Major study confirms cellphone use is safe

MATT STEWART
Last updated 05:00 12/02/2014

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Cellphones do not increase the risks of childhood cancer or leukaemia, a comprehensive study has found.

Fears have long existed that radiofrequency fields from cellphones and towers can cause brain tumours, headaches and cancer, but the British study confirms the international consensus that cellphone use is safe.

Christchurch electromagnetic frequency expert Martin Gledhill, who has been tracking global research into the risks of cellphone use, said the latest findings from Britain's Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR) supported the conclusions of specialist health groups who found no persuasive evidence of health effects from exposure to radiofrequency (RF) fields.

"While it doesn't answer all the questions which have been raised about the safety of RF fields, it provides further reassurance that exposures to the RF fields we encounter day by day are not harmful."

That will be welcome news to Stephen Woodward, a game tester for Wellington mobile phone game company PikPok, who is surrounded by mobile devices and spends about half his day connected to them. "I've never been concerned, but if it turns out it's not bad for you then it's got to be good news."

His boss, Mario Wynands, said health fears were not generally a concern for the 80 or so people who worked there.

"It's one of those questions that's been kicking around in the general population for the past 20 years without any conclusive evidence either way.

"So I guess people just assume the best and move forward. And in this case, it's been the right assumption."

The MTHR report, published yesterday, gathered together more than a decade of exhaustive research and found that exposure to RF fields from cellphone towers during pregnancy does not affect the risk of early childhood cancer, and uncovered no evidence that cellphone use increases the risk of leukaemia.

The modulating of radio signals, which is how mobile phone and wi-fi data are carried, also produces no particular effect on health, the study says.

In December, Te Horo School on the Kapiti Coast decided to switch off wi-fi in its junior classrooms after a survey of parents revealed concerns about radiation exposure.

The MTHR study was jointly funded by the British Government and the telecommunications industry, and was overseen by an independent committee.

Mr Gledhill said that, despite the involvement of the industry, the $27m research programme had strong scientific oversight, and the public could have confidence in the quality and reliability of the results.

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The most common concerns about personal cellphone use were that it increased the risk of brain tumours and caused various symptoms such as headaches, he said. Recent health reviews found no clear, consistent proof of aggravated brain tumour risk.

Although the latest research did not address either issue directly, Britain's Department of Health is funding continued research on the brain tumour question, and previous projects funded by MTHR did not support the idea that exposure caused any symptoms.

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