Cell Phone Radiation is a “Possible Carcinogen” According to the World Health Organization

Last Updated on July 31, 2023

In light of recent news showing the WHO including aspartame as a “possible carcinogen”, we wanted to remind you that Cell Phone Radiation has been in that same category for over a decade.

In the digital age, cell phones have become an indispensable part of our lives, connecting us with loved ones, providing information at our fingertips, and offering convenience like never before. 

However, concerns about cell phone radiation and its potential health effects have lingered in the minds of many. Back in 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the World Health Organization (WHO), classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (EMF) emitted by cell phones as possibly carcinogenic to humans. Even now, this classification is a subject of debate. However, hundreds of scientists, doctors, and medical experts are still raising questions about the safety of our beloved gadgets.

What is WHO/IARC?

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is one of its agencies focused on cancer research. IARC’s role is to identify and evaluate potential cancer hazards and provide essential data for cancer prevention.

Other Frequently Used Products/Substances on the List:

Apart from cell phone radiation, the IARC has classified several other products and substances based on their potential to cause cancer. EMF radiation falls under group 2B (possibly carcinogenic). This list includes a few popular items, some of which are widely known to be dangerous to humans. Some examples include:

  • Lead
  • Aspartame
  • Chloroform
  • Kava Extract
  • Extremely Low Frequency (ELF)
  • Citrus Red 2 (Orange Dye)
  • DDT Pesticides

What does this mean?

The IARC’s classification of cell phone radiation as a “possible carcinogen” means that there is limited evidence suggesting a link between EMF exposure and cancer. It implies that while there is some evidence suggesting an association, the scientific community requires more research and data to make a conclusive determination. 

In simpler terms, the classification does not definitively state that cell phone radiation causes cancer but rather raises concerns about its potential to do so.

What Research Shows EMF Radiation Can Cause Cancer?

Has there been any strong research published recently saying that cell phone radiation is tied to cancer? I’m glad you asked. 

There are hundreds. 

But there are close to the same amount of studies showing no significance. However, those studies should not discount the studies that do show an effect on the body, and if anything, should warrant more research into the topic, which echoes the WHO’s 2011 decision. 

Here are two of the most significant findings showing an effect on cancer specifically in the last 10 years. While these two are the most significant, many others have shown associations, not to mention the thousands of studies that show other effects of EMF radiation on the body.

  • NTP study – This FDA government-funded study found over its 10 year testing period that male rats, in particular, had higher incidences of malignant schwannoma (a rare type of tumor that grows in the tissue surrounding nerve cells) of the heart, which positively correlated with increasing exposure levels. In rats of both genders, heart tissue damage was also observed, as well as the occurrence of tumors in the brain, prostate gland, liver, and other organs.
  • Ramazinni study – Scientists at the Ramazzini Institute found similar results when they tested 2,448 rats with radio frequency radiation over their lifetimes. The male rats exposed to the highest exposure of radio-frequency radiation also were significantly more likely to develop tumors in Schwann cells in their hearts.

What Should We Do?

While research on the health effects of cell phone radiation continues, it is wise to adopt a cautious approach to minimize potential risks. 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lost a court case in 2022 showing the FCC standards for wireless radiation exposure are not updated and can be misleading, putting the health and safety of the public–especially children–at risk. Even if their guidelines were to get a much needed update, phones are consistently testing outside of the limits imposed on them. However, with the lack of checks and balances in the telecom industry, those phones end up against our heads and in our childrens’ laps.

This goes to show the dire importance of utilizing the precautionary principle (more on this below). 

Here are some precautionary steps you can take to reduce your daily EMF exposure:

Limit cell phone usage: 

Reduce the time spent on your phone, especially during calls, and use alternatives like texting or hands-free devices.

Keep the phone away from your body: 

Avoid carrying your phone in pockets or directly against your skin for prolonged periods. Use a bag or purse and keep your phone at a safe distance. Even being 1-4 feet away can reduce exposure by 90% or more!

Use speaker mode or headphones: 

Instead of holding the phone close to your ear, opt for speaker mode or use wired headphones/earphones. Since wired devices still use ELF electrical signals close to your brain, air tube earbuds are your best bet at keeping all forms of EMF radiation away from your head.

Choose a low-radiation phone: 

Some cell phones emit lower levels of radiation than others. Check for specific absorption rate (SAR) values when purchasing a new phone.

Limit phone usage for children: 

Children’s developing bodies may be more susceptible to potential risks, so it’s best to limit their cell phone usage. The Environmental Working Group, or EWG (you may know them as the group that releases the Dirty Dozen every year for the produce with the most pesticides), advocates for FCC SAR standards to be 200-400 times stricter for children (and 20-40 times stricter for adults).

Have a Healthier Relationship with Cell Phones:

Creating a healthier relationship with our cell phones is crucial to reducing potential risks. Avoid using your phone as an alarm clock or keeping it by your bedside while sleeping. Designate “phone-free” times, such as during meals or family gatherings, to foster meaningful connections.

Precautionary Principle:

Given the uncertainties surrounding cell phone radiation’s long-term effects, adopting the precautionary principle is a sensible approach. This principle suggests taking preventive measures even in the absence of conclusive scientific evidence when potential risks to public health are at stake.

Symptoms of EMF Exposure:

Exposure to EMF from cell phones and other electronic devices has been linked to various health concerns, although the evidence is still inconclusive. Some of the reported symptoms of EMF exposure include:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Skin rashes
  • Cognitive issues (memory problems, difficulty concentrating)

It is essential to note that these symptoms may also arise due to various other factors, making it challenging for some to pinpoint EMF exposure as the sole cause. For those who suffer from Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity, they may immediately get a headache, nausea, or experience skin crawling or tingling sensations, as soon as they get close to a WiFi router, cell tower, and even phones or laptops.

Precautionary Principle:

Given the uncertainties surrounding cell phone radiation’s long-term effects, adopting the precautionary principle is a sensible approach. This principle suggests taking preventive measures even in the absence of conclusive scientific evidence when potential risks to public health are at stake.

While the classification of cell phone radiation as a possible carcinogen by the WHO/IARC raises concerns, it’s important to remember that conclusive evidence is still lacking. As the scientific community continues to research this topic, taking precautionary measures to reduce EMF exposure can be a prudent step towards maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Striking a balance between staying connected and safeguarding our well-being will enable us to make informed decisions regarding our cell phone usage.

Daniel T. DeBaun

Daniel T. DeBaun is an internationally recognized and influential expert in Electromagnetic Radiation (EMF) and shielding electronic emissions, with a particular focus on the effect of exposure from mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and cell phones. Daniel’s concern regarding the health impact of electronic radiation emissions grew from over 30 years of engineering experience in the telecommunications industry, where he held a variety of leadership and executive positions at Bell Labs, AT&T, SAIC and Telcordia. Daniel is co-author of recent bestseller, Radiation Nation: The Fallout of Modern Technology, a complete guide to EMF radiation safety and protection. Daniel is also a highly regarded industry consultant, speaker as well as frequent guest national radio and television programs discussing EMF health issues.