Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mobile phones and Public Health Concerns

A highly respected neurosurgeon and cancer expert, Professor Vini Khurana has published what has been described as “the most devastating indictment yet” of the health risks of mobile phones. According to Khurana, mobile phones are far more dangerous than smoking or asbestos. In the study which involved people who have used handsets for more than 10 years, the study concluded that “using handsets for 10 years or more can double the risk of brain cancer”. Since cancers take at least a decade to develop, official safety assurances based on earlier studies involving people who have been using mobile phones for less than 10 years are not really valid.
While Khurana admits that mobiles can save lives in emergences, he believes that the next decade might as well witness brain tumours in people at epidemic proportion unless government and industry take immediate steps to reduce the amount of radiation involved in these modern-day gadgets. Not surprisingly, the Mobile Operators Association did not agree with the findings. The Association dismissed the Khurana's study as "a selective discussion of scientific literature by one individual”. So the politics and uncertainty continue. See full report at http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-wellbeing/health-news/mobile-phones-more-dangerous-than-smoking-or-asbestos-802602.html?r=RSS]. Dr Khurana’s impressive peer-reviewed paper, Mobile Phones and Brain Tumour – A Public Health Concern can be downloaded from http://brain-surgery.us/mobilephone.html.
Similarly, scientists and physicians from academic centres and independent organizations in the USA, Europe and Asia, came together in mid-2007 to form the Bioinitiative Working Group. The group's goal was to document proposals for safer standards regarding public exposure to electromagnetic fields based on their comprehensive review of the literature. Its 610-page Report, which reviewed over 2000 published studies in the area of electromagnetic radiation and health, can be downloaded from (http://www.bioinitiative.org/report/docs/report.pdf)
One may liken the current uncertainties about the hazard posed by microwave radiation from handsets to the situation with ionizing radiation (e.g. x-rays) at the turn of the last century. One big difference however is that whereas in that situation, only a few hundred individuals unintentionally received deadly exposure, (and it was job-related), about 3 billions are simultaneously being exposed today. And the full verdict may not be in till about a decade from now!
Some health issues about mobile handsets are however not being contested anymore. In a recently published study sponsored by the Mobile Manufacturers Forum, representing the main handset companies, it has been conclusively demonstrated that radiation from mobile phones can affect sleep, leading to headache, confusion and other serious medical and social consequences. According to the report published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Progress in Electromagnetics Research Symposium, “using the handsets before bed causes people to take longer to reach the deeper stages of sleep and to spend less time in them, interfering with the body's ability to repair damage suffered during the day.” This should sound an alarm bell for young people who use their phones late at night, especially in view of the free or cheap call rates, offered by most companies at night time. Ironically these young people are the very ones who need a good night sleep most. According to the report, failure to get such needed long and deep sleep can lead to “mood and personality changes, ADHD-like (Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) symptoms, depression, lack of concentration and poor academic performance.”
Read the full Report at
Earlier this year, in January, the French government warned against the use of mobile phones, especially by children. Germany, as well as the European Environment Agency have also called for exposures to be reduced. A statement by the French Ministry of Health, Youth and Sports gave suggestions on how to reduce exposure: "One should use a mobile phone with good judgment, avoid calling when reception is poor, or during high-speed travel, and finally, keep the telephone away from sensitive areas of the body by using a hands-free kit,"

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