U.S. senator promises look into cellphone-cancer link

Mon Sep 14, 2009 7:46pm EDT
 
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By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iowa senator Tom Harkin, newly empowered to investigate health matters as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, promised on Monday to probe deeply into any potential links between cellphone use and cancer.

Harkin, who took over the committee earlier this month after the death of Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, said he was concerned no one has been able to prove cellphones do not cause cancer.

"I'm reminded of this nation's experience with cigarettes. Decades passed between the first warnings about smoking tobacco and the final definitive conclusion that cigarettes cause lung cancer," Harkin said.

Cell phones, used by an estimated 275 million people in the United States and 4 billion worldwide, use radio waves. Years of research have failed to establish any clear link between their use and several kinds of cancer, including brain tumors.

Recent worries have been raised by the Environmental Working Group, an activist group, and epidemiologist Devra Lee Davis of the University of Pittsburgh, who has written a book alleging the government has overlooked many potential sources of cancer.

Harkin called a hearing of the Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education to look into the questions on Monday. "I will pursue this beyond this panel, with NIH (the National Institutes of Health)," Harkin said after the hearing.

He noted the appropriations committee did not have jurisdiction over the Food and Drug Administration or the Federal Communications Commission, but said the Health committee he now chairs does.

A staffer said the senator became concerned by a report from the Environmental Working Group showing that radio wave emissions vary from one cellphone brand and model to another; as well as some reports suggesting there might be a link.   Continued...

 
<p>A man speaks on his mobile phone while standing on a boat on the River Thames with Canary Wharf and the financial district of London seen in the background. REUTERS/Toby Melville</p>