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Cellphone radiation likely causes no harm to humans but there's no evidence

03 February 2018

An intriguing new government research project examines whether cell phones cause cancer.

Male rats exposed to very high levels of the kind of radiation emitted by cellphones developed tumours in the tissues around their hearts, according to a draft report by USA government researchers on the potential health risks of the devices.

The experiment involved placing rats and mice into special chambers and exposing them to different levels of radiation that mimic 2G and 3G phones, which were standard when the study was launched, for 9 hours a day. Radiation exposure began in utero and continued for 2 years.

"So, these findings should not be directly extrapolated to human cell phone usage", John Bucher, NTP senior scientist, said in a statement on Friday.

The long-awaited results of a $25 million National Institutes of Health study on the effects of cellphone radio frequency radiation exposure on animals is out, and the results are mixed.

"These studies were complex and technically challenging, but they provide the most comprehensive assessment, to date, of health effects in rats and mice from exposure to RFR", said Bucher.

Tumours called malignant schwannomas were found in the hearts of male rats exposed to radiation beyond normal levels emitted by phones.

The NTP cautioned against connecting the study's findings with how a human body reacted to cell phone radiation, although did say their findings were similar to some studies of humans.

Scientists do not know why only male rats and not females develop the heart tumors, but Dr. Bucher said one possibility is simply that the males are bigger and absorb more of the radiation.

Brawley said if cellphone users are concerned about this data in animals they should wear an earpiece.

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The new reports were based on data from two years of study pursued in a quest to determine whether cellphones - our main source of exposure to radiofrequency radiation - are emitting waves that increase our risk of cancer. In particular, scientists could not find hard evidence for concern about brain tumors.

However, the levels and duration of exposure to the radiation in the studies were much greater than what people experience with even the highest level of mobile phone use, and exposed the rodents' whole bodies, the draft report from the US National Toxicology Program noted.

Bucher said the effect likely only showed up in the male rats because they were larger, and likely absorbed more radiation than the female rats or mice.

It is said that the ionizing radiation can result in DNA damage that can cause cancer but the radiation from the cellphones does not work that way.

He said the findings are meant to help inform the design of future cell phone technologies. Based on limited research that shows a potentially elevated risk of schwannomas near the brain in people, the International Agency for Research on Cancer now lists radio-frequency fields as "possibly carcinogenic to humans".

"Even with frequent daily use by the vast majority of adults, we have not seen an increase in events like brain tumors", he said in a statement. The schwannoma evidence is "the strongest cancer finding in our study", said Bucher.

The CTIA, the trade association representing AT&T Incorporation, Verizon Communications Incorporation, Apple Incorporation, Sprint Corporation, DISH Network Corporation, and others, said on Friday that previous studies have shown cellphone Radio Frequency energy emissions have no known heath risks.

The new reports are still considered drafts, and the NTP plans to have outside experts review them next month.

Samsung and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Cellphone radiation likely causes no harm to humans but there's no evidence