Safety Debate Over Cell Phones

Cell phones are no longer a symbol of affluence but a must-have form of communication now used by some 70 to 100 million Americans. But their use has also spawned a debate on safety, reports CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes.

At a time when the mobile phone industry is exploding, there is renewed concern over how safe the phones are because they are held directly to the head and emit electromagnetic radiation. Health experts have been debating over the possible effects the radiation might have, and six years ago, the cell phone industry commissioned a $25 million study to prove they are safe.

Preliminary results of that study, to be released at a cell phone industry conference in Long Beach this weekend, are far from conclusive. So far, the findings suggest a possible correlation between cell phone use and a specific type of brain cancer. However, the director of the study says the data is not cause for panic -- only for more research.

But Dave Reynard, a widowed Florida businessmen, was expecting more concrete information. Reynard lost his wife to a brain tumor he says was caused by her cell phone.

"She had a tumor the size of a golf ball right here on the side of her head which is where the antenna would go when you're using the phone," Reynard said.

Just before her death, Susie Reynard videotaped a deposition for a lawsuit.

"We didn't realize they were bad for you," she said in her statement.

The editor of Microwave News, an industry publication, says consumers should be outraged.

"Basically the industry has not honored its commitment to the American public to get to the bottom of this," Louis Slesin says. "Even if it's a small risk, we're talking on a societal basis a very large problem."

The cell phone industry vigorously defends its research as fair and independent.

"The preponderance of evidence as reviewed by the major regulatory bodies in this country, in Canada, in the U.K., international bodies, says that there is not a linkage between the use of wireless phones and health effects," says Tom Wheeler.

While many studies have found no health risks, a recent Swedish study found cell phone users were two-and-a-half times as likely to suffer brain tumors near their phone ear.

Dr. Stephen Cleary has found microwaves like those emitted from a cell phone caused cancer cells to grow, but he is frustrated that the government is leaving all new research to industry.

"The problem we have right now there isn't enough information to know exactly what the negative aspects of this exposure would be," Dr. Cleary says.

The Food and Drug Administration has seen the industry's study, and will only say it looks like more research is needed. This result puts consumers right back where they were six years ago -- tied to a technology that could be dangerous to their health.

Reported By Sandra Hughes