- MUNICH/AMSTERDAM (Reuters)
- Radio waves from mobile phones harm body cells and damage DNA in laboratory
conditions, according to a new study majority-funded by the European Union,
researchers said on Monday.
- The so-called Reflex study, conducted by 12 research
groups in seven European countries, did not prove that mobile phones are
a risk to health but concluded that more research is needed to see if effects
can also be found outside a lab.
- The $100 billion a year mobile phone industry asserts
that there is no conclusive evidence of harmful effects as a result of
- About 650 million mobile phones are expected to be sold
to consumers this year, and over 1.5 billion people around the world use
- The research project, which took four years and which
was coordinated by the German research group Verum, studied the effect
of radiation on human and animal cells in a laboratory.
- After being exposed to electromagnetic fields that are
typical for mobile phones, the cells showed a significant increase in single
and double-strand DNA breaks. The damage could not always be repaired by
the cell. DNA carries the genetic material of an organism and its different
- "There was remaining damage for future generation
of cells," said project leader Franz Adlkofer.
- This means the change had procreated. Mutated cells are
seen as a possible cause of cancer.
- The radiation used in the study was at levels between
a Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of between 0.3 and 2 watts per kilogram.
Most phones emit radio signals at SAR levels of between 0.5 and 1 W/kg.
- SAR is a measure of the rate of radio energy absorption
in body tissue, and the SAR limit recommended by the International Commission
of Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection is 2 W/kg.
- The study also measured other harmful effects on cells.
- Because of the lab set-up, the researchers said the study
did not prove any health risks. But they added that "the genotoxic
and phenotypic effects clearly require further studies ... on animals and
- Adlkofer advised against the use of a mobile phone when
an alternative fixed line phone was available, and recommended the use
of a headset connected to a cellphone whenever possible.
- "We don't want to create a panic, but it is good
to take precautions," he said, adding that additional research could
take another four or five years.
- Previous independent studies into the health effects
of mobile phone radiation have found it may have some effect on the human
body, such as heating up body tissue and causing headaches and nausea,
but no study that could be independently repeated has proved that radiation
had permanent harmful effects.
- None of the world's top six mobile phone vendors could
immediately respond to the results of the study.
- In a separate announcement in Hong Kong, where consumers
tend to spend more time talking on a mobile phone than in Europe, a German
company called G-Hanz introduced a new type of mobile phone which it claimed
had no harmful radiation, as a result of shorter bursts of the radio signal.
- (Additional reporting by Doug Young in Hong Kong)