Making The Call On Cellphone
Life Bluetube Headsets
Cell Phone Towers Health Effects
EM Field Meter
Cell Phone Sensitivity
By Steve Dorfman
What is it with the World Health Organization's insistence
on messing with our long holiday weekends?
First, on the Tuesday after Memorial Day, it reversed its
decade-long stance on the relative safety of cellphones. The
WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer now
considers the non-ionizing radiation emitted from cellphones
as "possibly carcinogenic to humans."
As if this startling about-face wasn't unsettling enough,
the IARC did itself - not to mention, us - no favors by
failing to disclose the exact reasons for changing its
opinion on cellphones.
Until the Friday before Fourth of July weekend, that is.
Just as you and I were trying to cut out of work early and
get a jump on our three-day weekend, the IARC's reasoning
was being published in an industry journal.
I haven't had a chance yet to peruse the IARC's published
piece (long weekend, and all!). But regardless of why its
leaders decided to reverse course, there's only so much
credence - positive or negative - one can place in their
That's because the data on which the IARC is basing its
"new" opinion are from 2004. That's pre-iPhone, for goodness
sake! In the tech realm, time passes in dog years, so seven
years ago might as well have been last century.
Regardless, Dr. Jonathan Samet, chairman of the IARC's group
working on this project, told reporters in June, "A review
of the human evidence of epidemiological studies shows an
increased risk of glioma and malignant types of brain cancer
in association with wireless-phone use."
Two problems with this:
1) Epidemiological studies are inherently unscientific - and
therefore fall short of reaching the threshold of "proving"
anything; 2) Dr. Paul Okunieff of the University of Florida
Shands Cancer Center told The Palm Beach Post two weeks ago
that one reason for the increase in glioma findings is
improved scanning technology.
That is, gliomas are not necessarily occurring more often -
they're just more readily detectable.
Of course, many cellphone critics don't need much in the way
of scientific proof to voice their concerns about the
devices' safety. Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurosurgery
and neuroscience at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los
Angeles, has long believed that cellphone use contributed to
the brain tumor that killed one of his most famous patients:
attorney Johnnie Cochran.
As Black told CNN, "My own belief is that there probably is
a correlation between the use of cellphones and brain
cancer, even though there's no scientific proof."
Just after the International Agency for Research on Cancer
released its new opinion, Black explained to PBS that many
of the conflicting reports and faulty studies have focused
on disparate forms of cell phone usage. The epidemiological
studies were not apples-to-apples comparisons in terms of
usage frequency or duration.
But the most important point Black made is that, when
environmental agents cause cancer, they don't do so after
just a few years - or even a decade. As he noted, "If one
was to start smoking cigarettes when they were 12, we don't
expect them to develop lung cancer when they're 22. We
expect them to develop lung cancer when they're 42 or 52,
(after) three or four decades of exposure."
Hence, it's simply too soon to know whether cell phone use
is indeed carcinogenic.
So, until further notice, take reasonable precautions (e.g.,
use a wired headset or speaker; never hold the phone against
your ear) and just remember: Currently, the greatest
immediate cellphone-related threat to your life expectancy
is texting while driving.
Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte,
Mobile Alabama USA