Signs of a link between radiation exposure from cell phone use and health risks are growing, but cell phone manufacturers are not doing what they should to minimize the risks, according to Siegal Sadetzki of the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, who serves an adviser to the Communications Ministry on cell phone safety and is considered a leading world expert on the subject.
Appearing Monday before the Knesset joint committee for environment and health, she cited as an example the failure of cellular manufacturers to develop comfortable earphones for use with cell phones. She said this was motivated by manufacturers' concerns that such earphones would emphasize the risks involved in using cell phones.
Sadetzki noted that data analysis is currently being concluded on the largest international study of its kind on the subject, the Interphone study. Israelis are among the lead researchers in the study.
Although complete data from the study has not yet been released, it is already known to include disturbing findings about the hazards of cell phone use, showing, for example that the risk of salivary gland cancer among cell phone users who held their phones on the same side of their heads over a five-year period increased by 35 percent. Other findings indicate an increased radiation risk in rural areas because contact with more distant transmission towers requires higher radiation levels.
"As a scientist, I still cannot say that the causal link between cell phone use and the risk of disease has been proven, but there absolutely are serious concerns that cell phones do indeed harm health," Sadetzki said, "especially when we are talking about people who use the phones for extended periods of time and on the same side of the head."
She added that the radiation standard that applies to manufacturers pertains only to the heat the phones emit and not to risks such as brain tumors. She said the risk of tumors may only be known with certainty in several decades, but preventative measures must be taken now. She stressed the particular importance of implementing recommendations that would minimize use of cell phones, as much as possible, by children.
The forum of Israeli cellular companies said in response: "The cellular companies operate and will continue to operate in accordance with directives from the Health Ministry as presented by Prof. Sadetzki, with the aim of providing efficient and safe communications. The companies, at their own initiative, distribute earphones with the cell phones and they agree that they should address Prof. Sadetzki's recommendations regarding earphones."
Sadetzki said she assumed the manufacturers are resistant to developing more user-friendly earphones because their promotion might be construed as acknowledging the potential risk of holding the phone close to one's head. She also underlined the Health Ministry warning cautioning that cordless home phones emit radiation at similar levels as cell phones. Among the ministry recommendations is that regular landline phones be used instead.
MK Dov Khenin (Hadash ), who chairs the joint Knesset committee, concluded the hearing by proposing that legislation be passed requiring that cell phones be labeled with the radiation levels they emit in various settings, including the higher levels emitted from parking garages and elevators.
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