By now, via those nifty little news reports on TV that come embedded in slightly bigger and niftier TV news reports, almost everyone in the tech market should’ve heard that the medical market is claiming that cell phones can cause cancer. Get this clear before we go reacting: they claim cell phones can cause cancer and not that cell phones do cause cancer.
There have been claims and innuendos and accusations about the health risks of cell-phone use since the day the devices entered the mainstream. I remember going to trade shows and receiving free samples of little disks that attach to the ear piece of the “deadly” communication device that promised to ward off the evil spirits emanating in the form of radiation. I also remember one company that offers lead-lined cases to house your telecomm tool when not in use. I don’t know if the case was to protect the user from the cell phone or the cell phone from a nuclear holocaust. Either way, so much for RoHS compliance on that one.
These claims of health dangers are quite the trend, particularly in the electronics markets. When the plain-old wired telephone garnered mass appeal, there were grumblings that extended use of the handset and rotary dialer caused wrist, finger, neck, and ear problems. When TVs became affordable, extensive viewing was immediately linked to eye ailments and headaches. Initially, microwave ovens were certainly going to transform us all into mutant zombies from Sanyo and video games were the cause of all sorts of physical and psychological aberrations. Of course the list goes on.
There are two things we can accept as truth when it comes to these issues. First, and this is irrefutable, the outcomes of any research regarding an esoteric health issue will be exactly what the party or parties paying for the research command. Classic examples are the tobacco studies that allegedly proved smoking tobacco, as well as witnessing someone smoking tobacco, to be a major threat to the entire human species and beyond. The other example is the telecommuting studies that always favor the desires of the employers who pay for them.
Second, and this is really the bottom line, is that no one really knows yet what the long term impact of cell phone use has on the species. Surely we can dose a bunch of rats with massive 3G/4G transmissions and say, “look, they croaked because their little heads exploded”. Overdose on anything and you will get sick at some unknown point and to some equally unknown extent.
On the bright side though, researchers have a wealth of willing human subjects they can study over time. It’s estimated, by some research firm somewhere, that more than 276 million people in the US use cell phones. Allegedly, that’s about 90% to 92% of the US population. Scientists could offer users, say, 200 free minutes a year, including Internet and texting, if they can get a copy of the results of their yearly medical exam, or at least from the ones that can actually afford yearly medical exams. If any of the subjects start to develop brain tumors and/or “bite the big one” as a result of cell phone use, they can compare the relevant data, i.e., user age vs. date of illness/demise vs. amount of cell phone usage vs. size, color, and YouTube worthiness of the tumors, and come to more accurate conclusions.
Personally, I think the only risk a person faces when using a cell phone is walking into me while engaged in cell phone activity. Be that as it may. I recently asked a doctor, who specializes in various cancers of the brain and spine stem at a noted NYC cancer hospital what his thoughts were on the subject. I quote, “When it comes to cell phones, we are primarily concerned with cancer of the brain. But since cancers only attack living cells and tissue, 98% of cell phone users have nothing to worry about”. Let the dialing begin.