Biggest study ever launched on the safety of mobile phones


About five billion mobile phones arecurrently in use worldwide and global spending on wireless equipment and services surpassed $1 trillion for the first time in 2009.

Although more than $100 million had been spent so far around the world by groups such as the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health, on research into health risks from mobile phone usage none of them have found any evidence that cellphone use harms health but – they have all been based on research that has necessarily focused on use in the short term, less than ten years, since mobile phones have only really been widely in use for the last ten years. But many of the diseases which might be realted to mobile phone use take 15 to 20 years to develop.

Moreover, most large-scale studies have centered around asking people already suffering from cancer or other diseases about their previous mobile-phone use but basing research on what people can remember from five or more years ago is, inevitably, very unreliable.

The new Cohort Study on Mobile Communications (COSMOS) study is recruiting participants aged 18-69 in Britain, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark through mobile carriers. It will use data from volunteers' phone bills and health records as well as questionnaires. It differs from all previous attempts to examine links between cellphone use and diseases such as cancer and neurological disorders in that it will follow users' behaviour in real time over 10, 20 or 30 years.

The study forms part of the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Program (MTHR), a UK body funded by a variety of government and industry sources and run by independent experts, mostly university academics including the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Imperial College, 'one of the best research centers in the world for this type of study'.

The study will examine all health developments and look for links to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's as well as cancer. It will also take account of how users carry their phone -- for example in a trouser or chest pocket or in a bag -- and whether they use hand-free kits.

In Britain, COSMOS is inviting 2.4 million mobile phone users to take part, through the country's four top carriers: Vodafone, O2, T-Mobile and Orange. It hopes 90,000-100,000 will agree.

COSMOS will announce its findings as it progresses – check their website for updates.

Courtesy of Reuters

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First Published in April 2010

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