Scientists have started work on a massive official study to discover whether the long-term use of mobile phones causes brain cancer, and Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.
The study – whose launch vindicates an Independent on Sunday campaign to draw attention to potential risks of using handsets for over a decade – will initially involve 200,000 people in Britain, Denmark and Sweden, and hopes to increase its range to other European countries. The British part of it alone will cost £3.1m, provided jointly by the Government and by the mobile-phone industry.
The research – which is being led in Britain by a team from Imperial College, London, under the auspices of the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR) Programme – will follow 90,000 mobile-phone users in this country over the years, to see what happens to them. It is important because cancers take at least 10 years – and normally much longer – to develop, but the phones have spread so rapidly and recently that relatively few people have been using them for that long. Official assurances that the phones do not cause the disease have been of little value as they are based on research that, at best, includes few people who have been exposed to radiation from the phones long enough.
Last October, this newspaper reported that the most comprehensive study to date – a review of all the research on people exposed for more than a decade – had found that they were twice as likely to get brain cancer on the side of the head where they held the handset.
Last night, Mike Bell, chairman of the Radiation Research Trust, hailed the launch of the new study as a "breakthrough" and said it had partly come about because of the way the IoS had put the issue "into the public domain".