Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Call for Action to Reduce Mobile Phone Radiation

The European Environment Agency published a major report to alert governments about the need to attend to early warning signs about technology health risks, including mobile phones.

The 750-page volume, “Late Lessons from Early Warnings,” which includes twenty new case studies, has major implications for policy, science and society.  Although the report was prepared by the European Environment Agency to provide guidance to the EU nations, its implications are global. (1)

Brain tumor risk associated with cell phone use is addressed in one of the report's chapters.  (2) The World Health Organization (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) classification of this form of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) as "possibly carcinogenic", or cancer causing, is highlighted.

The report reviews the research that has found increased brain tumor risk associated with long term mobile phone use. The authors note that governments and industry have been slow to respond to IARC’s precautionary warnings in May, 2011, and urges policy makers to respond to early warnings more quickly.  It argues that industries that cause future harm must pay for the damage and suggests that taking early precautions "can stimulate rather than stifle innovation."

The report accuses the mobile phone industry of “inertia in considering the various studies and taking the IARC carcinogenic classification into account,” criticizes the media for not “providing the public with robust and consistent information on potential health risks,” and attacks governments for shirking “their responsibilities to protect public health from this widespread source of radiation.” 
Although the report acknowledges the many benefits of mobile phones to society, it recommends the need for precautionary actions to reduce cell phone radiation exposures to minimize the extent and seriousness of health risks to the brain and other organs of the body.

The report makes four specific recommendations about cell phones:

a.       Governments, the mobile phone industry, and the public should take all reasonable measures to reduce EMR exposure, especially from mobile phones, particularly exposure to children and young adults who are likely at greatest risk for brain and salivary gland tumors. The report recommends texting, use of hands-free devices, and improved design of phones to generate less radiation and make hands-free use more convenient.
b.      Governments should reconsider the scientific basis for the present exposure standards “which have serious limitations such as reliance on the contested thermal effects paradigm; and simplistic assumptions about the complexities of radio frequency exposures.” Bioeffects have been found for exposures considerably less than the FCC's legal limit allows.
c.       Mobile phones should be required to have effective labeling and warnings about potential risks for users. San Francisco is the first municipal government in the U.S. to adopt such legislation, but the CTIA (wireless industry association), has blocked implementation of the law in court arguing that it violates the industry's free speech rights.
d.      Adequate funding should be provided for the “urgently needed research into the health effects of phones” and base stations.  Funding could include industry grants and a small fee on the purchase and/or use of mobile phones.   A nickel a month collected on each cell phone subscription in the U.S. would generate sufficient funds to undertake the needed training and research to head off this potential epidemic.

It is time for the U.S. to end its decades of denial and assume a leadership role in adopting precautionary measures to reduce the potential harms associated with exposure to mobile phone radiation. (3)  Otherwise we may face a steep price in terms of preventable health care costs, lost productivity, reduced survival and quality of life.
For more information about the health risks of cell phone radiation and other forms of EMR see the new BioInitiative Report at and the news releases and commentary on this web site at .

(1)   “The cost of ignoring the warning signs - EEA publishes ‘Late Lessons from Early Warnings, volume II’ “

New technologies have sometimes had very harmful effects, but in many cases the early warning signs have been suppressed or ignored. The second volume of Late Lessons from Early Warnings investigates specific cases where danger signals have gone unheeded, in some cases leading to deaths, illness and environmental destruction.

News Release, European Environment Agency,  Jan 23, 2013. URL:

(2) Lennart Hardell, Michael Carlberg, and David Gee. “Mobile phone use and brain tumour risk: early warnings, early actions?” Chapter 21 in Part C-Emerging Issues. “Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation.” European Environment Agency. EEA Report No 1/2013. Pp. 541-561. January 23, 2013.

 The full 750 page report is available at:

(3)  Joel M. Moskowitz. "Comments on the 2012 GAO Report: 'Exposure and Testing Requirements for Mobile Phones Should Be Reassessed.'”