Report Stirs Debate on Cell Phone Safety
Environmental Working Group Warns of Health Risks; Other Experts Disagree
WebMD News Archive
Sept. 9, 2009 -- Recent scientific studies linking cell phone use with
health effects such as brain cancer are showing increasing evidence of harm,
according to a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a public health
advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.
However, other experts roundly criticized the report as a one-sided effort
that focuses only on evidence linking mobile phone use with ill health effects
while ignoring studies that found no ill effects.
Even so, EWG scientists say there is cause for concern. ''Recent studies are
showing a 50% to 90% increased risk for two types of brain tumors -- gliomas
and acoustic neuromas -- among people who have used cell phones for at least 10
years," says Jane Houlihan, EWG's senior vice president for research.
"Studies in the past few years are showing a higher risk for brain tumors,"
she tells WebMD, prompting the EWG to review the scientific literature and
issue its report, which also urges the federal government to require that
mobile phones be labeled with radiation emission, among other actions.
Still, Houlihan tells WebMD, "The science certainly isn't definitive. The
question of whether cell phone use causes tumors and cancer is considered to be
More than 4 billion people worldwide use mobile phones, according to the
report, which analyzed more than 200 peer-reviewed studies, government
advisories, and industry documents.
In the review of scientific evidence, EWG scientists found recent studies
linking cell phone radiation to:
- Brain tumors, specifically gliomas and acoustic neuromas.
- Tumors of the salivary gland. In one study, an increased risk of 50% to 60%
was found among those who used cell phones the most.
- Behavioral problems. In one study of more than 13,000 Danish children, an
80% increased risk for emotional problems and hyperactivity was found for young
children who used cell phones and for those born to women who used them while
- Migraines and vertigo. In a study of more than 420,000 Danish adults,
long-term mobile phone users were 10% to 20% more likely to be admitted to the
hospital for vertigo or migraine, compared to those who used cell phone for