Cell Phones and Cancer: More Research Needed

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A large-scale study of the long-term effects of cell-phone use needs to be carried out, medical professionals said at a congressional hearing

by Olga Kharif

On Sept. 25, while many legislators on Capitol Hill were debating how best to confront potential dangers of the financial crisis, a handful of lawmakers and physicians were airing concerns over a different would-be danger: prolonged use of cell phones. Their conclusion is that more research is needed, especially when it comes to kids.

During a hearing before the House subcommittee on domestic policy, Ronald Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, used visual aids to drive his point home. Herberman held up model brains, one of an adult and another of a 5-year-old, each with a cell phone held to a corresponding ear.

Cell-phone radiation travels about two inches into an adult brain, but penetrates beyond the center of a child's brain, Herberman explained. "I cannot tell this committee that cell phones are dangerous, but I certainly can't tell you they are safe," said Herberman, who in July issued a memo (BusinessWeek.com, 8/5/08) urging his 3,000 staffers to limit cell-phone use among themselves and their children. "We urgently need to do a study [to resolve this question]," he told the subcommittee, chaired by Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio).
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