cell phone emissions could be dangerous. But then again so can walking across the street. Taken with a dose of criticism, the arguments either strongly for or strongly against dangers in cell phone radio waves all seem quite unfounded. There are dozens, probably hundreds, of sources that claim cell phones gave them, or a loved one, brain cancer or some other popular and tragic ailment. No one knows quite yet, regardless of the studies. The FCC implies the safety of cell phones, but then immediately follows it up with: “further research is needed to determine what effects actually occur and whether they are dangerous to people.”
What key research has already been done and what is in progress?
Government agencies within the U.S. have done research on RFs. The Food and Drug Administration has an RF policy that closely echoes that of the FCC. In fact the website, Consumer Information on Wireless Phones, is a joint effort of both the FDA and the FCC. Based on what the FCC and FDA have learned cell phone emissions are low-level RFs, much lower than other potentially dangerous and everyday technology, such as x-ray machines.
According to Consumer Reports “over 70 research papers” on the health hazards posed by cell phone emissions have been published. International research on the effects of RFs from cell phones may be the most compelling and offer the most hope for real evidence, one way or the other, but results remain generally mixed.
A commonly held claim--that RFs in low levels can have long-term effects on DNA--was the focus of a 2004 study, called REFLEX, by a team of scientists from the European Union. Clinically speaking, the research aimed to explore the relationship between radio frequencies and genes—whether RFs effected such a genotoxicity. The results could be construed to be inconclusive. According to a summary of the study a number of factors could be deleterious to the findings: the research used “no whole animal studies” and the RF sources in the study were not consistent. However, the final conclusions revealed that RF exposure where SAR levels were within 0.2 and 1.3 watts per kilogram, did in fact show some “evidence of genotoxicity,” but was not consistent throughout all the studies “cell lines.” Remember, the FDA and FCC regulations require all cell phones in the U.S. to have a SAR of less than 1.6 W/kg.
Does cell phone use affect sperm count? Dozens of sources have suggested as much over the last few decades, but results from a 2005 Cleveland Clinic study on the subject may offer the most affirmative argument yet. Male study subjects that were considered heavy cell phone users—at least 4 hours a day—showed lower sperm counts than men who didn’t use cell phones at all. Even these results, scientists say, fail to conclusively prove any concrete evidence because “the difference in numbers wasn’t significant.”
Scientists, in presenting the results of the REFLEX study, commented on the contemporary challenges that must be overcome in order to discover consistent results in the area of cell phone RFs. First the scientific sector must let loose of their previous discriminations about epidemiological studies that pit the human factor against its growing environment of high-tech gadgetry. Second, the public outcry for timely and quick results theoretically overrides the traditional scientific approach, which opts for long-term and consistent studies in order to produce concrete evidence.
After all the inconclusive study results are in, some consumer safety advocates and scientists have continued to argue that cell phones should be labeled with the same type of health warning found on cigarettes. While evidence is long in coming, studies continue to push doubt a bit further toward the idea that, yes, RFs do in fact have a measurable effect on the human world and this demands deeper and more consistent research.