Last year, I shared with you the findings of several studies that determined a link between cell phone radiation exposure and malignant brain tumors in a 3 part series on cell phones and cancer:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Now, the Radiation World Health Organization asserts that radiation from cell phones can possibly cause cancer. The agency now lists mobile phone use in the same “carcinogenic hazard” category as engine exhaust, chloroform and lead.

Prior to this new announcement, the, WHO had assured consumers that there were no adverse health effects.

A team of 31 scientists from across the globe ( 14 countries, including the United States), made the determination after reviewing peer-reviewed studies on cell phone safety. They identified sufficient evidence to categorize personal exposure as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

In particular, they found some evidence of increase in glioma and acoustic neuroma brain cancer for mobile phone users, but at this time cannot make a connection between it and other forms of cancer.

The type of radiation emitted from a cell phone is called non-ionizing, and is similar to that emitted from  a very low-powered microwave oven.

Keith Black, MD, a well known neurosurgeon, chairman of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles sums the risks of cell phone radiation very succinctly and  profoundly-“What microwave radiation does in most simplistic terms is similar to what happens to food in microwaves, essentially cooking the brain.

“So in addition to leading to a development of cancer and tumors, there could be a whole host of other effects like cognitive memory function, since the memory temporal lobes are where we hold our cell phones.

“The biggest problem we have is that we know most environmental factors take several decades of exposure before we really see the consequences.”

The European Environmental Agency has called for additional research.  The organization indicated that cell phones could be as big a public health risk as smoking, asbestos and leaded gasoline.  Interestingly,  a  prominent cancer-research institute director at the University of Pittsburgh sent a memo to all employees encouraging them to limit cell phone use because of a possible risk of cancer.

When you look at cancer development — particularly brain cancer — it takes a long time to develop. I think it is a good idea to give the public some sort of warning that long-term exposure to radiation from your cell phone could possibly cause cancer,” said Dr. Henry Lai, research professor in bioengineering at University of Washington who has studied radiation for more than 30 years.

Results from the largest international study on cell phones and cancer was released in 2010. It showed participants in the study who used a cell phone for 10 years or more had doubled the rate of brain glioma, a type of tumor. To date, there have been no long-term studies on the effects of cell phone usage among children.

“Children’s skulls and scalps are thinner. So the radiation can penetrate deeper into the brain of children and young adults. Their cells are at a dividing faster rate, so the impact of radiation can be much larger.” said Black of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

In February, a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, revealed radiation emitted after just 50 minutes on a mobile phone increases the activity in brain cells. The effects of brain activity being artificially stimulated are still unknown.

Neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta says Tuesday’s announcement, “dealt a blow to those who have long said, ‘There is no possible mechanism for cell phones to cause cancer.’ By classifying cell phones as a possible carcinogen, they also seem to be tacitly admitting a mechanism could exist.”

Manufacturers of many popular cell phones already warn consumers to keep their device away from their body.

I think it is probably very prudent to significantly limit your use of cell phones to brief, occasional  (preferably urgent, emergency use).  And children, should not talk on cell phones. Period!