SEARCH FINANCIAL SERVICES INFRASTRUCTURE SECURITY SCIENCE INTERVIEWS

 

     

Feds Disagree on Cell Phone Cancer Risk

November 2, 2018

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) concluded there is clear evidence that male rats exposed to high levels of radio frequency radiation (RFR) like that used in 2G and 3G cell phones developed cancerous heart tumors, according to final reports released today. There was also some evidence of tumors in the brain and adrenal gland of exposed male rats. For female rats, and male and female mice, the evidence was equivocal as to whether cancers observed were associated with exposure to RFR. The final reports represent the consensus of NTP and a panel of external scientific experts who reviewed the studies in March after draft reports were issued in February.

“The exposures used in the studies cannot be compared directly to the exposure that humans experience when using a cell phone,” said John Bucher, Ph.D., NTP senior scientist. “In our studies, rats and mice received radio frequency radiation across their whole bodies. By contrast, people are mostly exposed in specific local tissues close to where they hold the phone. In addition, the exposure levels and durations in our studies were greater than what people experience.”

The lowest exposure level used in the studies was equal to the maximum local tissue exposure currently allowed for cell phone users. This power level rarely occurs with typical cell phone use. The highest exposure level in the studies was four times higher than the maximum power level permitted.

“We believe that the link between radio frequency radiation and tumors in male rats is real, and the external experts agreed,” said Bucher.

The $30 million NTP studies took more than 10 years to complete and are the most comprehensive assessment, to date, of health effects in animals exposed to RFR with modulations used in 2G and 3G cell phones. 2G and 3G networks were standard when the studies were designed and are still used for phone calls and texting.

“A major strength of our studies is that we were able to control exactly how much radio frequency radiation the animals received — something that’s not possible when studying human cell phone use, which has often relied on questionnaires,” said Michael Wyde, Ph.D., lead toxicologist on the studies.

He also noted the unexpected finding of longer lifespans among the exposed male rats. “This may be explained by an observed decrease in chronic kidney problems that are often the cause of death in older rats,” Wyde said.

The animals were housed in chambers specifically designed and built for these studies. Exposure to RFR began in the womb for rats and at 5 to 6 weeks old for mice, and continued for up to two years, or most of their natural lifetime. The RFR exposure was intermittent, 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off, totaling about nine hours each day. RFR levels ranged from 1.5-6 watts per kilogram in rats, and 2.5-10 watts per kilogram in mice.

These studies did not investigate the types of RFR used for Wi-Fi or 5G networks.

“5G is an emerging technology that hasn’t really been defined yet. From what we currently understand, it likely differs dramatically from what we studied,” said Wyde.

For future studies, NTP is building smaller RFR exposure chambers that will make it easier to evaluate newer telecommunications technologies in weeks or months, rather than years. These studies will focus on developing measurable physical indicators, or biomarkers, of potential effects from RFR. These may include changes in metrics like DNA damage in exposed tissues, which can be detected much sooner than cancer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration nominated cell phone RFR for study by NTP because of widespread public use of cell phones and limited knowledge about potential health effects from long-term exposure. NTP will provide the results of these studies to FDA and the Federal Communications Commission, who will review the information as they continue to monitor new research on the potential effects of RFR.

NTP uses four categories to summarize the evidence that a substance may cause cancer:

Clear evidence (highest)

Some evidence

Equivocal evidence

No evidence (lowest)

Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., J.D., Director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health said, "We know that cell phones are an important, everyday tool to most Americans. We use them now for much more than just talking—from booking travel on an app to using mobile wallets to pay for groceries. Our ubitquitious use of cell phones inevitably means that we must continue to review and ensure their safety.

The Food and Drug Administration is charged with ensuring cell phones— and any radiation-emitting electronic product—are safe for the public to use. Our scientific expertise and input, along with other health agencies, are used by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to set the standards for exposure limits of radiation from cell phones, called radiofrequency energy.

We have relied on decades of research and hundreds of studies to have the most complete evaluation of radiofrequency energy exposure. This information has informed the FDA’s assessment of this important public health issue, and given us the confidence that the current safety limits for cell phone radiofrequency energy exposure remain acceptable for protecting the public health.

When new studies or information becomes available, the FDA conducts thorough evaluations of the data to continually inform our thinking. We reviewed the recently finalized research conducted by our colleagues at the National Toxicology Program (NTP), part of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences within the National Institutes of Health, on radiofrequency energy exposure. After reviewing the study, we disagree, however, with the conclusions of their final report regarding “clear evidence” of carcinogenic activity in rodents exposed to radiofrequency energy.

In the NTP study, researchers looked at the effects of exposing rodents to extremely high levels of radiofrequency throughout the entire body. This is commonly done in these types of hazard identification studies and means that the study tested levels of radiofrequency energy exposures considerably above the current whole body safety limits for cell phones. Doing this was intended to help contribute to what we already understand about the effects of radiofrequency energy on animal tissue. In fact, we only begin to observe effects to animal tissue at exposures that are 50 times higher than the current whole body safety limits set by the FCC for radiofrequency energy exposure.

Our colleagues at NTP echoed this point in a statement earlier this year about their draft final report, including the important note that “these findings should not be directly extrapolated to human cell phone usage.”

We agree that these findings should not be applied to human cell phone usage.

NTP hosted a three-day peer review of this study in March, as part of their normal process for issuing scientific reports. The FDA was not a participant in that process, but was invited to observe the panel discussions, which included an assessment of the study methods and data by a panel of 15 peer reviewers to determine the basis of evidence for the final report. Based on their assessment, the panel voted to upgrade the conclusions from some evidence to clear evidence for malignant heart schwannomas in male rats, and from equivocal (ambigious) to some evidence for malignant gliomas of the brain and benign tumors of the adrenal gland in male rats. It’s important to note that the vote does not mean new data or findings were reported in the final assessment.

In addition, as we’ve noted previously, there were unusual findings in the study, such as: the rats exposed to whole body radiofrequency energy lived longer than rats that were not exposed to any radiation (control group); only male rats exposed to the highest radiofrequency energy dosage developed a statistically significant number of heart schwannomas, which are very rare in humans, when compared to the control group in this experiment. There was also no true dose response, or a lack of a clear relationship between the doses of radiation administered to the animals and their subsequent tumor rate. Researchers will need to consider all of the findings when exploring future human epidemiological studies.

As scientists, we welcome new studies. Animal studies like this one contribute to our discussions on this topic, but we must remember the study was not designed to test the safety of cell phone use in humans, so we cannot draw conclusions about the risks of cell phone use from it. We also must thoroughly evaluate and take into consideration the totality of the data, and do so within the context of the complete body of evidence rather than drawing conclusions from the results of a single study.

As part of our commitment to protecting the public health, the FDA has reviewed, and will continue to review, many sources of scientific and medical evidence related to the possibility of adverse health effects from radiofrequency energy exposure in both humans and animals and will continue to do so as new scientific data are published.

Based on our ongoing evaluation of this issue, the totality of the available scientific evidence continues to not support adverse health effects in humans caused by exposures at or under the current radiofrequency energy exposure limits. We believe the existing safety limits for cell phones remain acceptable for protecting the public health.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products."

Terms of Use | Copyright © 2002 - 2018 CONSTITUENTWORKS SM  CORPORATION. All rights reserved. | Privacy Statement