The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) today announced that it had concluded cell phones could “possibly” be carcinogenic. The World Health Organization, which references research on cancer from the IARC in its announcements, concurred with the agency’s findings.
From May 24-31 2011, a group of 31 scientists from 14 countries met at IARC in Lyon, France, to assess the potential carcinogenic hazards from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. The assessments will be published as Volume 102 of the IARC monographs.
In its conclusion, the group appeared to be acting out of prudence. Dr. Jonathan Samet of the University of Southern California, overall chairman of the Working Group, wrote that “there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk.”
The IARC called for additional research to be conducted into the long term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, the agency advised that it is “important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands-free devices or texting.”
CTIA downplayed the news, saying there was still no solid evidence that cell phones cause cancer.
“IARC conducts numerous reviews and in the past has given the same score to, for example, pickled vegetables and coffee,” wrote John Walls, vice president of public affairs for CTIA. “This IARC classification does not mean cellphones cause cancer. Under IARC rules, limited evidence from statistical studies can be found even though bias and other data flaws may be the basis for the results.”
Walls noted that the IARC Working Group did not conduct any new research, but rather reviewed published studies, adding that based on previous assessments of the scientific evidence, both the FCC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have concluded that the weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems.
In June of last year, CTIA announced that it would pull its annual CTIA Enterprise and Applications show from San Francisco after the city passed an ordinance requiring retailers to display the amount of radiofrequency energy emitted by wireless devices.
CTIA said the ordinance was misleading to consumers, suggesting that some phones are safer than others, when in fact all cell phones are required to comply with guidelines set forth by the FCC that determine a maximum Specific Absorption Rate (SAR).
A report summarizing the main conclusions of the IARC Working Group and the evaluations of RF electromagnetic fields (including the use of mobile phones) will be published in The Lancet Oncology in its July 1 issue and in a few days online.
Filed Under: Industry regulations