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Health Risks From Cell Phones? No Evidence ... Yet

WebMD Health News

May 22, 2001 (Washington) -- A government report Tuesday reiterated that there's no evidence that cell phone use is a health risk -- while at the same time making it clear that there's also not enough evidence to say for sure that cell phones pose no risk.

In other words, we're still on hold for a very important call.

Some fear that long-term exposure to the radiofrequency emissions from cell phones could cause cancer or other ill health effects.

As the ringing mobile phones that are likely around you would testify, cellular use has exploded in recent years. According to the General Accounting Office, or GAO, 110 million Americans are cell phone subscribers, a huge increase from the 16 million cell subscribers in 1994. By 2005, an estimated 1.2 billion people worldwide will be using cell phones

The GAO noted that the FDA, the World Health Organization, and other major health agencies continue to believe that no evidence links cell phones to diseases or other ill effects.

According to the report, "The research to date does not show radiofrequency energy emitted from mobile phones to have adverse health effects but there is not yet enough information to conclude that they pose no risk." The GAO noted that "some studies have raised questions about possible cancer and noncancer effects that require further investigation."

A host of companies sell products to shield phone users from harmful radiation, citing the alleged ill effects of the emissions, but the World Health Organization has said that no shielding device are necessary or of any proven worth.

The GAO produced the report at the request of Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.).

According to Lieberman, "Hopefully, over time, a greater body of scientific evidence will lead to a definitive conclusion and put everyone's anxieties to rest." Until then, he says, "Some consumers may wish to take precautions, such as wearing a headset to keep the antenna away from the head, or avoiding lengthy and frequent conversations on mobile phones. Other consumers may decide the risk is negligible or even nonexistent and will do nothing to change their behavior."

Along similar lines, Jo-Anne Basile, vice president for external and industry relations at the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, or CTIA, tells WebMD, "It's important for consumers to know what the science has said. But you can't stop people from having feelings or emotions, or being worried about things."

She says, "While the science doesn't suggest that there is a risk, if people still remain concerned, there are things that they can do to reduce their exposure."

The GAO, meanwhile, noted that there is no accepted standard for testing whether cell phones comply with federal standards for radiofrequency exposure.

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