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Mind and Body

Are Cellphone Towers Hazardous to Your Health?

Living near a cellphone tower might eventually melt your brain, give you cancer or worse, neuter your reproductive organs -- at least that’s the warning issued last week by a group of trade activists. 

“People who live near cell towers and antennas are in jeopardy,” Dr. Robin Bernhoft, president of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, told FoxNews.com.

In an attempt to encourage citizens to write Congress and ask the FCC to update “obsolete” regulations of radio frequency radiation emitted by cellphones, Bernhoft’s colleague Whitney Seymour of activist website Citizens for Health added, “FCC standards for cell transmission antennas were based on earlier studies created almost 20 years ago using even older data."

"The substantive evidence of harm from wireless radiation is overwhelming,” he added.

Not exactly, said Jack Rowley of GSMA, the largest association of cellphone providers in the world. 

"This is a minority and alarmist view based on a selective reading of the scientific evidence," Rowley told FoxNews.com. “In the last 10 years, more than 30 expert health groups have reviewed the research and consistently concluded that there are no established health risks from using phones or living near antennas.”

The scientific evidence seems to side with the cellphone providers. 

For example, a recent study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives concluded that, “Although there remains some uncertainty, the trend in the accumulating evidence is increasingly against the hypothesis that mobile phone use can cause brain tumors in adults.”

What about the respected World Health Organization’s research on cancer, which recently classified radio frequency radiation as a “possible carcinogen”?

Rowley says it was based on limited data for specific types of brain tumors -- and even the WHO admitted that further research is needed.

“The evidence was even weaker for a possible risk from towers,” Rowley added, “with typical exposure levels thousands of times below safety standards and comparable to TV and radio. More importantly, the latest WHO fact sheet recognizes the standardization work, which is the origin of the FCC regulations.”

The U.S. Wireless Association (simply called the CTIA) also refutes minority alarmists with more reputable science. 

A statement on the trade group's consumer awareness website summarizes the current science: “Leading global health authorities, such as the World Health Organization, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have reviewed this research or have conducted their own, and have found that the available scientific evidence does not show that the use of wireless phones is associated with any health problems, including cancer.”

The Interphone project, coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, is the largest study of cellphone use and brain tumors ever undertaken and included substantial numbers of subjects using cellphones for 10 years or longer. 

Even that massive, long-term study wasn't conclusive, however; researchers noted ultimately that "an increased risk of brain cancer is not established from the data from Interphone." The group noted, however, that some areas for further observations among those with the highest usage rate -- but they hardly said to put the phone down.

When asked by FoxNews.com for additional details on potential health risks of cellphones, the CTIA deferred to the above research.

Of course, both the GSMA and CTIA exist to protect the interests of for-profit cellphone companies. And research to track the long-term health effects of cellphones is in no way final. In fact, it’s ongoing.

But unlike the dissenting critics cited above, proponents of safe cellphone use are heavily backed by popular science -- at least for now. So why not phone your mom?

Blake Snow is a freelance writer from Utah. He can be reached at blakesnow.com