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Congress

New Cell Phone Study Unlikely To End Debate Over Health Risks

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 16: U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's Blackberry and mobile phone sit on the floor next to him as he prepares to testify before the Senate Finance Committee. (Photo by )(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

February 22, 2011

A new government study shows that using a cell phone for as little as 50 minutes increases activity in brain cells, but whether that constitutes a health risk remains unclear.

The potential risks of using cell phones near the head have long been the focus of studies and a point of debate, and although the issue is far from resolved, many major medical groups have said the existing scientific findings are encouraging.

This latest study, conducted by the National Institutes of Health and scheduled to be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Wednesday, found that the human brain is sensitive to the effects of the electromagnetic radiation emitted from cell phones. The researchers, led by Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse Nora Volkow, measured increases in glucose metabolism, a process sparked by cell activity.

The research may undermine the assertion that cell phone signals are too weak to stimulate the brain. But the study's authors were quick to emphasize that the clinical significance of the findings is unknown.

"The study did not show that this activity is by itself harmful," Volkow said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "The question now becomes, does repeated exposure cause problems?"

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