Are the phones we spend our workdays holding in our hands killing us?
Years of research have gone into figuring out the cancer risks of holding cellphones so close to our vulnerable human bodies. As part of a $25 million research program, two reports from the National Toxicology Program published on Friday did not find a conclusive link between human cellphone behavior and the type of radiation our phones emit leading to a cancer risk in humans.
In two-year studies, male and female rats and mice had their entire bodies exposed to cellphone-radio frequency radiation for nine hours a day, a high level of exposure that would be very unusual for humans to experience.
The patterns of what happened to the rodents under the extreme conditions were inconsistent. The strongest finding was that male rats developed malignant tumors near their hearts, but female rats and mice exposed in the same way did not develop tumors. In another inconsistent difference, the rats exposed to radiation lived longer than rats in an unexposed group.
Researchers: Feel free to keep holding your cellphone to your ear
How should we apply what happened to the radiated rodents to our human lives? Top researchers said the findings should not cause you to give up your cellphones. Because the rodents were exposed to radiation levels we would not typically experience, John Bucher, the lead author behind the research, said that the findings have not caused him to personally change how he uses his cellphone. “I wouldn’t change my behavior based on these studies, and I haven’t,” he said.
Frequent daily cellphone use is not a health risk, other top science groups and researchers stressed.
In response to the government reports, the Food and Drug Administration issued a statement in favor of daily cellphone use: “Even with frequent daily use by the vast majority of adults, we have not seen an increase in events like brain tumors. Based on this current information, we believe the current safety limits for cellphones are acceptable for protecting the public health.”
The American Cancer Society was in agreement with the assessment that cellphones were safe to use. “These draft reports are bound to create a lot of concern, but in fact, they won’t change what I tell people: the evidence for an association between cellphones and cancer is weak,” Dr. Otis Brawley, the group’s chief medical officer, said in a blog post. To make his point, he pointed out in a later interview, “I am actually holding my cellphone up to my ear.”
The draft reports are set to be reviewed by outside experts in March.