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World’s largest study to find out if phones are safe to use

Anecdotal evidence, animal studies and a whole lot of speculation have long flown back and forth over the health risks (and, for mice, benefits) of using a mobile phone. With over 70m mobile phones in use in the UK alone, it’s really time we had some definitive information on whether handsets are really capable of making us unwell.

Good news for health fans then: the UK is taking part in the world’s largest study into the health effects of handsets.

A random selection of Vodafone and O2 customers are to be invited to have their medical records and mobile phone use tracked for several decades. Around 90,000 British people will be studied over the course of about 30 years – with their permission, of course.

During this time, scientists will be looking for instances of a broad range of conditions and illnesses, including cancer, dementia, depression, Alzheimers, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and sleep disorders. It’s the widest-ranging study undertaken so far.

Looking at how much participants use their handsets for calling, texting and web use, the scientists will be able to see if there is any increased risk of illness linked to specific mobile phone use. Because many illnesses could be caused by long-term mobile use, it hasn’t been easy to track and examine whether or not there’s a correlation between the two.

As Professor Lawrie Challis, of the UK government’s mobile telecommunications health research programme management committee, points out, “With many cancers it takes 10 or 20 years for symptoms to show, and most of us have not had mobile phones that long. There just hasn’t been enough time for cancer to develop.” Which isn’t the cheeriest of thoughts, we’ll admit.

Studies will be running simultaneously in the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, with over 250,000 total participants. With this massive wealth of data being gathered, we’d hope that conclusive evidence of the health risks of mobile phones (if any) will finally become apparent.

[Source: The Guardian]

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