Report on health risks from cell phones inconclusive

The U.S. General Accounting Office report on the potential health hazards of mobile phones concluded that research by U.S. and international organizations shows that radio frequency energy emitted by cell phones doesn't produce adverse health effects. But, the report noted, "there is not enough information to conclude they pose no risk."

"The findings of some studies have raised questions about possible cancer and noncancer effects that require further investigation," the report (in .PDF format) from the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, said. "Given the long-term nature of much of the research being conducted... it will likely be many more years before a definitive conclusion can be reached on whether mobile phone emissions pose any risk to human health."

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) said the report didn't provide a definitive answer on the safety of cell phones and urged the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Communications Commission and the National Institutes of Health to back more in-depth studies. "Hopefully, over time, a greater body of scientific evidence will lead to a definitive conclusion and put everyone's anxieties to rest," Lieberman said in a statement. He added that "as long as there are legitimate scientific and health concerns regarding the safety of cell phones, our government must play an active and ongoing role in monitoring and funding necessary scientific research."

The report was prepared at the request of Lieberman and U.S. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) Tom Wheeler, president of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, a Washington-based industry trade group, said the GAO report "elects what the public health experts have said: that the science to date shows no adverse health effects from the use of wireless phones. As an industry, we concur with the report's conclusions that further research is needed. Hence, we have entered into an agreement with the FDA to pursue additional research."

The GAO report recommended that health information packaged with every mobile phone in the U.S. be updated to reflect current research and that it be written in easy-to-understand language with a "broad consumer audience in mind."

Lieberman also wants the FDA and the FCC to take additional steps to inform the public of any potential health risks from mobile phones. "Congressman Markey and I have written to the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Communications Commission, asking them to do a better job of keeping the public informed. Right now, the FDA has a consumer update on cell phone use, which is out of date and difficult to understand. The FCC provides information on radio-frequency exposure, but it's difficult to locate and again, difficult to understand, " Lieberman said.

He added that "both agencies [need] to jointly develop a Web site for consumers that combines health information, explanations of radiation issues and access to information about emissions from different model phones -- in plain English."

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