As cell phones and other wireless devices become increasingly popular, there is a growing concern over the possible health impact of wireless technologies. Science is still inconclusive on whether cell phone radiation is safe or harmful to humans. In the past decade, several large human studies have been carried out worldwide to examine possible links between cell phone use and brain cancer. Results from those studies are mixed and sometimes contradictory. Following a comprehensive review of the existing scientific evidence, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified cell phone radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” in 2011, based on limited evidence of increased brain tumor risk in long-term cell phone users. New research data for heavy and long-term mobile phone use is needed in order to answer the question.
The COSMOS study is an international cohort study aiming to investigate whether there are health problems linked to long-term use of mobile phones. It is being conducted in six European countries – UK, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands and France.
On the COSMOS website, it states that:
“Many reviews have concluded that there is no convincing evidence to date that mobile phones are harmful to health. However, the widespread use of mobile phones is a relatively recent phenomenon and it is possible that adverse health effects could emerge after years of prolonged use. Evidence to date suggests that short term (less than ten years) exposure to mobile phone emissions is not associated with an increase in brain and nervous system cancers. However, regarding longer term use, the evidence base necessary to allow us to make firm judgments has not yet been accumulated. There are still significant uncertainties that can only be resolved by monitoring the health of a large cohort of phone users over a long period of time.”
The COSMOS study received funding of 2,028,700.00 Euro from both the government and industry. The Study started on April 1 2008 and is currently in its 2nd 5-year period (until May 31 2019). A total of 290,000 adult mobile phone users were recruited across Europe. Participants are asked to fill in an online questionnaire about their health, lifestyle and use of wireless technology. The study team gained permission from the participants to access their mobile phone records through their mobile phone operators and medical records via the Health and Social Care Information Center (HSCIC). The interested health information includes symptoms, like headaches, sleep disorders, tinnitus and chronic disease such as cancer, benign tumors, neurological diseases (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and stroke). Participants are contacted approximately once a year to update their details or to request additional information. The intension of the study is to follow participant’s health status for 20-30 years.
The Study has been making good progress over the past few years. It finished participant recruitment and baseline data collection at the end of 2012. A major follow-up questionnaire was developed during 2012. The follow-up questionnaire focuses on mobile phones and wireless technologies, but also collects data on other environmental exposures in order to answer wider environment and health questions. In 2013, the team received mobile phone traffic data for approximately 80% of the participants. The team focused on data analysis in 2014 and plans to launch their follow-up questionnaire in 2015.
Currently, COSMOS is the only prospective cohort study specifically designed to address the important unanswered questions concerning long-term health risk to the public from wireless technologies. More information about the Study can be found at http://www.ukcosmos.org/index.html.