Is the radiation emitted by cell phones dangerous? Up until now, the go-to answer to this question was “no.” However, now that a pair of studies found “clear evidence” that exposure to radiation caused heart tumors in male rats, scientists aren’t so sure.
Following three days of live-broadcast peer review sessions, experts concluded that two studies, which were conducted by the US National Toxicology program, show undeniable evidence that cell phones play a part in the formation of cancer in male rats.
One study found “some evidence,” whereas the other found “clear evidence” that cell phone radiation caused heart tumors in male rats. As Quarts points out, both are positive results, as the NTP uses the labels “clear evidence,” “some evidence,” “equivocal evidence” and “no evidence” when deciding outcomes.
Tumors were also found in the hearts of the female rats, but their size did not meet the level of statistic significance. As a result, the results were labeled “equivocal.” In other words, the researchers could not determine the cause of the tumors.
As a result of this finding, the debate on whether or not cell phones are harmful has changed. For years, the federal government and cell phone manufacturers assumed that there were no harms to using mobile devices. The theory was that cell phones emit non-ionizing radiation, not the ionizing kind which is associated with x-rays, nuclear power plants, and CT scans. Non-ionizing radiation was believed to not emit enough energy to break chemical bonds, which would damage DNA and lead to mutations. We now know better.
What happens next? The peer-reviewed papers will now be passed along to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The organization is tasked with determining human risk and issuing guidelines to the public. The papers will also be sent to the Federal Communications Commissions which is in charge of setting safety standards for cell phones.
Those who worked on the studies, such as Ronald Melnick, are certain that future studies will conclude at least some risk to humans. Said Melnick, the NTP senior toxicologist who designed the studies, “I can’t see proof of a negative ever arising from future studies.”
Based on the rat studies alone, Melnick believes the FDA should recommend new guidelines for cell phone use. “I would think it would be irresponsible to not put out indications to the public,” he said. “Maintain a distance from this device from your children. Don’t sleep with your phone near your head. Use wired headsets. This would be something that the agencies could do right now.”
Following the peer review sessions, the FDA released a statement saying it would take a “responsible” approach. “We’re not gonna knee-jerk on anything,” said the FDA’s director of the office of science and engineering, Edward Margerrison.
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