U.K. Agency Unable to Link Cell Phones and Health Problems

A new report by the United Kingdom Health Protection Agency's (HPA) independent Advisory Group on Non-ionizing Radiation (ACNIR) concluded, "The evidence suggests that RF field exposure below guideline levels does not cause symptoms in humans and that the presence of RF fields cannot be detected by people, including those who report being sensitive to RF fields."

I have previously reported on studies that claimed to show a link between cell phone use and brain tumors. The ACNIR report found, "Overall, the results of studies have not demonstrated that the use of mobile phones causes brain tumors or any other type of cancer."

Regarding people who work at transmitter sites and are exposed to higher levels of RF, the report says, "Studies of other RF field exposures, such as those at work and from RF transmitters, have been more limited but have not given evidence that cancer is caused by these exposures."

Professor Anthony Swerdlow, Chairman of the advisory group, commented, "There are still limitations to the published research that preclude a definitive judgment, but the evidence overall has not demonstrated any adverse effects on human health from exposure to radiofrequency fields below internationally accepted guideline levels."

A copy of the report (3.4 MB PDF), Health Effects from Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields is available for download. The report totals more than 300 pages, covering exposure from RF emitters across the spectrum through 60 GHz, and including devices ranging from full body scanners and traffic radar to radio-controlled toys and baby monitors.

The HPA Response to the Report makes this comment about people who say they are affected by weak RF fields. "AGNIR concludes there is increasing evidence that RF fields below guideline levels do not cause symptoms and cannot be detected by people, even those who consider themselves sensitive to RF fields. HPA agrees with AGNIR that this does not undermine the importance of the symptoms that are experienced, but it does suggest causes other than those directly related to RF fields should be considered. HPA published a review of the public health aspects of this condition in 2005 and this which included comments on the management of affected individuals and evaluation of treatment options."

Does this mean we don't have to worry about RF exposure?

The HPA urges caution: "HPA's view is that the continuing possibility of: (a) biological effects, although not apparently harmful, occurring at exposure levels within the ICNIRP guidelines, and (b) the limited information regarding cancer effects in the long term, together support continuation of the U.K.'s long-standing precautionary approach to mobile phones. While technology has developed substantially over the ten years since the IEGMP report, the principles behind the IEGMP recommendations should continue to be observed. Excessive use of mobile phones by children should be discouraged, while adults should make their own choices as to whether they wish to reduce their exposures, but be enabled to do this from an informed position."

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.