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House subcommittee debates cell phone radiation

Scientists told a House of Representatives subcommittee Thursday that more research is needed on the possible link between cell phone use and cancer.

Scientists told a House of Representatives subcommittee Thursday that more research is needed over the possible link between cell phone use and cancer. While past studies have found that cell phone radiation isn't dangerous, the scientists pointed to research that has found just the opposite.

"I cannot tell this committee that cell phones are definitely dangerous," said Dr. Ronald Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. "But, I certainly cannot tell you that they are safe."

Herberman, who expressed a similar sentiment in a controversial memo he wrote last July, appeared before the House Subcommittee on Domestic Policy. He and Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany, both cited a group of recent studies showing that long-term cell phone users are more likely to develop cancer.

"Recent studies, primarily from Scandinavia, where cell phones were first developed and manufactured, and where there has been longer use as compared to the United States, are finding significant increases in brain cancer among individuals who have used a cell phone for more than 10 years," Carpenter said.

But Dr. Robert N. Hoover, a director at the National Cancer Institute, exercised caution when he mentioned earlier studies that found no convincing evidence between cell phone use and brain tumors. "There is a fair amount of inconsistency within and between these studies," he said.

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, which represents wireless companies in Washington, declined to send a representative to the hearing, but it expressed a similar sentiment in a statement released on Wednesday. "The available scientific evidence and expert reviews from leading global health organizations reflect a consensus based on published scientific research showing that there is no reason for concern," said CTIA CEO Steve Largent.

The subcommittee did not reach specific findings, but both Herberman and Carpenter suggested that until more studies can be conducted, cell phone users should limit radiation exposure as much as possible. Adults, they said, should use a headset or their handset's speakerphone while children should completely limit cell phone use while their brains are developing. "Precaution is warranted," Carpenter said. "Even in the absence of absolutely final evidence concerning the magnitude of the risk."