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Posted at 4:00 PM ET, 02/22/2011

More questions about cellphone safety

By Rob Stein

Are cellphones safe? That question has gotten a lot of attention, but so far, as my colleague pointed out on Monday, there has been no convincing evidence that those ubiquitous devices actually cause health problems. However, a new federal study may stir things up further, even though the bottom line again is that it raises more questions than it answers.

For the study, Nora Volkow of the National Institutes of Health and colleagues conducted PET scans on the brains of 47 subjects throughout 2009, as they randomly held phones up to their left or right ears for 50 minutes at a time, sometimes on but muted and other times off.

Brain activity in the region closest to the antenna, an area known as the orbitofrontal cortex and temporal pole, was significantly higher -- about 7 percent more active -- when the phone was on, compared to when it was off, the researchers found.

"The increases were significantly correlated with the estimated electromagnetic field amplitudes, both for absolute metabolism and normalized metabolism," the authors write. "These results provide evidence that the human brain is sensitive to the effects of ... acute cellphone exposures."

They add, however, that "these results provide no information as to their relevance regarding potential carcinogenic effects (or lack of such effects) from chronic cellphone use. Further studies are needed to assess if these effects could have potential long-term harmful consequences."

The study was published in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Henry Lai of the University of Washington and Lennart Hardell of University Hospital in Orebro, Sweden, said the meaning of the findings remains far from clear but "warrant further investigation."

"An important question is whether glucose metabolism in the brain would be chronically increased from regular use of a wireless phone with higher radiofrequency energy than those used in the current study. Potential acute and chronic health effects need to be clarified. Much has to be done to further investigate and understand these effects," they wrote.

The findings may indicate that other changes in brain function occur from exposure to radiofrequency emissions, they said.

"If so, this might have effects on other organs, leading to unwanted physiological responses. Further studies on biomarkers of functional brain changes from exposure to radiofrequency radiation are definitely warranted," they wrote.

By Rob Stein  | February 22, 2011; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Cancer  
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Comments

"..the meaning of the findings remains far from clear.."

Posted by: ratl | February 22, 2011 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Comrades: Maybe the generally rude users of cell phones need to recognize what the phones really are . . . a sure cure for piles.

Posted by: rep15 | February 22, 2011 6:31 PM | Report abuse

My QiGong doctor does not like cell phones at all. He uses one but loves turning it off.

Posted by: bkshane | February 22, 2011 8:50 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: zhengccp | February 22, 2011 10:42 PM | Report abuse

I saw a neighbor 10 ft. from a potential
attacker who said he was going to hit her. She blandly talked to police dispatch and held the cell phone as a shield. Being depended on as self defense is a great risk of the cell phone.

Posted by: n7uno | February 23, 2011 3:05 AM | Report abuse

It was known in the 1950's that the 3 million watt UHF TV stations could cause behavorial changes in various animals (i.e. rats) near the powerful transmitters. But no one cared. Cell phones are known as flea-power units, a fraction of a watt. So why should it be a surprise that the brain responds even with very, very low power? It may be true but it also is likely to be unimportant. If it is important, then over-the-air TV should also be looked at. It won't be.

Posted by: funfun881 | February 23, 2011 7:54 AM | Report abuse

The brain scans of the study show the greatest increase in glucose metabolism in the frontal lobe, whereas the phones were positioned adjacent to the temporal lobe with the antenna at a distance in the order of several centimeters from the frontal lobe.

No absolute values for cerebral rates of glucose utilization are presented. Therefore, we cannot judge on potential whole brain changes.

The findings only tell us that the energy metabolism in the brain may be increased. We are left to guess which cells increased glucose consumption. Nerve cell activation may not be involved at all. Under healthy physiological conditions, glucose metabolism does not rise to levels posing a health hazard.

Read more here:
http://brainmindinst.blogspot.com/2009/09/good-news-for-brain-energy-use.html

Posted by: Melzerpeter | February 23, 2011 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad this study was made. What I can't understand is why it did not take place years earlier. The technology used has been available for years and there's nothing esoteric about the methodology.

Obviously very significant follow-up is needed to determine whether the effect is harmful or not.

Posted by: billsecure | February 23, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Sanders and Joines found greatly increased ATP depletion in rats dosed with microwaves at below-FCC-limits intensity (Sanders, A. P. & Joines, W. T. The Effects of Hyperthermia and Hyperthermia Plus Microwaves on Rat Brain Energy Metabolism. Bioelectromagnetics, 1984, 5, 63 - 70.). Like glucose metabolism, this indicates increased brain activity caused by the radiation.

This whole issue of low-level RF effects is reviewed in a posting at http://www.scribd.com/doc/45663757/Biological-Effects-of-Microwaves-Thermal-and-Nonthermal-Mechanisms.

Posted by: jmmwillix | February 23, 2011 3:44 PM | Report abuse

An afterthought: If the aim of this study was to investigate whether cell phone radiation influences brain energy metabolism, the study could have been conducted with mice at lower cost, sparing the participants unnecessary exposure to ionizing radiation from positron emission tomography.

Posted by: Melzerpeter | February 24, 2011 10:06 AM | Report abuse

As is known to us all,babies'health will be influenced by cellular radiation if pregnant women overuse cell phones;and our functional orgnism will change.Some experts also point out that the overuse of cellphones may lead to encephaloma.No flame rise without smoke.Although we haven't feel any problem with them,we should be prudent in using cell phones.
Moreover,I hope Further studies on biomarkers of functional brain changes from exposure to radiofrequency radiation will be carried out.

Posted by: 7296203691 | March 1, 2011 12:13 AM | Report abuse

As is known to us all,babies'health will be influenced by cellular radiation if pregnant women overuse cell phones;and our functional orgnism will change.Some experts also point out that the overuse of cellphones may lead to encephaloma.No flame rise without smoke.Although we haven't feel any problem with them,we should be prudent in using cell phones.
Moreover,I hope Further studies on biomarkers of functional brain changes from exposure to radiofrequency radiation will be carried out.

Posted by: 7296203691 | March 1, 2011 12:20 AM | Report abuse

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