Today the World Health Organization announced that radiation from cell phones could possibly cause cancer as they categorized exposure to electromagnetic fields alongside known carcinogenic hazards such as lead, auto exhaust, and the pesticide DDT. The announcement is based upon a series of studies that have been peer-reviewed by a group of 31 scientists from 14 countries working with the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The team found that non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell phones is “possibly carcinogenic to humans – a reversal of the WHO’s previous assertions that no adverse health effects have been established for mobile phone use.

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Over 5 billion cell phones are currently in service, so the WHO’s classification of cell phones as “possibly carcinogenic” is a chilling reminder that we shouldn’t take the safety of commonplace technology for granted. Although the WHO has not conclusively declared that cell phones cause cancer, enough peer-reviewed research has been gathered to raise a red flag and warrant further studies.

Cell phones emit a form of radiofrequency electromagnetic waves – the same type of radiation emitted by a microwave oven, although phones operate at a much lower frequency. Much of the difficulty in establishing causality between cancer and mobile phones has to do with the amount of time that it takes for cancer to develop – cell phones have only been in use since 1973, so it is difficult to gauge any long-term adverse effects. The IARC working group’s chairman Dr Jonathan Samet stated that “the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification. The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk.”

Many cell phone manufacturers such as Apple and Blackberry currently warn consumers to keep handheld devices away from the body during use to decrease exposure to electromagnetic radiation – one easy way to do this is to pick up a radiation-cancelling headset such as the Blue Tube or the RF3 ENVi.

World Health Organization

+ International Agency for Research on Cancer

Via Bloomberg and CNN

Images: ElvertBarnes