require manufacturers to display the electromagnetic radiation absorption rate level next to each phone in print and at least as large as the pricing label.

This October we wrote that a preliminary analysis of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) groundbreaking Interphone study found a “significantly increased risk” of some brain tumors “related to use of mobile phones for a period of 10 years or more.” While the study was not definitive, and limited because it depended on subjects’ memories to determine cell phone use frequency, preliminary findings caused concern.

In 2008, we wrote that the head of one of the country’s top cancer centers warned his staff that cell phones could be dangerous to their health. Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and UPMC Cancer Centers, issued an internal advisory memo to about 3,000 faculty and staff members advising them to take precautions to avoid the possible cancer risks of cell phones.

Dr. Herberman’s memo advised that children—whose brains are still developing—only use cell phones in emergencies; adults should phones away from the head and use the speakerphone or a wireless headset. He warned against using cell phones in public because of the risk of exposing others to electromagnetic fields. In an interview with “The Pittsburgh Post Gazette,” Herberman noted that other countries have recommended limits on exposure, and in Canada, Toronto officials advised young people to limit cell phone use.

“We still cannot rule out the possibility that mobile phone use causes cancer,” said Professor Lawrie Challis, of the current study group. Saying that the study was not only focused on brain cancer, Dr. Mireille Toledano of the Imperial College of London and a co-principal study investigator pointed out that, “The best thing we can do as a society is to start now to monitor the health of a large number of users over a long period of time—that way we can build up a valuable picture as to whether or not there are any links in the longer term,” quoted the BBC.

The study will look at a variety of illnesses, including different cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, headaches, depression, tinnitus, and sleep disorders, according to the BBC. Earlier studies have long relied on phone users’ memories for details on device usage, which experts feel can skew results, said the BBC. The Cosmos project will be prospective, which means the study will review true phone use, noted the BBC. Usage, not numbers dialed, will be analyzed as will the use of WiFi, cordless and mobile telephones, and baby monitors to better understand the impact of electromagnetic radiation, said the BBC. Initial findings are expected in five years.

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