Will the Next Generation of Cellphone Service Pose Health Risks?

As wireless companies prepare to launch the next generation of service, there are new questions about the possible health risks from radiation emitted by cellphones and the transmitters that carry the signals.

Concerns about the potential harmful effects of radiofrequency radiation have dogged mobile technology since the first brick-sized cellphones hit the market in the 1980s.

Industry and federal officials have largely dismissed those fears, saying the radiation exposure is minimal and that the devices are safe. Incidences of and deaths from brain cancer have shown little change in recent years despite the explosion in cellphone usage, they note.

But the launch of super-fast 5G technology over the next several years will dramatically increase the number of transmitters sending signals to cellphones and a host of new Internet-enabled devices, including smart appliances and autonomous vehicles. And the move to the new technology comes after unsettling findings from a long-awaited federal government study of the cancer risk from cellphone use.

National Toxicology Program researchers released preliminary data in May that showed small increases in tumors in male rats exposed to cellphone radiation.

The rats were exposed to nine hours of radiation daily, in 10-minutes-on, 10-minutes-off intervals, over their whole bodies for two years. The researchers found increased incidences of rare brain and heart tumors starting at about the federally allowable level of cellphone radiation for brain exposure, with greater incidences at about two and four times those levels.

Extrapolating the results to humans gets complicated, and there were some puzzling findings as well. Why, for instance, did only male rats show increased tumor rates, and not females? Final results from the peer-reviewed study won't be released until at least the end of 2017.

The study, which the American Cancer Society said marked "a paradigm shift in our understanding of radiation and cancer risk," reignited debate about the potential...

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