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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A question that will get you shouted down

Are cell phones safe?

Just the mention of the possibility that they aren't, invariably brings a bunch of folks out of the woodwork, screaming that there's no proof that holding a radio transmitter next to your head all day causes cancer.

But there's no proof that it doesn't, either. And some scientists continue to ask the question.

Comments (14)

Wow...per the article, as dangerous as coffee.

or red meat.

Red meat every day will definitely get you.

I don't know about red meat, more and more research appears to be showing that low-fat diets, sugar, and grains (especially wheat and corn) are what are really causing a lot of health problems.

A couple interesting reads:


Hmmm, by that rationale, there isn't any proof that the world completely disappears everytime I fall asleep at night only to reappear when I awake.

But there is no proof it doesn't either!

I will never sleep a wink again!!!

Did you read the report?? Sounds like the same kind of science that they used for global warming except even worse. Let's see, you have this type of cancer, now think back over the past 3, 5, 10 years and tell us how much you used a cell phone on a daily basis. And they call this a study???

We know for a fact that the longest wavelength of EM radiation that has enough energy to break even the weakest pi bond is a photon of UV light. If the radio waves aren't altering DNA, then what exactly is the mechanism for causing cancer?

Not only does the article not have an answer for how cellphones may be contributing to cancer, the articles are so full of qualifications and wiggle words that they say almost nothing at all. A political organization declaring that there's a possibility that something could maybe contribute to cancer is less than compelling.

Thanks for the shout-out.... I mean, shout-down.

The studies show that the phones alter brain activity near where they contact the body. Common sense tells me that that could lead to problems. But I guess since I don't have conclusive proof of causation of cancer, I should ignore what common sense tells me and go with what Sprint wants me to do.

Kind of like my dad and R.J. Reynolds prior to 1963.

"The same cancer research agency lists alcoholic drinks as a known carcinogen and night shift work as a probable carcinogen."

Judging by the time stamp on some of your blog entries and the wine cellar inventory you may be tripling your odds!

I don't doubt that cell phone usage may affect brain activity, but to me, the convenience factor trumps the potential risk, at least until we have more definitive results.

What about wireless "land-line" phones?
What about Wi-Fi?
What about Pittsburgh PA?
You oughta know not
To stand by the window-
Somebody see you out there.
This ain't no party!
This ain't no disco!

Ummm, isn't it sort of the point of a cell phone to "alter brain activity"? I mean, next to visualization, processing auditory input takes up the next largest share of neurons, if my recall of distant biology classes is right.

I don't think anyone should be shouted down on this, but it is a bit late to pretend that we dont have extraordinary reams of data that just sits there, rebutting all attempts to manufacture a new phobia. Because cell phones came along when they did, well into the age of Big Brother, we know who adopted cell phones, when, how much they're used , what time of day, what the solar flare situation was during the use, et et etc. With the hyperbolic usage curve pointing nearly vertical on cell phone usage, if they weree a health threat, why has brain cancer remained so flat?

Cell phones do kill. They kill some of the drivers who drive while using them, and they kill many innocents who the driver-users slam into. The data on THAT is far, far stronger, and requires no mystery magic force to explain. Humans can't multitask, but it's profitable to sell people things for encouraging them to try.

Jack, that wasn't meant as a shout out or shout down, I was just wondering if you had read the article. After reading it, to me, it sounded like the old "we will prove that X causes Y" and then they conduct the study to show that. Not DOES X cause Y, but we're going to show that it does. Study seems very shaky to me.

Why don't you start by reading my post? I said that respectable scientists are asking questions. I didn't say that cell phones cause cancer. But they might, and that possibility is worth considering.

This is late, but worthwhile ... Bob Park is former head of American Physical Union and author of a food book debunking junk science.

WHAT’S NEW   Robert L. Park   Friday, 3 Jun 2011   Washington, DC

My science-reporter friend, Naif, called this week about cell phones.  
Here's how it went.  Naif: "Who said there’s no evidence that radiation
from cell phones causes brain cancer?"  BP: "WHO did, but that was about a
year ago."  Naif: "That's what I asked, who did?  The International Agency
for Research on Cancer (IARC) says cell phone radiation ‘may be
carcinogenic’." BP: "IARC is WHO."  Naif: "Why ask me? I don't know who.
Besides, shouldn't that be ‘whom’?" BP: Last year they said that no adverse
health effects have been established for mobile phone use."  Naif: "That's
still true, but who said it?"  BP: "I told you; WHO said it after a $14
million epidemiological study of cell phone use in 13 countries."  
Naif: "Then who is IARC?”  BP: "Strictly speaking IARC is part of WHO."  
Naif: "I don't know who it’s part of.  That‘s why I asked."

Let's be open with the public. A Working Group of 31 scientists from 14
countries met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in
Lyon, France from May 24–31 to assess the potential carcinogenic hazards
from exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.  The Working Group
conducted no further study, and gathered no additional evidence.  
Nevertheless, based on an increased risk for glioma, a usually fatal brain
cancer, they voted to classify radiofrequency electromagnetic fields
as, "possibly carcinogenic to humans."  Let's do a little epidemiology of
our own.  There are 5 billion cell phones distributed among the 7 billion
people on Earth.  But, as the New York Times reported this morning, brain
cancer rates in the US have been declining for two decades.  Does this tell
us that cell phones prevent brain cancer?  Alas, no.  The increase in cell
phone use only started one decade ago. It tells us is that epidemiology
alone is a lousy guide for making policy. There is far too much "noise" in
the data.  So far, only photons more energetic than visible light have been
shown to create mutant strands of DNA.  "Maybe it's a multi-photon
process," I'm told.  A two-photon process is possible, even a three-photon
process, but it would take 1 million microwave photons working in tandem to
overcome the work function.  So find a mechanism.  But please don't inflict
more case-control epidemiology on a paranoid public.

Why would it be such a big deal to use earphones?  No big deal.  I already
use an amplifier in each year so I can hear the birds outside my office.  
Let me ask why would it be such a big deal to let people know how
electromagnetic radiation causes cancer?  Bullshit is dangerous.  In 1998
in London, Andrew Wakefield a British gastroenterologist, warned that the
MMR vaccine causes autism.  In the following months the papers daily
carried stories of the tragedy of autism and the heroic doctor who had
found the cause.  In the months following, MMR vaccinations of children
dropped from 90% to 70%.  In 2006, the first child in more than a decade
died of measles in London.  In the first four months of 2011, the HPA
reported 334 cases of measles, a 10 fold increase over the same period a year earlier.  In France, 7000 cases have been reported this year.  Autism was unaffected. http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN11/wn010711.html

Opinions are the author's and not necessarily shared by the
University of Maryland, but they should be

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