Is there a connection between certain health problems and exposure to radiofrequency fields via cell phone use?
The results of most studies conducted to date indicate that there is not. In addition, attempts to replicate and confirm the few studies that did show a connection have failed.
According to current data, the FDA believes that the weight of scientific evidence does not show an association between exposure to radiofrequency from cell phones and adverse health outcomes. Still, there is consensus that additional research is warranted to address gaps in knowledge, such as the effects of cell phone use over the long-term and on pediatric populations.
The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer Classified Radiofrequency Fields as Possibly Carcinogenic to Humans on May 31, 2011.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), through the Monographs program, seeks to identify environmental factors that can increase the risk of cancer in humans. IARC uses the following categories to classify environmental agents:
Group 1: Carcinogenic to humans.
Group 2A: Probably carcinogenic to humans.
Group 2B: Possibly carcinogenic to humans.
Group 3: Not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans.
Group 4: Probably not carcinogenic to humans.
IARC has classified radiofrequency fields in Group 2B, possibly carcinogenic to humans.
IARC interprets the 2B classification as meaning there is limited evidence showing radiofrequency carcinogenicity in humans and less than sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.
For perspective, IARC has classified the following other agents as "possibly carcinogenic to humans":
- Extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields (power line frequency)
- Talc-based body powder
A complete list of agents classified by IARC Monographs Vol. 1 – 100 can be found at http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Classification/ClassificationsGroupOrder.pdf
The FDA continues to monitor research developments in exposure to radiofrequency fields.
Significant Ongoing Studies
International Cohort Study on Mobile Phone Users (COSMOS)
The COSMOS study aims to conduct long-term health monitoring of a large group of people to determine if there are any health issues linked with long-term exposure to radiofrequency energy from cell phone use. The COSMOS study will follow approximately 300,000 adult cell phone users in Europe for 20 to 30 years. Additional information about the COSMOS study can be found at http://www.ukcosmos.org/index.html.
Risk of brain cancer from exposure to radiofrequency fields in childhood and adolescence (MOBI-KIDS)
MOBI-KIDS is an international study investigating the relationship between exposure to radiofrequency energy from communication technologies, including cell phones, and brain cancer in young people. This is an international, multi-center study involving 14 European and non-European countries. Additional information about MOBI-KIDS can be found at http://www.creal.cat/programes-recerca/en_projectes-creal/view.php?ID=39
Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program of the National Cancer Institute
The SEER Program of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) actively follows cancer statistics in the United States. If cell phones play a role in increasing the risk of brain cancer, rates would be expected to increase. However, between 1987 and 2008, SEER data shows that despite the sharp increase in heavy cell phone use in the U.S., the overall age-adjusted incidence of brain cancer did not increase. Additional information about SEER can be found at http://seer.cancer.gov/.
Cell Phone Industry Actions
Although the existing scientific data do not support a change in FDA regulation of cell phones, the FDA has urged the cell phone industry to take a number of steps, including:
- Support additional research on possible biological effects of radiofrequency fields for the type of signal emitted by cell phones;
- Improve cell phone design by minimizing radiofrequency exposure to the user; and
- Cooperate in providing cell phone users with the latest scientific information on health concerns caused by radiofrequency exposure.
The FDA also is working with voluntary standard setting bodies such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and others to assure that safety standards continue to adequately protect the public.