Tungsten health scare over mobile phones

Experts are concerned a gradual increase in exposure to tungsten could pose a health risk. Picture: PA
Experts are concerned a gradual increase in exposure to tungsten could pose a health risk. Picture: PA
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Exposure to mobile phones, jewellery and light bulbs could increase the risk of suffering serious health problems, because they contain tungsten, scientists have warned.

High levels of the metal in the body could double the risk of suffering a stroke, according to researchers at the University of Exeter.

Current exposure to tungsten is low, despite its prevalence in many everyday items and appliances.

But experts are concerned a gradual increase could pose a health risk to future generations, as advances in technology continue to drive demand for tungsten.

Dr Jessica Tyrrell, lead author of the research, said: “Whilst currently very low, human exposure to tungsten is set to increase. We’re not yet sure why some members of the population have higher levels of the metal in their make-up, and an important step in understanding and preventing the risks it may pose to health will be to get to the bottom of how it’s ending up in our bodies.”

The research used data from the US-based National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, analysing information from more than 8,500 participants aged between 18 and 74 over a 12-year period.

According to figures from the World Health Organisation, a stroke is currently the second leading cause of death in the western world, behind heart disease.

It is also the leading cause of disability in adults, often resulting in loss of motor control, urinary incontinence, depression and memory loss.

Higher tungsten levels were found to be strongly associated with an increase in the prevalence of stroke.

Importantly, the findings show that tungsten could be a significant risk factor for stroke in people under the age of 50.

And it is not just exposure to items containing tungsten that could prove dangerous.

During its production, small amounts of the metal can be deposited in the environment, eventually making their way into water systems and on to agricultural land.

Dr Nicholas Osborne, a fellow report author, said: “The relationship between tungsten and stroke may only be the tip of the iceberg.

“As numerous new substances make their way into the environment, we’re accumulating a complex chemical cocktail in our bodies.

“Currently, no research has explored how these compounds might interact to on impact human health.”