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Italian Study Links Cellphone Radiation to Heart and Brain Tumors

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For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, March 22, 2018

WASHINGTON – Laboratory animals exposed to cellphone radiation developed heart and brain tumors similar to the types seen in some studies of human cellphone users, according to an Italian study published today. EWG said the findings reinforce the need for people, especially children, to exercise caution when using cellphones and other radiation-emitting devices.

The study by the Ramazzini Institute, published in the journal Environmental Research, supports the findings of the federal National Toxicology Program. Last month, the NTP reported that male rats exposed to radio-frequency radiation at levels including those emitted by cellphones had a greater chance of developing malignant brain cancer, and tumors in the heart and other organs.

The Ramazzini Institute’s research found that male rats exposed to the radio-frequency radiation emitted by cellphones using GSM networks had a greater chance of developing heart tumors and hyperplasias affecting Schwann cells, which support the peripheral nervous system. Schwann cell tumors were also observed in human epidemiological studies of tumor incidence in cellphone users, and in the NTP studies of lab animals.

“The Italian study reinforces the need for a precautionary approach when it comes to radiation from phones and other devices, especially for young kids,” said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., senior science advisor at EWG. “Children’s bodies develop through the teenage years and may be more affected by cellphone use. As new telecom networks are built around the country, in-depth assessment of children’s health risks from cellphone radiation is essential.”

In 2011, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on  Cancer declared the kind of radiation emitted by cellphones a “possible carcinogen” based on human epidemiological studies that found increased gliomas and acoustic neuromas in long-term cellphone users. The data on health effects of cellphone radiation in laboratory animals collected by the NTP and the Ramazzini Institute studies support the earlier evidence from human studies that cellphone radiation increases the risk of cancer.

EWG has been at the forefront of public interest organizations raising concerns about connections between cellphone use and cancer. EWG’s 2009 Science Review on Cancer Risks and Children’s Health summarized comprehensive studies showing a variety of health harms linked to long-term cellphone use. This included increased risk of brain tumors; lower sperm counts, motility and vitality among men; neurological effects; and changes in brain metabolism.

While the public debate on cellphone radiation risks has focused on cancer, which  progresses slowly in response to lifelong exposures, a growing body of research suggests that even shorter exposures could cause harm. In a study published last year, Kaiser Permanente researchers reported that pregnant women exposed to radio-frequency radiation from sources such as wireless devices and cell towers had nearly a threefold greater frequency of miscarriage.

In December 2017, the state of California issued official guidelines advising cellphone users to keep phones away from their bodies. The state Department of Public Health also recommended that parents consider reducing the amount of time their children use cellphones, and encourage kids to turn the devices off at night.

To help concerned consumers, EWG has created tools and tips for reducing exposure to cellphone radiation. This includes EWG’s Guide to Safer Cellphone Use and Six Questions About Cellphone Radiation and Your Health.

For more information about how studies on laboratory animals can help answer the questions about human health risks from radio-frequency radiation, read EWG’s Comments to the National Toxicology Program on the NTP cellphone radiation study.