Brain Cancer and Cell Phone

  FDA Calls For Health Tests
By Allyson Vaughan

Brain Cancer and Cell Phone

  WASHINGTON--As questions linger about the possible health effects of wireless phone usage, a new corporate- funded study is coming out that finds no significant link between radio-frequency wave exposure and brain cancer.

The Motorola-sponsored study, appearing in the March issue of the Journal of Epidemiology, is based on RF exposure to Motorola workers and is considered one of the largest studies to date on the subject.

The study examined the major causes of mortality for 200,000 Motorola workers, employed between 1976 and 1996, and found no significant association between RF exposure and brain cancer, says Norman Sandler, director, strategic issues management at Motorola.

Publication comes on the heels of the news that Food and Drug Administration is recommending the National Toxicology Program test the health effects of wireless phones, partly because of what the government deems unanswered questions about such health issues in an era of rapidly growing phone usage.

It is the first time the FDA has recommended radio frequency studies to the NTP, which accepts nominations for studies on matters that pose a potential human health concern. The NTP is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the FDA's draft recommendation, obtained by Wireless Week, the agency wants high priority given to replicating previous studies that indicate potential adverse effects of wireless phone use. There is a lack of long-term animal studies on RF exposure, the recommendation notes.

Such studies would have potentially huge ramifications for the industry, which has spent $25 million studying the issue and concluded that the preponderance of evidence shows no adverse health effects.

Brain Cancer and Cell Phone

  The FDA recommendation points to conflicting research with low-level RF exposure and animals and calls for more study. The recommendations also state that "a significant research effort, involving large well-planned animal experiments" is necessary to provide a basis to assess the risk for people using wireless phones.

Jo-Anne Basile, vice president for external and industry relations at CTIA, says the FDA's move "is not really a surprise," given the FDA's interest in conducting further animal laboratory studies and says CTIA supports research on a global level. "We're confident that the results of the studies will indicate that there is no health risk," adds Steve Carlson, executive director of the Cellular Carriers Association of California.

Megan Matthews, a spokeswoman for Nokia, says the firm also supports further testing. "We have always said our customers' safety is the first priority for us," Matthews says.

Safety apparently is a high priority for some lawmakers as well: Veteran California State Sen. Tom Hayden has introduced a bill that could require handsets sold in the state to carry disclaimers about the possible danger of wireless phone use.

Matthews declined to comment on the bill. Sandler pointed to consumer information already on the Internet and in brochures. "There is a large amount of information already available," he says.



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