A group of experts from the World Health Organization has classified the radiation emitted from cell phones as a possible cancer-causing agent, concluding that cell phones could be associated with an increased risk for glioma, a type of brain tumor.
The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) convened a group of 31 scientists from 14 countries to look at the health risks associated with radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. They spent a week in Lyon, France, reviewing hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies on the issue.
"The evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification," Dr. Jonathan Samet, a University of Southern California scientist who chaired the working group, said in a statement.
The IARC classifies carcinogenic agents according to different degrees, from "carcinogenic to humans" to "probably not carcinogenic." Group 2B -- the group that will now include radiofrequency electromagnetic fields -- is defined as "possibly carcinogenic to humans." It also contains lead, DDT, engine exhaust, and chloroform, among other substances.
Dr. Samet explained that the classification means that there could be some risk -- a risk that warrants continued study. The IARC group did not quantify the radiation risk of cell phone use, but did consider a study that showed the highest risk of brain tumors among the heaviest users.
"Given the potential consequences for public health on this classification and fidings, it is important that additional research be conducted into the long-term, heavy use of mobile phones," IARC Director Christopher Wild said.
Until then, measures should be taken to reduce exposure, including use of hands-free devices or texting, Wild added. Many cell phone manufacturers put out safety manuals that encourage users to keep the devices several millimeters from their body.
We went to the street to gauge people's reactions to the new findings. Here's what they had to say: