Talking on Cell PhoneIn a slight change of tune regarding cell phone use, the International Agency for Research on Cancer announced today that radiation from cell phones can possibly cause cancer. The agency is the cancer arm of the World Health Organization.

The WHO now lists cell phone use in the same “carcinogenic hazard” category (category 2B) as lead, DDT, gasoline engine exhaust, and chloroform.

Before today’s announcement, WHO reassured consumers that no adverse health effects had actually been observed.

After a team of 31 scientists from 14 countries reviewed other peer-reviewed studies on cell phone safety, the team found enough evidence to categorize cell phone exposure as being “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

“The biggest problem we have is that we know most environmental factors take several decades of exposure before we really see the consequences,” says Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in L.A.

Cell phone emit what’s called “non-ionizing” radiation, which is not like that of an X-ray, but is instead more like that of a very weak microwave oven.

“What microwave radiation does in most simplistic terms is similar to what happens to food in microwaves, essentially cooking the brain. So in addition to leading to a development of cancer and tumors, there could be a whole host of other effects like cognitive memory function, since the memory temporal lobes are where we hold our cell phones.”

This is a movement that has been gaining momentum over the years, to be sure.

The European Environmental Agency has been lobbying for additional studies, saying that cell phones could be as harmful to humans as smoking or asbestos.

Results from the largest international study on cell phones and cancer risks were made available to the pblic last year. That study indicated that participants who used a cell phones for more than 10 years had doubled the rate of brain glioma, a type of tumor.

That study was controversial because it started with people who already had cancer and asked them to try and remember how often they used their cellphones more than ten years ago.

So far, no one has done any studies on the effects of cell phone usage among kids.

“Childrens’ skulls and scalps are thinner. So the radiation can penetrate deeper into the brain of children and young adults. Their cells are dividing faster rate, so the impact of radiation can be much larger.” said Black.

Interestingly enough, many cell phone manufacturers already warn users to keep their devices away fro their heads.

Apple’s iPhone 4 safety manual, for example, advises that users’ radiation exposure not exceed FCC guidelines.

“When using iPhone near your body for voice calls or for wireless data transmission over a cellular network, keep iPhone at least 15 mm (5/8 inch) away from the body.”

According to Cancer Research U.K., the only health danger associated with cell phones is a higher risk of car accidents. The group says children under the age of 16 should only use cell phones for critical phone calls as their brains and nervous systems are still developing.

In a separate study, the U.S. National Institutes of Health found that cell phone usage can accelerate brain activity, but it is not known whether or not that may have any dangerous health effects.

More in the video below.