Just one day after I shared my concerns about kids and cell phones, as well as the measures my family has put into place to minimize exposure to the non-ionizing radiation that they emit, the World Health Organization/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a press release noting that it was classifying such radiation as "possibly carcinogenic," just like some industrial chemicals and a few viruses, such as the human immunodeficiency virus and certain strains of the human papilloma virus.
Here is the IARC classification chart for various agents, with non-ionizing radiation assigned a 2B level.
The WHO/IARC issued a press release prior to the report being published, which is an unusual sequence of events in scientific circles. The report is scheduled to be published in The Lancet Oncology in its July 1 issue and will appear sooner online, perhaps as early as this week.
While the risk of cancer is low from agents in the "possibly carcinogenic" category, it makes sense to reduce your exposures when you can. Additionally, I would think individuals with a family history of brain tumors or other brain disorders, such as epilepsy, would be wise to practice extra precautions. As for children, well, perhaps all those countries that restrict sales or advertising of cell phones to tweens and younger and encourage headsets (France), encourage texting instead of talking (Finland), or even recommend against their use for kids under the age of 18 (Russia) are worth emulating. Fortunately, the chairperson of the WHO/IARC working group that authored the study, Jonathan Samet, MD, from the University of Southern California, is a member of the United States' National Cancer Advisory Board. The NCAB advises the National Cancer Institute on its research agenda so perhaps Dr. Samet will encourage the United States to become more active in researching this type of radiation, especially its effects on our youngest citizens.