ACCORDING to the UN News Centre, the World Health Organisation reported on May 31 that the exposure to electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile telephones could possibly cause cancer, including an increased risk in a malignant type of brain tumour.

A working group of 31 scientists from 14 countries met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, a WHO - specialised agency, to assess the potential carcinogenic hazards from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.

The working group discussed and evaluated the available literature on the following exposure categories involving radiofrequency electromagnetic fields: occupational exposures to radar and to microwaves; environmental exposures associated with transmission of signals for radio, television and wireless telecommunication; and personal exposures associated with the use of wireless telephones.

The working group concluded that cellphone exposures might induce long - term health effects, in particular an increased risk for glioma, a type of brain cancer, according to WHO and IARC. This has relevance for public health, particularly for users of cellphones, as the number of users is large and growing, particularly among young adults and children.

Cellphones are low - powered radiofrequency transmitters, operating at frequencies between 450 and 2700 MHz with peak powers in the range of 0.1 to 2 watts. The handset only transmits power when it is turned on. The radiofrequency exposure to a user falls off rapidly with increasing distance from the handset. A person using a mobile phone 30 to 40 centimetres away from their body will have a much lower exposure to radiofrequency fields than someone holding the handset against their head.

In addition to using hands - free devices, which keep cellphones away from the head and the body during phone calls, exposure is also reduced by limiting the number and length of calls. Using the phone in areas of good reception also decreases exposure as it allows the phone to transmit at reduced power. The use of commercial devices for reducing radiofrequency field exposure has not been shown to be effective.

According to a recent article published on Yahoo Health, a health study showed that people who chatted via cell for just 30 minutes a day for 10 years saw their risk of glioma (the type of brain tumor that killed Ted Kennedy) rise by 40 per cent.

According to another study in Argentina, researchers studied bone mineral density of 48 healthy men who carried cellphones on their right hip for a year. It was found that the men who carried cellphones on their right hip had lower mineral content and bone density in the upper thigh bones near where the cellphone was carried, compared to their left hip.

Researchers believe that the low level EM radiation given off by cellphones leads to bone degradation over time in the area that the cellphone is carried most. This means that it could potentially raise the risk for osteoporosis or other bone diseases the longer that someone carries a cellphone in the same place on their body.

It is the responsibility of parents to protect the health of their children by limiting the use of cellphones by the younger generation.

F.H.M. Karachi



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