Nov 12, 2011

Mobile phones could be 'health time bomb'

The debate over whether mobile phones could cause cancer has been raging for years. Now, a group of leading scientists in Britain claims that cellphones could be a "health time bomb".

According to them, more than 200 academic studies have linked the use of mobile phones with serious health conditions such as brain tumours.

In fact, in their research report, the scientists point to several studies linking long-term mobile phone use to development of a rare brain tumour called a glioma, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

A 2008 Swedish study suggested children who use mobile phones are five times more likely to develop it, they have claimed.

Other peer-reviewed studies have found inconclusive links to low sperm counts, behavioural problems in children whose mothers used them during pregnancy, and damage to brain cells, according to the scientists.

One of the report's authors, consultant neurosurgeon Kevin O'Neill of the Charing Cross Hospital, said the latency period for brain tumours is 30 years, so it is possible the consequences of phone use are not yet apparent. "Waiting for certainty of harm is a dangerous policy," he said.

Another author, Prof Denis Henshaw of Bristol University advocates cigarette-style warnings on mobile phone packets.

He said: "Vast numbers of people are using mobile phones and they could be a time bomb of health problems -- not just brain tumours, but also fertility, which would be a serious public health issue."

Even the World Health Organisation admitted in June that mobiles may cause cancer, and advised "pragmatic" measures to reduce exposure such as using hands-free kits.

Although the scientists concede the links are not proven, they say the UK government is underplaying the potentially "enormous" health risks -- especially for children, whose smaller thinner skulls are more susceptible to radiation.

Their report states: "Both the Government and phone companies could very easily do far more to alert the public, particularly children, to emerging risks and safety measures."

However, industry experts are not convinced. David Spiegelhalter, professor of risk management at Cambridge University, said: "Public health campaigns have a cost. With no evidence of current harm, then they can lessen trust in science and increase anxiety."

John Cooke, executive director of the Mobile Operators Association, said that devices sold in the UK are subject to "rigorous testing" and must comply with EU rules on radiation protection drawn up in 2000.

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