results from Swedish study
In November 1999 "What's New Archive", there is a report
on a Swedish study of brain tumours and cellular phone use, by Hardell
and his colleagues. In a new paper these authors, using the same
study group, now include information on a variety of exposures and
reanalyse the data on cellular phone use.
found that exposure to ionising radiation, work in laboratories,
and work in the chemical industry was associated with an increased
risk of brain tumours. Use of a cellular phone was associated with
an increased risk in the brain area with highest exposure. Since
the subjects are exactly the same as in the previous paper, similar
criticisms can be levelled against this study as were made with
the first one. The results are based on a very small number (13
cases), which increases the possibility that these results were
due to chance variation. It appears that not all patients with brain
tumours in the region were included in the study, raising the possibility
that the study group was not representative of all brain tumour
L, Nasman A, Phalson A, Hallquist A. Case control study on radiology
work, medical x-ray investigations, and use of cellular telephones
as risk factors for brain tumours. Med Gen Med, May 4, 2000 (Available
then search for "cellular telephones and brain tumors"
Expert Group issues its report
In February, 2000, "What's New" discussed the establishment
by the UK Minister for Public Health of an Independent Expert Group
on Mobile Phones. This body issued its report on May 11.
They state in
their summary that "the balance of evidence to date suggests
that exposures to RF radiation below NRPB and ICNIRP guidelines
do not cause adverse health effects to the general population."
In one area the Expert Group comes to the conclusion that the use
of mobile phones can be hazardous - i.e. while driving a vehicle.
They recommend "that drivers should be dissuaded from using
either hand-held or hands-free phones whilst on the move."
They go on to state "There is now scientific evidence, however,
which suggests that there may be biological effects occurring at
exposures below these guidelines. This does not necessarily mean
that these effects lead to disease or injury." These conclusions
are in accord with the findings of the Royal Society of Canada Expert
Panel, which reported in May, 1999 (pages 6 -13). (To access the
Royal Society Report, go to www.rsc.ca).
the Group points out that it is conceivable that there could be
some people with a genetic predisposition to unusual susceptibility
to an environmental factor such as RF radiation, or that age could
be a modifying factor. They "conclude, therefore, that it is
not possible at present to say that exposure to RF radiation, even
at levels below national guidelines, is totally without potential
adverse health effects, and that the gaps in knowledge are sufficient
to justify a precautionary approach."
to base stations, the Expert Group states: "We conclude that
the balance of evidence indicates that there is no general risk
to the health of people living near to base stations on the basis
that exposures are expected to be small fractions of guidelines".
This is also in agreement with the conclusions of the Royal Society
of Canada Expert Panel, which said "Because of the low field
strengths associated with public exposure to RF fields from wireless
telecommunications base station transmitters, neither biological
nor adverse health effects are likely to occur" (page 10).
For Industry Canada guidelines for base stations, see http://strategis.ic.gc.ca
The Expert Group
goes on to make a number of recommendations, focussing on five areas
- advice to Government; advice to industry; research requirements;
the need for better public information and consumer choice; and
the role of NRPB.
The full report
is available at www.iegmp.org.uk
of the UK Government to the report can be found at www.doh.gov.uk/mobile.htm
Medical Journal carried an editorial on the Stewart Report.
Reference: Maier M, Blakemore C, Koivisto
M. The health hazards of mobile phones. BMJ 2000:320;1288-1289.
There was also
a commentary in Science on the report.
Reference: Foster KR, Repacholi M, Vecchia
P. Science and the precautionary principle. Science 2000;288:979-981.