Cell phone health issues--the war of words drags on

The Interphone Study was established to comprehensively provide an answer to any link between RF exposure from mobile phones and associated cancer risks. The project, which has attracted around €35 million of funds from 13 countries, was formed in 1999 and has yet to produce its report.

During the intervening years there have been numerous studies conducted by the cellular industry - which some health activists would label as biased - and government agencies, which again have been viewed as a conspiracy given that the wireless industry contributes enormous amounts of tax revenues. However, it would appear that, despite the efforts to establish if a link exists between cell phones and cancer, the case remains unproven.

Unfortunately Interphone, which has involved many highly reputable scientific institutions and researchers, seems unable to come to a conclusion with those caught up in and split by passionately held views. These broadly follow lines that cell phones absolutely do cause cancer, they might do, or they definitely don't.

And this is after spending €35 million studying the issue over close to 10 years.

Part of the problem, and not wanting to underestimate the difficulty of proving a link, apparently stems back to the early days of the study. Those involved designed a set of guidelines for the many researchers spread around the globe to follow. While this is a very reasonable approach, the inflexibility of these ‘protocols' to add new dimensions, such as the upsurge in use of Wi-Fi and DECT phones, has raised questions over some of the early findings.

A pressure group - comprising Powerwatch, the Radiation Research Trust and the US-based EMR Policy Institute, is now claiming that the Interphone Study has eleven design flaws and is skewed to greatly underestimating brain tumour risk.

The group maintains that Interphone has excluded many types of brain tumours and those that have died of this illness, or were too ill to be interviewed as a consequence of their brain tumour and, vitally, failed to include children and young adults, who are more vulnerable.

So, yet more words from a newly formed group of experts with strongly held views.

Undoubtedly, any cancer link is of critical importance to the industry and consumers, and with cell phones having been around for over 20 years, surely there should be adequate factual evidence to provide an answer. -Paul

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