Now that nearly two billion cell phones are being used worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its cell phone safety recommendations:

  • Limit the time spent using cell phones.

  • Consider employing so-called “hands-free” devices designed to prevent undue radiofrequency (RF) exposure to the head and other parts of the body.

  • Avoid cell phone use while driving.

WHO says no definitive link between cell phone use and adverse health effects has been found in studies so far, but more research is needed because few studies have examined the consequences of localized exposures of radiofrequency fields to the head. Recent findings indicate that mobile phones may cause changes in brain activity, reaction times, and sleep patterns.

WHO wants the public and cell phone manufacturers to voluntarily embrace reductions in RF exposure, rather than have governments set safety standards.

WHO is also overseeing a multinational research project with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to gather data about possible associations between cell phone use and the development of certain head and neck cancers. Research is expected to be completed in 2003.