COSMOS: Cohort Study of Mobile Phone Use and Health

Cell phones and other wireless devices such as laptops or tablets emit electromagnetic fields (EMF)[1]. When using the new technology, you are exposed to these electromagnetic fields. What is the impact of long-term mobile phone radiation on human beings? We still do not know, but we will probably find out thanks to the COSMOS study, which focuses on EMF.

What is COSMOS[2]?

COSMOS is an international cohort study of mobile phone use and health conducted by Imperial College London. It was initiated in 2008 as a long-term project to investigate the possible health effects resulting from long-term use of mobile phones and other wireless devices. The main goal of the research is to monitor a large group of people who have used wireless technology for a number of years so that scientists can verify if there are any links between health issues and the usage of cell phones[3],[4],[5] and other mobile devices over extended periods of time.

Among the participating countries were the United Kingdom, with its major research centres, Denmark, Sweden, Finland[6], France, and the Netherlands. The international COSMOS team is made up of the best European researchers. In the UK the research is carried out by the COSMOS team at MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health, the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Imperial College London. It is funded by the Department of Health. The study received industry support in the form of mobile phone use data provided by network operators. Currently, there are around 105,000 COSMOS participants[7] in the UK and more than 300,000 across Europe.

When we use cell phones it is usually for a relatively short amount of time. That is why there are questions about the possible long-term health effects that we are not currently aware of[8]. Many research units that deal with health care have reported the need for this type of study, including the World Health Organization (WHO)[9],[10]. COSMOS will dispel any doubts about the long-term health effects caused by electromagnetic radiation.

The study in practice

In 2010 and 2012, researchers invited randomly selected people to fill out a questionnaire about their health. These basic surveys will be conducted at regular intervals in the future to monitor the health of participants and the impact that using cell phones and other wireless devices may have on them. The questionnaire also gathers information about a number of important factors to be accounted for. This includes information on reproductive health, sleep quality, environmental factors (traffic noise, air pollution), demographics and type of lifestyle. The researchers will also use the collected data to create health registers of participants and mobile traffic data reports. This data correlation is essential to confirm an objective link between health and mobile phone use.

COSMOS is a long-term study and we will have to wait several more years for it to be completed[11]. The results will be made available throughout the duration of the study, and we already know a little bit about the participants’ habits, health, behaviour (including place of residence, gender, health and wellbeing statistics, as well as mobile phone usage).

The COSMOS research team

In the UK the study is supervised by Prof. Paul Elliott[12] and Dr Mireille B Toledano[13] from Imperial College London[14]. Paul Elliott is Principal Investigator, Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, trained in clinical medicine and epidemiology as a Wellcome Trust Clinical Fellow at St Mary’s Hospital London and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Mireille B Toledano is Co-Principal Investigator, Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology, senior lecturer in epidemiology at Imperial College London and investigator of the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health specializing in environmental and spatial epidemiology.

In Denmark and France the Principal Investigator is Dr Aslak Poulsen[15]from the Danish Institute of Cancer Epidemiology and International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC); in Finland Prof. Anssi Auvinen[16] from the School of Public Health at Tampere University; in the Netherlands Dr. Roel Vermeulen[17] and Prof. Hans Kromhout[18] from the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences at Utrecht University; in Sweden Dr. Lena Hillert[19], Dr. Maria Feychting[20] and Prof. Anders Ahlbom[21] from Karolinska Institute[22].

The COSMOS study is a great starting point for a discussion on SAR from within the scientific community. We’re looking forward to the results of this study. If you wish to find out more about COSMOS or have any questions, you can visit their website: https://www.ukcosmos.org/

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[1]WHO (1999) What are electromagnetic fields? [Online] http://www.who.int/peh-emf/about/WhatisEMF/en/ (Accessed 27/06/2017)

[2]UK COSMOS (2017) [Online] https://www.ukcosmos.org/ (Accessed 27/06/2017)

[3]Ahlbom, A. et al. (2009) Standing Committee on Epidemiology: Epidemiologic evidence on mobile phones and tumour risk [Online] http://journals.lww.com/epidem/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2009&issue=09000&article=00005&type=abstract (Accessed 27/06/2017)

[4]Kan, P. et al. (2008) Cellular phone use and brain tumour: a meta-analysis[Online] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11060-007- 9432–1 (Accessed 27/06/2017)

[5]Lahkola, A. et al. (2006) Meta-analysis of mobile phone use and intracranial tumours [Online]

http://www.sjweh.fi/show_abstract.php?abstract_id=995 (Accessed 27/06/2017)

[6]Heinävaara, S. et al. (2011) Validation of exposure assessment and assessment of recruitment methods for a prospective cohort study of mobile phone users (COSMOS) in Finland: a pilot study [Online] https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1476-069X-10-14(Accessed 27/06/2017)

[7]UK COSMOS (2017) Participation in the COSMOS study [Online] https://www.ukcosmos.org/Participants (Accessed 27/06/2017)

[8]Toledano, M.B. et al. (2015) How to Establish and Follow up a Large Prospective Cohort Study in the 21st Century — Lessons from UK COSMOS[Online] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0131521 (Accessed 27/06/2017)

[9]World Health Organization (2014) Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile phones [Online] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs193/en/ (Accessed 27/06/2017)

[10]World Health Organization (2013) What are the health risks associated with mobile phones and their base stations? [Online] http://www.who.int/features/qa/30/en/ (Accessed 27/06/2017)

[11]Schüz, J., Elliott, P. et al. (2010) An international prospective cohort study of mobile phone users and health (Cosmos): Design considerations and enrolment [Online] http://www.cancerepidemiology.net/article/S1877-7821(10)00151-7/references (Accessed 27/06/2017)

[12]Professor Paul Elliott: http://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/p.elliott

[13]Dr Mireille Toledano: http://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/m.toledano

[14]Imperial College London: http://www.imperial.ac.uk/

[15]Dr Alak Poulsen: http://www.dtu.dk/english/service/phonebook/person?id=121563&tab=3&qt=dtuprojectquery

[16]Professor Anssi Auvinen: http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/about_us/bio_a-auvinen.html

[17]Dr Roel Vermeulen: https://www.uu.nl/staff/RCHVermeulen

[18]Professor Hans Kromhout: https://www.uu.nl/staff/JKromhout/0

[19]Dr Lena Hillert: http://ki.se/en/people/lenhil

[20]Dr Maria Feychting: http://ki.se/en/people/marfey

[21]Professor Anders Ahlbom: http://ki.se/people/andahl

[22]Karolinska Institute: http://ki.se/en/startpage