Tuesday, October 15, 2013

French Health Agency: Cell Phone Radiation Warnings

In a major public announcement today, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health warned the public to reduce their exposure to cell phone radiation.

The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health, ANSES, announced today the results of a two-year review by an expert Working Group of the scientific research on the risks related to exposure to radiofrequency (RF) radiation.  (1)

“This update has not brought to light any proven health effect and does not result in any proposed new maximum exposure limits for the population. However, limited levels of evidence do point to different biological effects in humans or animals. In addition, some publications suggest a possible increased risk of brain tumour, over the long term, for heavy users of mobile phones. Given this information, and against a background of rapid development of technologies and practices, ANSES recommends limiting the population’s exposure to radiofrequencies – in particular from mobile phones – especially for children and intensive users, and controlling the overall exposure that results from relay antennas.”
“The findings of this expert appraisal are therefore consistent with the classification of radiofrequencies proposed by the World Health Organization’s International  Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as "possibly carcinogenic" for heavy users of mobile phones.In addition, the expert appraisal nevertheless shows, with limited levels of evidence, different biological effects in humans or animals, some of which had already been reported in 2009: these can affect sleep, male fertility or cognitive performance.” (pg. 2)

Due to the health concerns raised by the expert Working Group, ANSES made the following recommendations:

"Therefore, to limit exposure to radiofrequencies, especially in the most vulnerable population groups, the Agency recommends:

- for intensive adult mobile phone users (in talk mode): use of hands-free kits and more generally, for all users, favouring the purchase of phones with the lowest SAR values;

- reducing the exposure of children by encouraging only moderate use of mobile phones;

- continuing to improve characterisation of population exposure in outdoor and indoor environments through the use of measurement campaigns;

- that the development of new mobile phone network infrastructures be subject to prior studies concerning the characterisation of exposures, and an in-depth study be conducted of the consequences of possibly multiplying the number of relay antennas in order to reduce levels of environmental exposure;

- documenting the conditions pertaining at those existing installations causing the highest exposure of the public and investigating in what measure these exposures can be reduced by technical means.

- that all common devices emitting electromagnetic fields intended for use near the body (DECT telephones, tablet computers, baby monitors, etc.) display the maximum level of exposure generated (SAR, for example), as is already the case for mobile phones."  (pg. 3)

The Agency further recommends that children’s exposure should be reduced “by encouraging only moderate use of mobile phones, ideally with hands-free kits and mobile terminals with the lowest SAR values.”

The Agency expressed concern about the potential impact of widespread adoption of 4G, the latest cell phone technology, as this will result in increased overall exposure of the population to microwave radiation.

The Agency recommends that current regulations for cell phones concerning exposure of the population to RF radiation be extended to other devices (e.g cordless phones, tablet computers, baby monitors, etc.), and that these devices display the maximum level of RF radiation generated as is the case with cell phones (e.g., the SAR).

The Agency adopted the recommendations of the Working Group to monitor public exposures to RF radiation and to facilitate research on the long-term health effects of RF exposure, especially from cell phones. 

The issue of hypersensitivity to electromagnetic radiation will be addressed by another expert appraisal that will begin later this year.

Because the Working Group’s review included research published through the end of 2012, it excluded several major studies published this year in peer-reviewed journals. The Group may have adopted stronger recommendations had they reviewed the following studies:

  • In a new case-control study from Sweden, Lennart Hardell and colleagues reported additional evidence for increased brain tumor risk associated with long-term cell phone use—a three-fold risk for glioma was found among those who used cell phones or cordless phones for 25 or more years. (2) 
  • A 2-½ fold increased risk for acoustic neuroma was reported for women in a cohort study in the UK among those who used cell phones for 10 or more years. (3) 
  • Children in a cohort study in South Korea who used cell phones and were exposed to lead were at greater risk of developing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder than lead-exposed children who did not use cell phones. (4)  
  • In a study conducted in China, 30 minutes' exposure to 4G (LTE) cell phone radiation was sufficient to affect brain activity on both sides of adults' brains. (5)


(1) Press Kit. Update of the "Radiofrequencies and Health" expert appraisal.  Oct 15, 2013. http://bit.ly/19MexVc.

(2) “Brain Cancer Risk Increases with the Amount of Wireless Phone Use: Study.” Sep 25, 2013. http://www.prlog.org/12216483

(3) “Cell Phone Use, Acoustic Neuroma and Cancer of the Pituitary Gland.” May 10, 2013. http://www.prlog.org/12135511

(4) “Children's Cell Phone Use May Increase Their Risk of ADHD.” Apr 2, 2013.  http://www.prlog.org/12110138

(5) “LTE Cell Phone Radiation Affects Brain Activity in Cell Phone Users.” Sep 23, 2013. http://www.prlog.org/12215083

Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Family and Community Health
School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley

Electromagnetic Radiation Safety
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