No proof, but French told mobiles damage health


Regulator warns national population to reduce usage and keep kids away from mobile phones despite no evidence to show health threat

A French regulator has warned the national population to limit its exposure to mobile radio frequencies despite no new evidence to show that using mobile phones is dangerous to health.

French National Agency for Health, Food and Environmental Safety (Anses) has updated its 2009 assessment of the risks related to exposure to radio frequencies based on research showing no proven health effects of using mobile devices.

Anses has recommended that heavy users of mobile technology and children should reduce usage, although it has not provided maximum use limits.

The regulator has based its update on what it calls 'limited levels of evidence' which it claimed 'do point to different biological effects in humans or animals'.

It stated: '…some publications suggest a possible increased risk of brain tumour, over the long term, for heavy users of mobile phones. Given this information, and against a background of rapid development of technologies and practices, ANSES recommends limiting the population's exposure to radiofrequencies – in particular from mobile phones – especially for children and intensive users, and controlling the overall exposure that results from relay antennas.'

Pointing to new radio signals and mobile terminals being used for mobile communications today, plus the increase in users and types of use, Anses decided in 2011 to revisit its 2009 situation report. It drew on the widest possible review of the international studies published since 2009, and two years later it has now stated that: 'The findings of the risk assessment have not brought to light any proven health effects. Certain publications nonetheless mention a possible increase in the risk of cerebral tumours, in the long term, for heavy mobile phone users. The findings of this expert appraisal are therefore consistent with the classification of radiofrequencies proposed by the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as 'possibly carcinogenic' for heavy users of mobile phones.

'In addition, the expert appraisal nevertheless shows, with limited levels of evidence, different biological effects in humans or animals, some of which had already been reported in 2009: these can affect sleep, male fertility or cognitive performance. Biological effects corresponding to generally reversible changes in the inner functioning of the body can thus be observed, as is also found in the case of exposure to different stimuli of everyday life. However, the Agency's experts were unable to establish any causal link between the biological effects described in cell models, animals or humans, and any possible resulting health effects.'

Based on this lack of evidence, Anses has not proposed new exposure limits for the French population as there is no justification based on health grounds, it stated. Yet is concluded there is currently not enough data available to finalise the risk assessment for various potential effects and that 'the potential impact of the communication protocols used (2G, 3G, 4G) seems to be poorly documented'.

The agency recommended that: heavy users make use of hands free kit whenever possible as well as the purchase of phones showing the lowest specific absorption rate (SAR) levels; children discouraged to use mobile phones frequently; continuing to improve characterisation of population exposure in outdoor and indoor environments through the use of measurement campaigns; that the development of new mobile phone network infrastructures be subject to prior studies concerning the characterisation of exposures, and an in-depth study be conducted of the consequences of possibly multiplying the number of relay antennas in order to reduce levels of environmental exposure; documenting the conditions pertaining at those existing installations causing the highest exposure of the public and investigating in what measure these exposures can be reduced by technical means; and that all common devices emitting electromagnetic fields intended for use near the body (DECT telephones, tablet computers, baby monitors, etc.) display the maximum level of exposure generated (SAR, for example), as is already the case for mobile phones.

Smart Chimps thinks: Did the person at Anses in charge of this assessment wake up one day and say: 'You know what, I don't care what all the research says, I'm sure my mum said once that mobiles might give people brain tumours and I've heard that one connected to the talking clock while strapped to the head of a pig for 400 days made the swine's bonce a tad hot. I'm going to dig through all the research until I find nothing new and nothing conclusive, and then recommend that people be worried for no good reason'. That's what Smart Chimps thinks. Nice one Anses. Don't ask your old mum for advice next time, please.


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