Just How Safe Are Cellular Phones?
Still, the commission said there was no evidence that cell phone use causes cancer or Alzheimer's disease. "They dismissed all that," Clark says.
The Stewart Commission's report is "just one piece of a larger puzzle," says cell phone industry spokeswoman Jo-Anne Basile. "In the vast majority of scientific studies on cell phones, no adverse health effects were reported," she tells WebMD. Basile is vice president of extra and industry relations for the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association.
"The Stewart report is up front about stating there is no scientific basis for restricting cell phones for children," Basile says. "Parents should feel confident in knowing there is no scientific evidence in that recommendation."
Admitting that the studies cited in the report "raise some issues," Basile tells WebMD that "there continues to be ongoing research looking at those results." In the next six months, she says, the National Cancer Institute plans to announce the results of an epidemiological study it has been conducting for the last few years.
A recent report by the Royal Society of Canada concluded that under normal use, there is no evidence that radiofrequency fields -- the electromagnetic waves sent out by sound devices such as cell phones -- pose a health risk. But, the report says, the existing scientific evidence is inadequate to rule out the possibility that cell phones could cause adverse health effects.
Among scientists, there's been frustration in researching cell phone safety, says Jeffrey Fitzsimmons, PhD, a radiology professor in the University of Florida's Brain Institute in Gainesville.
In studying such health issues, scientists look for patterns -- and there have been none in cell phone studies, says Fitzsimmons. "The fundamental problem in this whole field is that too many experiments have been done, and each experiment is different. People don't get the same results, so they try something else. There are lots of experiments going on, but there's very little constructive development of findings that point to something understandable."
Keep it in perspective, he advises. Statistically speaking, the risk of any type of cancer is relatively small -- even more so for rare forms of brain cancer. Risk increases as people age, and with other variables. "Cell phone risk is relatively small, compared to other health risks, like drinking heavily, smoking cigarettes, and exposing yourself to a lot of solar radiation," he says.