The World Heath Organization' International Agency for Research on Cancer today announced that it now classifies radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans [PDF]. What does that mean in English? The agency now considers mobile phone use to be in the same "carcinogenic hazard" category as lead, engine exhaust, DDT and coffee. Our theories about how Scully got cancer have clearly been vindicated!
The announcement from WHO/IARC comes after a group of 31 scientists from 14 countries spent a week reviewing the published material on the topic. Their assessments will be published soon, but the gist of it is this: As the number of mobile phone subscriptions worldwide hovers around 5 billion, it is now clear that there is limited, but real, evidence that supports a direct relationship between mobile phones and the brain cancer glioma. Further the group found that there is inadequate evidence to show a connection between cellphones and other types of cancer (which doesn't mean there isn't any!). So really what the group found is that, as some have been arguing for years, a whole lot more research is needed on this subject—and fast.
The problem, as Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, tells CNN, is the fact that "most environmental factors take several decades of exposure before we really see the consequences," which means we won't know just how much our smartphones are messing with us until it is way too late.
But while IARC is recommending "pragmatic measures" (i.e. go hands-free when possible) while new studies are done, others are saying to keep waiting it out. Donald Berry, a professor of biostatistics at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, who did not work on the study, told the AP that "This is not something I worry about and it will not in any way change how I use my cellphone."
"Anything is a possible carcinogen," he said from his cellphone. And he does have a point. Evidence has been found that links everything from sugar to booze to the Gowanus canal to malignant tumors.