Several years ago a caller to "The Larry King Show" claimed he got a brain tumor from using his cell phone. It set off a nationwide frenzy about the safety of cell phones. Things died down after the claim was discredited. But a new study that says cell phones may be more dangerous than we think could whip up those fears again.
A group called the International EMF Collaborative issued a report titled "Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern." The lead author of the report did not mince words with the Los Angeles Times: "Cell phones are causing brain tumors."
Lloyd Morgan, a retired electronics engineer, went on to say, "Industry-backed studies try to hide that fact. But if you read them carefully, you can see there are risks."
The study, which calls the risk of brain tumors from regular use of cellphones "significant," says kids are at greater risk than adults because their still-developing brain cells are more vulnerable to electromagnetic radiation that come from holding a cell phone to your ear.
More than 40 scientists and officials from 14 countries have publicly endorsed the findings of Morgan's report.
Morgan said he doesn't expect cell phones to be banned. But what he would like to see is speakers removed from phones, so people would have to listen through earplugs, thus keeping the phone, and potential radiation, away from their heads.
He would also like to see cigarette-style warnings on cell phones, telling users that talking on the phone can be hazardous to their health. "Not everyone who smokes three packs a day gets lung cancer," he said. "Not everyone who uses a cellphone will get brain cancer. But everyone who does is at higher risk."
While the merits of this research is debated, the world waits for results of a decade-long study on cell phone safety. Dubbed "Interphone," it's release has been delayed for years, as researchers argue over how to interpret the data. Some say the findings show a clear link between long-term cellphone use and brain tumors. Others are not so sure.
The $24-million Interphone study was funded in part by the wireless industry, which some say has been pressuring researchers to soft-pedal some of the report's more troublesome findings, such as indications that using a cellphone for more than 10 years may increase your cancer risk.
So far, reputable health groups such as The World Health Organization and the National Cancer Institute say there is no conclusive link between cell phones and brain tumors. The Cancer Institute, in fact, says rates for brain cancer have held relatively steady for the last decade, as cell phone use has exploded.
But according to the Illinois-based Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States, the leading database of brain cancer cases, there has been an increase in some types of tumors. Carol Kruchko, president of the registry, said scientists are still trying to determine the reason for the increase.
CTIA -- the Wireless Assn., a U.S. industry group, insists that cellphones pose no danger to users. "The peer-reviewed scientific evidence has overwhelmingly indicated that wireless devices do not pose a public health risk," said John Walls, a spokesman for the association. "In addition, there is no known mechanism for microwave energy within the limits established by the FCC to cause any adverse health effects."