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Scientists Warn that Cell Phone Radiation Excites the Brains of Healthy Adults

According to scientists working with Environmental Health Trust (EHT), new studies showing that cell phone radiation excites the brain strengthen the need for a major research program on cell phones and health, revamping approaches to setting standards and putting warnings on cell phones.

Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a team of researchers led by the director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, psychiatrist Nora D. Volkow, M.D., found that just 50 minutes of cell phone radiation significantly affected brain function and metabolism of glucose – the brain’s main fuel – in those parts of the brain that received the most cell phone radiation.

Ronald B. Herberman, M.D., chair of EHT’s Board and a cancer biologist and physician, indicated that this work offers an important clue about the ways that cell phone radiation can alter the brain and also shows why it is appropriate to take special precautions with cell phones today.

“We know that increased glucose also occurs with infections and other inflammatory processes, and leads to the production of potentially damaging reactive oxygen radicals that can alter the ways that cells and genes work,” said Herberman. “This important finding should stimulate many biologists to perform in-depth studies to determine the consequences of such changes in nerve cells or other bodily cells in the region of the radiation. We need to develop a better understanding of how radiofrequency radiation might contribute to increased risk for brain tumors as well as other alterations in brain functions.”

Echoing advice he had issued as director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute in 2008, Herberman noted that this new report provides additional reasons for taking steps to reduce direct exposure to the brain from cell phone radiation.

“We need to take simple precautions to reduce brain exposures to cell phone radiation, while research on the biological impact of exposure to microwave radiation from cell phones is carried out in the meantime,” he said.

Beyond Cancer Concerns

Dr. Devra Lee Davis, president and founder of Environmental Health Trust, also stressed that this new work reinforces the need for revamping our current approach to cell phone safety.

“The current study shows, along with other studies, that there are additional concerns related to cell phone use, besides tumors,” Davis said. “Tumors are just the tip of the iceberg, but their development is preceded by years of other biological perturbations that have profound medical relevance – and this study confirms that significant biological changes occur after relatively brief exposures such as those that take place daily with the world’s five billion cell phones.

“Could the stimulating impact of cell phone radiation to boost brain energy explain some of the growing addiction many of us feel for our phones?” Davis asked. “That is one of the many research questions that should be addressed.”

EHT is working with experts and governments in a number of U.S. cities and states, and in Finland, France, Israel and other countries around the world, to encourage a major independent research program on cell phones and simple precautionary policies in the meantime. Phones should be used with headsets or speakerphones and not kept directly on the body, and children should take special care not to have direct exposures.

“There are now more than 4 billion people, including children, using mobile phones,” wrote professors Elisabeth Cardis and Siegal Sadetzki. “Even a small risk at the individual level could eventually result in a considerable number of tumours and become an important public-health issue. Simple and low-cost measures, such as the use of text messages, hands-free kits and/or the loudspeaker mode of the phone could substantially reduce exposure to the brain from mobile phones. Therefore, until definitive scientific answers are available, the adoption of such precautions, particularly among young people, is advisable.”

Misleading Research

A recent, widely publicized piece in the journal BioElectromagnetics concluded that because the United States and U.K. do not currently have a brain tumor epidemic (from 1998–2007) and cell phones have been in use for a decade, cell phones therefore are safe and there is no need for precaution.

Allan Frey, a well-known expert in the field of bioelectromagnetics, noted the fallacy of this argument. “It is well established in the scientific literature that generally a cancer is not seen until 10 to 30 years after the exposure to an agent,” he said. “In addition, the radio frequency-biological literature shows that cancer is not seen until at least 10 years after the exposure, which is consistent with the rest of the scientific literature.”

Frey added, “The authors analyzed data on brain tumors gathered before most of their study population owned a cell phone. Also, most of their population did not have a cell phone for more than 5 years. Thus, the authors knew or should have known that if cell phones induced or promoted brain cancer, that their study would not have shown it … to conclude that cell phones are safe misreads the science and misleads the people.”

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