Imperial College London Provides Update on Progress with ‘Major’ Long-Term Studies Regarding the Effects of Mobile Phone Radiation on Human Health, While US FDA Publishes Review of the Latest Epidemiological Literature

For some time now, we have been monitoring the ebb and flow of scientific and legal opinion on the issue of whether exposure to low-frequency radio-frequency radiation (RFR), emitted by mobile phones, increases the risk of developing cancer.[1]

It is estimated that more than 5 billion people worldwide own mobile devices, over half of which are smartphones.

Over the course of the past decade, researchers at Imperial College London have been conducting 2 ‘major’ long-term studies to investigate whether prolonged mobile phone use (in excess of 10-years) is in any way related to various adverse health conditions in adolescents and adults.

One of these studies: Cohort Study of Mobile Phone Use and Health (COSMOS), was first mentioned in edition 10 of BC Disease News (here) and then again, in edition 52 (here).

COSMOS is monitoring the enduring health (with specific interest in cancer and neurodegenerative disease incidence) of over 100,000 adult mobile phone users in the UK and a further 200,000 users in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, The Netherlands and France. After 20-to-30-years have elapsed, the researchers should be able to say whether prolonged use of mobile phones poses a danger to human health.

Speaking at an Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC) seminar, in February of this year, Imperial College team leader and Chair in Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine, Professor Paul Elliott, gave an update on their progress so far.

Preliminary findings have shown that those who use mobile phones extensively for making and/or receiving calls are reporting more frequent weekly headaches than other users. For now, though, the COSMOS team is attributing a large part of this trend to lifestyle factors, as opposed to RFR emissions.

This would appear to tally with an article, published in the March 2020 issue of the Neurology Clinical Practice journal,[2] which documented that smartphone users were more likely to take twice as much pain relief for headaches and migraines as non-users and were also 10% less likely to sense that their pain had been relieved.[3] There was no mention of RFR by the authors, but they did write that the ‘root of the problem’ could be users’ neck position, phone lighting, eye strain, and/or the stress of being connected at all times.

The 2nd Imperial College project is the Study of Cognition, Adolescents and Mobile Phones (SCAMP). This is following several thousand senior school pupils (years 7, 8 and 9) across London to investigate whether children’s sustained use of mobile phones and/or other radio wave-emitting technologies (e.g. portable landline phones and wireless internet) affects cognitive and behavioural development, i.e. memory function and language understanding.

So far, the team has not acknowledged any biological effects of technology use on teenagers, but has observed that using a mobile phone or watching television in the dark, 1-hour before going to bed, puts teenagers at risk of not sleeping enough.

Elsewhere, the US Food and Drug Administration has recently updated its stance on mobile phone RFR safety, having analysed 125 peer-reviewed epidemiological studies published from 1 January 2008 to 1 August 2018.[4]

In summation, the February 2020 Report found that the state of available scientific knowledge continues to abundantly demonstrate that ‘there is no consistent or credible scientific evidence of health problems caused by the exposure to radio frequency energy emitted by cell phones’.

With respect to the potential impacts of the latest 5G technology, the FDA expressed an intention to continue monitoring scientific information as it emerges, though the range of frequencies covered by 5G [as specified by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) exposure guidelines (300 kHz to 100 GHz)] were actually encompassed within the academic literature.

 

[1] Maxine Myers, ‘Major studies to explore the use of mobile phones on health’ (26 February 2020 Imperial College London) <https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/195617/major-studies-explore-mobile-phones-health/> accessed 27 February 2020.

[2] Uttarwar P et al., Smartphone use and primary headache: A cross-sectional hospital-based study. Neurol Clin Pract. Mar 2020, 10.1212/CPJ.0000000000000816 <https://cp.neurology.org/content/neurclinpract/early/2020/03/03/CPJ.0000000000000816.full-text.pdf> accessed 19 June 2020.

[3] Ian Randall, ‘Smartphone users who suffer from regular headaches and migraines use more painkillers but find less relief, study shows’ (4 March 2020 The Daily Mail) <https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-8074767/Smartphone-users-regular-headaches-migraines-use-painkillers-relief.html> accessed 19 June 2020.

Uttarwar P et al., Smartphone use and primary headache. Neurology Clinical Practice (2020) <https://cp.neurology.org/content/early/2020/03/03/CPJ.0000000000000816> accessed 27 August 2020.

[4] ‘Scientific Evidence for Cell Phone Safety’ (US FDA) <https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/cell-phones/scientific-evidence-cell-phone-safety> accessed 27 February 2020.