Brain and Body

Experts Say It’s Bogus That Wi-Fi and Cell Phones Cause Cancer

February 25, 2016 | Kelly Tatera


Myth debunked.

At some point, you’ve probably heard the claim that radiation from cell phones and Wi-Fi may increase our risk for developing brain cancer. Just last week (Feb 16), Catalyst aired an episode on ABC called “Wi-Fried,” hosted by Dr. Maryanne Demasi, arguing that these claims are true.

However, The Conversation rounded up a bunch of experts who have conducted research in this area and asked them to weigh in on the claims made in Wi-Fried.

Here’s what they had to say:

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Professor Rodney Croft is the Director of the National Health & Medical Research Council at Australia’s Centre for Research Excellence in Electromagnetic Energy.

He says that the program was “misleading” and “followed the views of a few individuals” instead of honoring authentic science journalism principles. He says these views are not supported by science and should be taken merely as personal views.

“In fact, the scientific consensus is strong, and is that there is no substantiated evidence that the low levels of radiofrequency emissions encountered by mobile telecommunications can cause any harm,” he says.

Dr. Darren Saunders, a cancer biologist at the University of NSW, shared similar sentiments.

“Scaremongering and pseudoscience have plenty of other outlets on TV, and there are so many amazing science stories to be told locally and internationally. There was very selective reporting of existing data and sensationalist headlines,” he said.

He notes the two main flaws in the argument that Wi-Fi and phones cause cancer.

The first is that we’ve been exposed to the same kind of non-ionising electromagnetic radiation long before mobile phones and Wi-Fi became so common, so there’s a lack of a demonstrable increase in brain cancer cases over time.

The second is that the argument lacks a plausible biological mechanism to explain how this kind of radiation can cause cancer. Saunders told The Conversation, “There were very poor analogies made with microwave ovens and smoking, which are purely emotive and not based on actual science. Comparing a microwave to a mobile phone is like comparing a Saturn V rocket to your lawnmower.”

Simon Chapman, Emeritus Professor in Public Health at the University of Sydney, says that, in Australia, there’s no evidence of any increase in the rate of brain cancer per 100,000 people from 1982 to the present, other than the oldest age group where the increase started well before mobile phones were introduced, so phones cannot explain the increase.

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Dr. Sarah Loughran is a researcher at the National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia’s Centre for Research Excellence in Electromagnetic Energy and a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) Environmental Health Criteria Evaluation Committee on Radiofrequency Fields.

“Unfortunately a very disappointing and inaccurate story was presented,” she said about Wi-Fried. “Many claims were made without providing any substantiated science to support what was essentially individual and selective opinions that were used to paint an incorrect picture of the current state of knowledge.”

Loughran says that there is currently no scientific evidence that supports the argument that exposure to low level radiofrequencies emitted by mobile phones and Wi-Fi has an impact on health.

By asserting these bold claims without scientific evidence to support them, Loughran says Wi-Fried may “perpetuate fear related to a health risk that currently does not exist.”

So, there you have it. The experts say there’s no science to back the claims that mobile phones and Wi-Fi increase the risk of brain cancer, which is excellent news considering they’ll probably be around for awhile.

h/t: The Conversation

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