Surprise! Cell phones give you cancer! … possibly.

A panel of scientists at the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, IARC, has given the media a new chance to write inflammatory headlines designed to frighten you.

Thirty-one scientists from 14 countries identified electromagnetic radiation emitted from cell phones as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” during the conference, which was hosted in Lyon.

If the vague threat of brain cancer has you worried, read on. Environment News Service has the less-than-horrifying details:

The scientists analyzed the exposure data, the studies of cancer in humans, the studies of cancer in experimental animals, and other relevant data.

The evidence was reviewed critically, and overall evaluated as being “limited” among users of wireless telephones for glioma and acoustic neuroma, and “inadequate” to draw conclusions for other types of cancers.

The evidence from the occupational and environmental exposures was also judged inadequate. The Working Group did not quantfy the risk; however, one study of past cell phone use, up to the year 2004, showed a 40 percent increased risk for gliomas in the highest category of heavy users who talked on their cell phones an average of 30 minutes per day over a 10-year period.”

FYI a glioma is science speak for brain tumour.

Apparently there’s a wireless lobby now, an agency called the CTIA-The Wireless Association. They were all about the damage control:

“The IARC working group did not conduct any new research, but rather reviewed published studies. Based on previous assessments of the scientific evidence, the Federal Communications Commission has concluded that ‘[t]here’s no scientific evidence that proves that wireless phone usage can lead to cancer.’ The Food and Drug Administration has also stated that ‘[t]he weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems.”

IARC director Chris Wild is calling for further studies and research.  In the meantime: try hands-free and texting.

Lyon hosted a major scientific conference, but where have all the French scientists gone? Read about it in the latest issue of the Carnet Atlantique.

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