Mobile phones have been associated with various conditions

IET calls for more rigour in mobile phone health effects research

The quality of mobile phone health effects research is decreasing, says the IET in its latest position statement.

Despite a continuous influx of minor studies finding evidence that mobile phones and other magnetic field inducing devices, including overhead power lines, could possibly cause a wide variety of health conditions, the IET believes there is no reason to worry.

In a recently published statement on Biological Effects of Low-Level Electromagnetic Fields, experts from the institution’s Biological Effects Policy Advisory Group (BEPAG), have reviewed about 600 scientific articles and concluded the data doesn’t show a smoking gun.

“The studies that are published in the literature that the committee reviews are increasingly coming from small, not necessarily well funded groups, that have done small-scale studies and published usually positive results showing that there is an effect,” said Professor Anthony Barker, a clinical scientist at the Department of Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital Sheffield and chairman of (BEPAG).

“It’s quite interesting, because if you look at the literature, the large studies with major funding, that have done very detailed work, and done it very carefully, show negative results while small studies, that are done quickly, nearly always seem to show positive results. So it could be that the quality of the literature in this area is deteriorating somewhat as the major studies stop appearing and lots of little smaller studies replace them.”

Benign and malignant brain tumours, lower sperm count, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, miscarriages, childhood leukaemia – the range of conditions previously associated with living in low level magnetic fields is vast. However, results of various studies are frequently contradictory.

“There is a type of analysis which is being increasingly carried out, which I personally find rather persuasive, and that’s the time series analysis,” Prof Barker said.

“Basically, you can look at the incidence of brain tumours year on year just by looking at national registries of health, which exist in many countries. There have been several recent studies doing that, looking specifically at the brain tumour incidence rate over the past 15 years and those papers seem to show that there is no increase in the incidence of brain tumours.”

In the light of the reviewed literature, the IET believes there is no substantial risk associated with the use of mobile phones, WiFi routers, or living in the vicinity of overhead power lines or mobile phone base stations.

Further information:

The IET position statement on Biological Effects of Low-Level Electromagnetic Fields

Living in an electromagnetic field

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