Large scale study launched to investigate cell phone risks

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© Adrian Burke/Corbis

Though a handful of studies on the risks of cell phone radiation have prompted some lawmakers to propose legislation that would outfit mobile devices with warning labels (like packs of cigarettes), and some companies are already marketing radiation diverting phone covers, in the scientific community there remains little consensus over the health effects of low-level radiation exposure through mobile devices. To help close the information gap, a team of London-based researchers just launched a large scale study that will include 250,000 cell phone users across Europe and follow them for up to 30 years, the BBC reports.

The cohort study on mobile communications or COSMOS will initially be funded by the independent Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research program, according to the BBC. Lawrie Challis, one of the investigators working on the study, suggests that while the current evidence indicates little association between brain cancer risk and cell phone radiation, that possibility cannot be ruled out, and this large investigation will examine risk for several types of cancer, as well as other health conditions. As Dr. Mireille Toledano, a lead researcher on the study from Imperial College London, told the BBC:

“We will be looking at a range of different health outcomes, including other forms of cancers such as skin cancers and other brain disease such as neurodegenerative diseases… We will also be monitoring things like if there’s a change in the frequency of symptoms such as headaches, tinnitus, depression or sleep disorders.”

An estimated 270 million people in the U.S. currently own cell phones, and some 4 billion* do worldwide—and those figures are growing even as people are becoming more dependent on their mobile devices. A new poll from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, for example, finds that three quarters of American teenagers now have cell phones. Half of teens send more than 50 texts per day, while a third shoot off 100 or more text messages.

Read about how much radiation popular cell phone models emit here.

*This figure was originally incorrectly stated as 6 billion, which reader carpevis pointed out was a vast overestimate (to the tune of 2 billion too many!). In fact more than 4 billion people globally currently have cell phones.