Sunday, July 27, 2008

Cell Phones: Friend or Foe?

I got my first mobile phone just two years ago, so was a tad late to the game. The first year I had it, it was rarely used, stowed away in my glove box for emergencies. Once I learned how to text, I used it a bit more frequently, but not as much as most. I just didn't like the idea of having it so close to my brain. You see, I love my brain and want it to be around for a very long time.

Studies so far haven't found a definitive connection between using the phones and cancer, but it must be remembered that it took a long time to develop a cause-and-effect relationship between cigarettes and lung cancer. Nowadays, everyone knows it exists. Could the same be the case for cell phones?

I'm interested in what studies come up with after long-term use, people who've used them for 30 years (course they haven't been around that long yet). Just as it can sometime take that long for cancer to arrive for the smoker, so too could cell phone radiation follow a similar pattern. This past week, a doctor who's the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute issued a warning that people should limit cell phone use because of the possible risk of cancer. He based his warning on unpublished data. Here are a few excerpts from that article:

"The doctor says it takes too long to get answers from scientists and believes people should take action, especially when dealing with children.

"Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn't wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later," Herberman said.

According to Herberman, adults should use the speakerphone and keep the phone away from the head.

Herberman cites a "growing body of literature linking long-term cell phone use to possible adverse health effects including cancer."

"Although the evidence is still controversial, I am convinced that there are sufficient data to warrant issuing an advisory to share some precautionary advice on cell phone use," he wrote in his note to faculty.

Devra Lee Davis, director of the university’s center for environmental oncology, was the driving force behind the memo.

"The question is do you want to play Russian roulette with your brain," she said in an interview from her cell phone while using the hands-free speakerphone as recommended. "I don't know that cell phones are dangerous. But I don't know that they are safe."

I've always found it hard to believe that all that radiation is completely harmless which is why I prefer text messaging (keeps my fingers busy, anyway). When I do have to take a call, I put my phone on speaker (as suggested by the article) so that I'm only exposed to the microwave rays when I'm talking into the speaker (when the other party is talking, I put the phone at my side). For long calls, I'll wait to get home and use my landline.

Some may say I'm being a bit alarmist, but as exemplified by my post on Friday, I'm quite a cautious guy, so excuse me if I like to keep my cell at arm's length (pun intended).


Rocketstar said...

I am glad I am not a phone talker at all. Only when 100% necessary

Rocketstar said...

Better safe than a brain tumor...

Thomas said...

You said it, brotha.

Have a good week.

Mags said...

Well, I don't talk on the phone a lot, but I also can't justify not using it right seems like everything can give you cancer these days. *shrug*

Thomas said...

Good point, Mags.

I would just shy away from having really long conversations on the cell. As a man, this is not something I have to worry about (Rocket alluded to this in his posting above).

Anonymous said...

I don't use my cell phone very often (especially now as I don't get very good reception where I'm living.

SARAH said...

i HATE talking on the phone. yuck.

lauren said...

I work with journalists. A cell phone is pretty much a necessary evil. Plus, it has snazzy ringtones. :)

Are either of the scientists cited in your post doing cancer/cell phone research of their own, do you know?

Thomas said...

Lauren, the person giving the warning is the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and he is basing it on data that hasn't been published yet. He sounds like he knows what he's talking about.

I don't see anything wrong with using a cell phone for short calls and such. I just wouldn't want it as my primary phone due to the potential risks of long-term use.