Long term use of mobile phones can significantly increase the risk of developing brain tumours, it was claimed.
Embargoed to 0001 Monday September 8
Collating 15 years' worth of scientific research, the independent public information body Powerwatch said seven different studies had concluded that mobile phones could increase the chances of both malignant and benign brain tumours.
It called for the Government to discourage children using mobile phones and to issue information leaflets making people aware of the potential risks.
But several scientists questioned the research, saying no link between heavy mobile phone usage and brain tumours had been established.
The controversial issue will be discussed today as part of a conference held by the Radiation Research Trust, entitled Electromagnetic Fields and Health – A Global Issue.
Powerwatch, who published the report Mobile Phones and Health – 15 Years of Research, describes itself as an independent organisation which has examined links between electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and health risks for 20 years.
Spokesman Graham Philips said scientific studies from numerous journals all pointed to the "overwhelming" problems associated with using mobile phones over a long period of time.
Research published in the journal Occupational Environmental Medicine concluded that using a mobile for more than a decade increased the risk of brain cancer.
It concluded that people who had used a mobile phone for 10 years or more were twice as likely to develop a malignant tumour on the side of the brain where they hold the handset.
The study, led by Swedish scientists Professor Lennart Hardell of the University Hospital in Orebro and Professor Kjell Hansson Mild of Umea University, said using a mobile for just an hour every working day was enough to increase the risk.
Powerwatch cited three other studies by Prof Hardell, who called for caution over the use of mobile phones.
It also referred to a study in Israel which identified a link between mobile phone usages and tumours in the salivary gland.
Retired Swedish electrical engineer Orjan Hallberg, who has written several papers on mobile phones, said: "Electromagnetic radiation is affecting the immune system and this makes it easier for cancer cells to continue to develop.
"I think it will become really serious as more of us are already finding relatives and friends who have been struck by brain cancer.
"I hope those who say yet more research needs to be done will explain why at the conference."
Mr Philips said the Government should take the report seriously and take action.
"We strongly recommend that the Government actively discourage use by children, including making public advice leaflets readily available in NHS waiting rooms across the country.
"Research into monitoring health effects around mobile phone base stations is now urgently overdue and the Government should allocate funding for this for the protection of the general public."
The current Health Protection Agency guidelines say there is no hard evidence that public health is being adversely affected by mobile phones, but added "uncertainties remain and a continued precautionary approach to their use is recommended until the situation is further clarified".
The Radiation Research Trust has also called for a precautionary approach to be adopted until further research was carried out.
Mr Philips said Powerwatch's report brought together the results of more than 100 research papers looking at the health risk of mobile phones, including sleep and neurological effects, as well as fertility and cell damage.
But Professor Patricia McKinney, epidemiologist at the University of Leeds, said the data was misleading.
"The report pulls together and interprets a highly selected sample of the published literature on the topic of the risks of mobile phone use.
"A major UK study is misquoted as finding a statistically significant risk of brain tumours associated with heavy use of mobile phones which it definitely did not.
"This biased appraisal of the science should be viewed cautiously by the general public."
Professor Mike Repacholi, co-ordinator of the WHO electromagnetic fields project 1996-2006, said there was no scientific basis to a link between "electromagnetic hypersensitivity" - where symptoms include burning sensation on the skin and fatigue – and exposure to EMF.
"These issues have been dealt with in depth by WHO and fact sheets were issued for the factual information of everyone," he said.
"The information in these fact sheets is current and no research has been published to alter the conclusions in the WHO fact sheets."