Researchers have reported evidence that cell phone radiation has a variety of alarming biological effects, which are sure to fuel concerns about whether or not phones impact human health.
Scientists reportedly found that GSM signals fragmented insect DNA in ovarian cells, that a brief “mild electromagnetic field” affects bone formation in fetuses, and that cell phone-frequency radiation increased the permeability of the blood-brain barrier in young adult male rats.
These findings were reported in a press release issued by the Environmental Health Trust, which notes that the rat brains can be “used to correspond to the brains of human teenagers.”
“This work provides a warning signal to all of us,” said Professor Wilhelm Mosgoeller from the Medical University of Vienna. “The evidence justifies precautionary measures to reduce the risks for everyone of us.”
Although teenagers do share more than a few qualities with young male rats, rodents remain imperfect models of humans. The other research findings, while potentially interesting, appear to be in-vitro studies of isolated cells. Proving biological effects of radiation on cells is useful in determining the ways radiation might impact humans in the real world, but it does not directly prove much beyond the experimental criteria.
It’s unclear whether the research has been published in peer-reviewed journals: if it has not, additional salt must be added to interpreting the findings.
Substantial research into potential health effects of cell phone use on humans has been conducted, and there is no conclusive proof of danger. Some studies have found possible links between phone use and cancer, but the findings are weakened by limitations that make results difficult to interpret. Many studies have found no effects at all. Some, highlighting the difficulties of studying statistically rare events, have even found that phones reduce cancer risk.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found a link between cell phone use and increased glucose metabolism in the brain, which, like other studies finding biological effects, may or may not imply a health effect.
The bottom line is that nobody knows if cells phones are bad for us, but there is always the possibility that they are. Though brain cancer rates are not increasing, it’s also true that cancer can take a long time to manifest, and that people are using phones much more intensively now than a decade ago.
The “precautionary principle” suggest that even if chances of negative health effects are low, it makes sense to offset them by avoiding unnecessary exposure to risk. To that end, it can’t hurt to use phones with headsets or speakerphone mode whenever convenient.