The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Cellphones Are a "Carcinogenic Hazard", Says the World Health Organization.

After years of debate over cellphone radiation hazards, the weight of evidence swings.

1 min read
Cellphones Are a "Carcinogenic Hazard", Says the World Health Organization.

A year ago the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released the  Interphone Report, the conclusion of a ten year project to determine whether or not cell phone radiation caused health problems. At the time, the Interphone study’s conclusion was that the evidence for cell phone hazards just wasn’t there, even though a number of researchers involved in the project expressed concerns about long-term use.

But today, after a working group of 31 scientists from 14 countries reviewed the latest research data, the IARC announced that it has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields from cell phones “as possibly carcinogenic to humans based  on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of  brain cancer.“

Jonathan Samet, overall Chairman of the Working Group, said that "the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk."

In its news release detailing its conclusions, the IARC indicated that this conclusion has implications for public health, particularly given that an estimated 5 billion people around the world use a mobile phone.

“This is the first formal acknowledgment that we may have a problem on our hands—and it could be a very big problem. We don’t know yet,” Louis Slesin, editor of Microwave News, told Spectrum.

This announcement will likely lead to increased research about the specific effects of cell phone radiation, and will likely give a boost to efforts to insist that a phone’s radiation emission levels are prominently labeled in cell phone stores, something the cell phone industry has been fighting.

The Conversation (0)

Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

Keep Reading ↓Show less