, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 28 – The World Health Organisation (WHO) is to conduct a formal risk assessment of exposure to radio-frequency from mobile phones and other such devices.
The study is scheduled to be complete next year.
The World Health body says given the large number of mobile phone users, it is important to investigate, understand and monitor any potential public health impact.
“The electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly carcinogenic to humans,” the WHO says on its website.
This means that it is capable of causing cancer.
However studies are ongoing to fully assess potential long-term effects of mobile phone use.
According to WHO, a person using a mobile phone 30–40 cm away from their body when text messaging, accessing the Internet, or using a “hands free” device will have a much lower exposure to radio-frequency fields than someone holding the handset against their head.
Mobile phones communicate by transmitting radio waves through a network of fixed antennas called base stations. Radio-frequency waves are electromagnetic fields, and unlike ionizing radiation such as X-rays or gamma rays, can neither break chemical bonds nor cause ionization in the human body.
As of December 2010, 24.9 million Kenyans were using mobile phones.
The WHO advises that in addition to using “hands-free” devices, which keep mobile phones away from the head and body during phone calls, exposure is also reduced by limiting the number and length of calls.
Using the phone in areas of good reception also decreases exposure as it allows the phone to transmit at reduced power.
However, the use of commercial devices for reducing radio-frequency field exposure has not been shown to be effective.
Epidemiological research (study of health events) examining potential long-term risks from radio-frequency exposure, has mostly looked for an association between brain tumours and mobile phone use.
However, because many cancers are not detectable until many years after the interactions that led to the tumour, epidemiological studies at present can only assess those cancers that become evident within shorter time periods.
Results of animal studies however consistently show no increased cancer risk for long-term exposure to radio-frequency fields.