Why I'm (still) not worried about my cell phone hurting my brain

By Phil Plait | June 1, 2011 6:00 am

I’m getting lots of notes from people about the latest press release from the World Health Organization, saying there is a "possible" link between cell phones and brain cancer. My first reaction was, "Seriously?" This keeps popping up every now and again, but this was the first time I had heard it from a group as big as WHO.

The reason for that initial reaction was that I’ve read about lots of studies showing no link at all between cell phones and health issues (besides quadrupling your odds of a car accident if you drive while using your phone), so my reaction was one of fair skepticism. I’d be surprised if a strong connection had been found.

Turns out, it seems, that’s the right call. My Discover Magazine co-blogger Ed Yong explains why on the Cancer Research UK website. Basically, the WHO put cell phones into the Group 2B category, meaning they are "possibly carcinogenic to humans". Aiiiieee! Sounds scary… except that word "possibly", it turns out, needs to be understood a little more quantitatively.

As Ed shows, the graph showing the results from several tests investigating the links between cell phones and cancer shows that any connection is very weak, and honestly cannot be statistically distinguished from no connection at all. Of course, it’s impossible to rule it out, so there’s that word "possibly". From looking at the graph, though, I’d put the odds at being very, very low. As Ed says in his post, "It means that there is some evidence linking mobile phones to cancer, but it is too weak to make any strong conclusions."

I poked around some news sites (like CNN and MSNBC), and while they aren’t over-hyping it, in my opinion they aren’t being entirely fair, either. The claims I’ve seen from people linking cell phones to brain cancer make it seem as if the connection is obvious, but the results from the WHO make it clear that’s not the case. There might be a connection, but if there is it’s not terribly clear. I’ll note the studies only appear to cover a time base of ten years; it’s not possible to know what happens after, say 15 or 20 years. Even then, other environmental factors dominate such studies, making teasing out a weak signal very difficult.

You may also wish to note what other things are categorized as Group 2B possible carcinogens, including gasoline, pickled vegetables, and (GASP!) coffee.

My opinion here is that while a link between cell phones and brain cancer cannot be ruled out, without a strong correlation and a numerical statement about the odds, it seems very unlikely to me that such a connection is something to worry about. I’m far more worried about the dingus in traffic in front of me gabbing to his friend on his phone and causing an accident than I am about me getting brain cancer from my own.

P.S. Speaking of this topic, I’ll be at the Dragon*Con in September, attending the Star Party Thursday night to raise money for cancer research. I did this in 2009 — it’s in memory of my old friend Jeff Medkeff, who died of liver cancer a few years ago. I missed it last year, but I’m very much looking forward to it this time.

Tip o’ the app to Treelobsters for the list of other Group 2B materials.


Related posts:

Repeat after me: cell phones don’t cause brain cancer
(note the followup in the next link!)
More on cell phones and the lack of harm
xkcd radiates

MORE ABOUT: cancedr, cell phones

Comments (93)

  1. Neal

    That graph reminds me of the recent XKCD about statistical significance: http://xkcd.com/882/

  2. What struck me when I heard about the study was that I had just finished reading Sean Carroll’s piece about the possible anomaly at the Tevatron. The cell phone studies (and pretty much any medical study) uses a 95% confidence level. Yet, as Sean notes, when it comes to particle physics, a lot 3-sigma results end up going away. Particle physicists really prefer a 5-sigma effect to start believing it.

    But the medical studies never go that far, and a lot of them seem to go away in the same fashion.

  3. Carey

    Paraphrasing Randall Munroe, the radiation from your phone is only likely to be harmful if it is a banana phone.

  4. MarkW

    Is there a missing closing italic tag somewhere?

  5. Patrick

    Isn’t brain cancer so rare anyways that it would be very hard to get an accurate study done?

  6. Nigel Depledge

    @ Mark W (2) –
    Yeah, looks that way.

  7. Chas, PE SE

    >>>poked around some news sites (like CNN and MSNBC), and while they aren’t over-hyping it, in my opinion they aren’t being entirely fair, either. <<<

    that's one way of putting it. This is the Chicago Tribune editorial cartoon today:

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-stantis-cartoons-gallery,0,7106058.photogallery

  8. Lawrence

    Jumping off a building “may” kill you……or it “may not.”

    They could have easily used either – since may & may not have the same connotation.

  9. Red

    I’ve asked this in a few spots, but never received an answer; I imagine the folks here will know better than the readers at Salon.

    If cell phones do cause brain tumors, shouldn’t they also cause tumors in the hands that hold the phones?

    Damaged DNA is damaged DNA, right?

  10. Mejilan

    Honestly, I’m more concerned over how my iPhone’s data usage magically ballooned to a stunning 24GB in the past 3 weeks, a roughly 5000% increase over my usual MONTHLY usage! I think my phone caught cancer, actually! :/

  11. SLC

    Here’s a post on this subject by surgical oncologist David Gorski (aka ORAC). Dr. Gorski is decidedly negative on the WHO statement and the reaction to it in the lamestream media.

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2011/06/the_bride_of_the_son_of_the_revenge_of_c.php

    This has also been a popular subject on Prof. Bob Parks’ “What’s New” website. As Prof. Park has noted on multiple occasions, the frequencies used in cell phones are not energetic enough to cause mutations in DNA.

    http://www.bobpark.org/

  12. Dammit, now I’m going to have to give up drinking pickled gasoline while talking on the phone!

  13. Dennis M

    I am firmly convinced that life causes cancer…especially since those who have, and have had, cancer have been alive. Maybe we can add life to the list of Group 2B possible carcinogens? Also, someone said H2O has been found in cancer cells and in the bodies of those with cancer. At least they haven’t banned coffee like they have a number of other substances that may possibly cause cancer — if they had, my days would be far less productive.

  14. When I first heard about this, I was very skeptical. Turns out I was right to be. I do talk on the phone while driving, but only using a bluetooth handset and only for short calls (e.g. calling my wife to tell her I’m headed to the grocery store before going home). And I *NEVER* text while driving. If there’s a text message I just *HAVE* to send, I find a good spot to pull over, send it and then continue driving. I can multitask just fine when I’m sitting in a chair by a computer, but that situation doesn’t involve giant hunks of metal hurtling at 65mph. (At 65mph, looking away from the road for 1 second means crossing 95 feet without seeing what’s in front of you!)

  15. @Dennis M,

    H2O is the chemical symbol of the dreaded dihydrogen monoxide. Some say it should be banned because it has caused the death of thousands. Personally, I’m trying to build up my kids’ resistance to it by regularly filling up my bathtub with the chemical and then putting them into it. Sometimes they struggle (like when I pour dihydrogen monoxide over their heads) but I know I’m doing the right thing.

  16. Electro

    I believe the studies show no appreciable difference in driving impairment between hand held and hands free phone conversations.

    I personally think it is something about how your brain processes a conversation with someone who is physically absent.

  17. Jason

    @ techyDad

    You fill an entire bathtub with that stuff? Didn’t you know that in vapor form its a Key component of Global climate change?

  18. The study is totally flawed. It presumes that people who talk on cellphones long enough to be harmed actually have brains to harm.

    Besides, I’d be much more worried about people stepping off a curb and getting hit by a bus because they were too busy staring at their phone instead of watching where they were going.

    My lawn. Off.

  19. kirk

    There is a cat that shoots lasers out of his beady eyes. I just haven’t found him yet. Probably.

  20. Scott Hurst

    The problem is that we do have relevant data for a much greater than a couple decade span.

    We’ve been exposing people (like me) who work in communications and RADAR fields with exactly the same frequencies but at enormously higher power for the better part of a century. If there was really something to worry about here, we’d long ago had stories like Marie Curie’s and the “Radium Girls”

    Nothing like hanging out in a room with fluorescentcent lights shining and all the switches turned off, you know you’re getting some serious RF exposure then.

    Radiation in the 1-10 Ghz range hold few surprises any more. Not only does our theoretically understanding of light offer no possible way for such puny photons to cause cancer, we have spectacular evidence of no harm after “high dose” exposure to the same from at least the 1940s.

  21. Grand Lunar

    @Red
    “If cell phones do cause brain tumors, shouldn’t they also cause tumors in the hands that hold the phones?”

    Good point there. I’m sure someone, somewhere has some excuse, er, explaination.

    Concerning the study, I’m skeptical too. And not too worried. After all, I spendt a few years of my life in (very) close proximity to a 40 year old nuclear plant. Can’t imagine a cell phone being worse…

    Like others here, I worry far more about people using their phones while driving.

  22. On NBC news last night, Nancy Snyderman was reasonably dismissive.

    The PBS News Hour, to my dismay, was considerably less skeptical. They interviewed an “expert” who briefly acknowledged that the association was weak, then followed up with a whole lot of argument-from-ignorance. (*sheesh*)

  23. I think the most interesting thing on that list of 2B categorized items is the addition of Firefighting. I think there should be some massive media outcry against that… so we can let all of our structures burn to the ground as we find a new way to put out fires without firefighters…

    I guess carpentry and printing are interesting as well. I guess if we didn’t build any buildings we wouldn’t have any fires in them. I guess if we didn’t print anything we would have a tough time passing on knowledge too. I guess we can all go back to living in caves…

  24. James

    @Red and @ 21:

    I can’t really answer the question at hand, but it’s worth bearing in mind that different tissue is likely to react differently (and be more or less prone to developing cancers). After all, another point to make is to question why people don’t get more ear cancer, given that ears absorb a lot more radiation than brains.

  25. Scott Hurst

    @ 24

    There is exactly zero reason to think it “likely” that different tissues will react differently. We have precisely zero evidence to support such a conclusion.

  26. Scott Hurst

    @24

    It is also worth noting that ear cancer (skin) is actually ENORMOUSLY more common than brain cancer. Roughly 1 in 5 Americans develop skin cancer in the lifetimes. About 1/3 of those will be on the ear. That would make 1 in 15 the lifetime odds of ear cancer.

    Incidents of primary (didn’t metastasize from elsewhere) brain tumors are less than 1 in 10,000

  27. Robb

    Phil, Ed’s statement “it means that there is some evidence linking mobile phones to cancer, but it is too weak to make any strong conclusions” is misleading. The pooled odds ratios in the 5 year data are BOTH below the OR = 1 line, and the non-Hardell pooled data from the 10 year graph is also below the line (the Hardell included pooled odds ratio is a little bit above). The only conclusion that can be reasonably drawn from that data as presented is that cell phone use may increase OR DECREASE your risk of brain cancer by a very tiny amount, with DECREASE being the more likely effect, if there is one at all.

    Even if there were an effect, the pooled data establishes that it is so tiny that it’s not worth worrying about. Everybody seems to ignore the magnitude – cell phones either do or do not cause cancer. But the data suggests that even if they do, the effect is so tiny as to be insignificant.

  28. But what if your cell phone happens to be nuclear powered?

    I must know. To the science-motron!

  29. I am more reminded of this (although it’s not as totally applicable because there doesn’t seem to be an actual causation involved here): http://padraic2112.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/ph-d-comics-on-science-news-reporting/

  30. Runi Sørensen

    I just read something stating that 28% of cellphone industry funded research showed ill effects and 67% of non-cellphone industry funded research showed ill effects. If this is true, it stinks of scientific fraud, as we have seen getting uncovered these past years.

    This information comes from Henry Lai. http://depts.washington.edu/bioe/people/core/lai.html

  31. Perhaps we need to rewind somewhat and look deeper into where the problem actually stems from. Mobile networks, Bluetooth & Wifi all utilise the 2.4Ghz frequency band of which Mobile phones/Laptops/Bluetooth earpeices/Wireless Routers/TV’s/Fridges/Radios/fire alarms/home weather stations, these are all radiation emitting devices. How are they differenciating between one and another ? – Unless some international body stops to look at this correctly we could end up being told to not use Wifi all because of background radiation from a smoke detector !! Worst still, who wants to give up coffee in exchange for using your hands free bluetooth thingy !

  32. No technology should be allowed until all unknown hazards associated with it are evaluated and quantified. We are only beginning to understand the long term tragedies associated with fibers. Morgellons syndrome! BYSSINOSIS! Is your child forced to wear clothing? Are you?

    BAN EVERYTHING.

  33. Marina Stern

    Without knowing anything, I’d guess that almost all ear cancers can be prevented by wearing a hat with a brim when outdoors.

  34. I’m more worried about the bees.

  35. Smed

    Could someone please explain the graph? What does OR stand for?

  36. Bluffcityjk

    I’m reminded of this article from Skeptic Magazine. The bottom line is that cell phones do not emit particles at a high enough energy to damage tissue. It is impossible for them to cause cancer. http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/10-06-09/

  37. I can’t help but think of the WHO’s survey of acupuncture studies that they published in 2003 which they used to indicate that acupuncture was effective on a whole bunch of things, including stroke and leukopenia:

    http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js4926e/5.html

    If you actually read the referenced studies, of course, it turns out to just be a survey of cherrypicked papers, none of which use proper control criteria (for example, acupuncture vs. aromatherapy or whatever) and at best it’s measuring which of two unrelated placebos is better at convincing people it’s effective.

    At least the WHO is now referring to the statistically-insignificant cellphone/cancer results as “possible,” rather than making outright characterizations based on bad science, but this doesn’t really help to repair their credibility in my eyes.

    Don’t get me wrong, the WHO does a lot of great work for the world, but their science reporting leaves a bit to be desired at times.

  38. The graph shows data from studies published 1999-2008 – most of them between 2002 and 2006 (so the data were probably collected at least a year before that).

    (1) Cell phone usage has changed substantially since that time… few people were using them much in the early 2000s, whereas now most of us use them a lot now. So those old studies are not so applicable to today’s usage patterns.

    (2) This type of cancer risk is accummulative – less likely to show after a few years’ use, more likely to appear after a decade or several decades. So, if there is a correlation, those early studies are unlikely to show it anyway.

    My point is not to say “cell phones do cause cancer” – it is just to say that we do not have the data to state anything conclusive right now. I would take even the slightest correlation, at this very early stage, as a warning sign of possible things to come. Not definite, but possible…

    I am curious about Scott Hurst’s comments. We absolutely do not have the history of data to say anything conclusive about cell phone risks; cell phones are still too new. But if there are studies where people were exposed to the same type of radiation, over the long-term (decades) at frequencies and intensities that are somewhat analagous to that emitted from cell phones, that would tell us far more than these old (early 2000s) cell-phone studies.

    My understanding of the supposed cellphone risk is that it is only from being very close to the cell phone (i.e. within a few cm) – which is why the supposed risk is brain cancer, and not cancers to the whole body. So any analogous studies, e.g. of Scott Hurst’s scenario, would also have to be comparable in that way… the people not simply being in the room near the radiation source, but being very close to it, or at least somehow exposed to the same intensity or quantity of radiation that a cell-phone user would receive.

  39. Pete Jackson

    I think that WHO is just stirring the pot so that researchers everywhere can still con funding agencies into doling out research grants for more studies on cellphone cancers. This is easy, lazy, science.

    A similar pot that keeps getting stirred is the effects of power lines.

  40. ophu

    We tend to rationalize our addictions. I don’t imagine cell phone addicts are any different.

  41. Charlie

    I’m sure it’s been said before, but why are people so worried about the very indistinct possibility that cell phones may cause cancer, but they refuse to put them down when driving knowing their chances of an accident are proven to dramatically increase?

  42. Calli Arcale

    Truthfully, I”m more worried about the FCC stupidly selling off the bandwidth for the 4G network, as if nobody was using it. Who was using it? Oh, well, the B-2s, for one; the Air Force is spending a billion dollars to upgrade their radar to use a different frequency, since 4G will blind them. Of course, the FCC can probably be excused for not knowing that, as the B2 frequency was obviously classified. But they surely knew that it’s *also* the frequency used for civilian GPS. The results of a study looking into the effects of 4G on airborne GPS are being submitted to the FAA. Depending on the frequency actually in use within the 4G band, airborne GPS ranges from “slightly degraded” to “completely useless”.

    Now that’s going to have much bigger safety implications than a cancer risk so miniscule it hasn’t yet been detected, since airliners have become very reliant on GPS for navigation, speed, and altitude information.

    http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2011/05/27/357268/experts-gps-at-risk-with-lightsquared-4g.html

  43. Georg

    Maybe they smoked the cell phones ?

  44. John

    You are no longer a skeptic but a typical denier, only looking at the results you want to see

  45. Elmar_M

    Exactly my opinion as well Phil!
    More food for thought:
    1. The statistical chance for brain cancer within an assumed lifetime of 100 years (being generous here) is 0.6 percent (lower in some areas of the world, with the US being among the highest with roughly 0.6% IIRC).
    2. One worst case scenario study claims that it might(!) raise your chance by 40%. Now that does NOT mean that you have 40.6 % chance to get the cancer, but it means that you now have a less than 1% chance of getting the cancer. If the worst case is true and you live to be 100 years, because you know there are a gazillion other things that are waaaaay more likely to kill you including crossing a busy street or living next to a coal power plant.
    3. The seeds study for cancer incident rates does show a slight increase of certain brain tumors between 1971 and 2001, but the increase is ever so small and only in the age groups of people 65 years old and older. The increase actually also happened already in 1991 and the curve has been flat ever since (while cell phone usage increased exponentially since then). Also the incident rates for some cancers went down in the same timeframe.
    So currently there is no statistically relevant increase that can be linked to the introduction of cell phones. E.g. one would expect yonger people who talk more on cell phones to now get more cancer than they did in the 70ies. This is NOT the case.
    So again, there is no statistical increase in brain cancer incidents that can be linked to the use of cell phones.

  46. @Matunos (#34)

    I’m more worried about the bees.

    Or dogs that shoot bees from their mouths?

    :D

  47. Brian

    Phil, you might want to look into the similar scare brewing now re: smartmeters that are being installed all over the country. Power companies are switching to these so they can remotely read customers’ power consumption; however, some folks are getting them removed from their homes on the basis that they use “microwaves” to transmit their data back to the utility company. Of course, these microwaves are much lower in frequency and power than what are used in ovens–much as the case with cellphone frequencies.

    This is all part of the so-called “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” phenomenon: people who claim they basically have to live in the woods or otherwise suffer ill effects from pretty much *any* electric device in their presence. No one has yet shown that any such condition exists.

    No doubt a smartmeter=cancer connection will be the next thing that is claimed by those who believe in such things…

  48. steve

    the WHO has been saying it for years actually. when i was there in 2000 the director general wouldn’t let anyone use one in the room she was in – she claimed it gave her migraines.

  49. panini

    If I applied the same psycosis to coffee and pickles, I’d be checking in right now. I’ve enjoyed them far longer than my cell phone.

  50. David

    Jacqueline: There is no such thing as an effect correlated with distance from an electromagnetic radiation source. If you’re a brain feeling the passage of RF energy through you, you only know the power density of the signal. This can be from a low-power source close by or from a higher-power source further away.

    Scott was talking about people working alongside RF energy strong enough to cause fluorescent bulbs to light up without any direct electrical connection. This suggests entire bodies fully immersed in power density levels far, far stronger than experienced even just a few millimeters away from the antenna of a cell phone . That’s why he claims the historical data is relevant.

  51. Electro

    @52

    Steve, Did she claim it was the phone causing her migraines or people using them in her presence?

    Because if it’s the latter…ZOMG!!!…I have the same condition!!!

  52. NBC Today Show’s Dr Nancy Snyderman disassembled this press release rather well this morning as well as on last night’s NBC Nightly News.
    She rocks. I wanna have her baby. Oh, wait… I’m… [Le Sigh]

  53. Quiet Desperation

    Why I’m (still) not worried about my cell phone hurting my brain

    Well, it depends on who you are talking to on the phone.

  54. valkraider

    Good health is merely the slowest possible form of death.

  55. steve

    @Electro she claimed others using them gave her migraines. she never used one. gro haarlem brundtland – the former prime minister of norway.

  56. Bill

    We are a generation of experimental drones. Just like eras before us– radiation tests on solders. Carnation saying formula is better than mother’s milk. “Light cigarettes”. ETC. Do yourself a flavor and at least use speaker mode as much as possible. Your not supposed to stand near or look into a microwave oven very often; cell phones are the same thing mini micro signals. Wait until 2040 and the huge amount of brain cancer. Y risk it and your kids

  57. Nic

    Radio frequency radiation can hurt. Take it from a radio amateur who’s had a couple of RF burns. (Cooks your flesh under your skin, admittedly at way higher powers than a phone could ever do). So I was playing with 50 watts into a dummy load (with bad connectors as I found out) – it CAN damage you. A cellphone is way way less powerful (1% as much?) and certainly cannot immediately burn you. But in general your cellphone is so much closer, a lot closer, and in general perhaps to your brain or chest area. I’m not about to dump my phone but I would not dismiss the concerns out of hand – many people use this stuff for many hours a day. The power ain’t there, but long term exposure (which could have no effect – or long term effects) IS there. Keep a phone in your jacket pocket all day as you walk around and it is irradiating (radio waves) you at a low level. I’m certainly not qualified to say if that is a danger, but it is within millimetres of your skin all day.
    Remember asbestos, ciggies, lead in gas all that. I think this at least needs watching.

    N

  58. Dammit, I’m getting more radiation from my monitor reading this than I am making calls on my cell phone.

  59. Trevor T

    Anyone else brought here by Rob Sheridans tweet? this is nice to hear considering im on my phone more than any living person should be haha. I love Anderson Cooper, but i thought his story and hype over this was silly and not really newsworthy. Thanks rob! (NIN FOREVER!!)

  60. Gasolines are blends of some innocuous stuff and some nasty stuff. For example, benzene is a confirmed carcinogen in humans.

  61. johnm

    Cell phones allow too much freedom of communication. Ban the cells, cut back on free flow of info, particularly if you take account of internet tech on the cells.

  62. David

    My favourite entry on the Group 2B list is ‘Carpentry and Joinery’

  63. Masha

    I have an acquaintance who has smoked 2 packs of cigarettes a day, claiming that all the smokers with cancer also eat cucumbers – so why not say its the cucumbers that cause cancer? He then got thyroid, and larynx cancer :/ People were oblivious to the effects of smoking for a long time.

  64. Jonathan

    The New York Times published an excellent article authored by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee on April 13, 2011. It gets to the issues of cancer epidemiology and exposures to RF with cell phone use. Cell phones do not cause brain cancer but despite this well written, reasoned and informed article by a subject matter expert, the general scientific illiterate public will continue to have doubts. What we need is more science education in schools and more media accountability to deliver truth and not just a good story.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17cellphones-t.html?_r=1

  65. Tim

    One big difference is that cell phones have no known (AFAIK) health benefits. Lots of us drink coffee every day but while coffee has some possible health downsides, it also has some possible health upsides, such as the ability to decrease your chances of suffering from colon cancer (as my doctor is always eager to point out!). I’ve heard research suggesting it even increases longevity.

    Gasoline is nasty stuff, and I avoid it entirely unless I have no choice. I don’t even drive, and the bus I take is electric!

    If cell phones are like gasoline, I don’t think that’s reason to be OK with cell phones. I think that’s even more reason to avoid gasoline!

  66. Harold

    @ ophu (#43)
    We tend to rationalize our unsupported preconceived beliefs. I don’t imagine cell phone cancer asserters are any different.

  67. brett

    For what its worth one of Australia’s best (if not the best)brain cancer specialists, neurosurgeon Dr Charlie Teo, takes the possibility seriously.here is a link http://www.news.com.au/technology/brain-surgeon-dr-charlie-teo-warns-against-mobiles-home-appliances/story-e6frfro0-1225791947213

  68. lets hope it doesn’t affect the bees either.

  69. Finster

    My mom just passed away from brain cancer (Glioblastoma multiforme), she was 65. She probably used a cell phone for the first time around 62. And used it over her life for a total of less than 10 hours. She found out she had the tumor at age 64. She even wondered what, if anything she might have done to contribute to her getting the cancer. But nobody in our family thought it was the small amount of cell phone use. We just all thought it is with like most things are, partial genetic, and partial environmental.

    I would say that there is probably some contributing factor to cell phone use, but I don’t think it had anything to do with my mom’s brain cancer. And if it does affect it, it’s really low.

  70. TTT

    With no evidence that electronic hearing aids cause cancer, I’m not too worried about cel phones.

  71. Greg

    This is how I see it:

    Tabacco was in the category 2B 20 years ago. Many people didn’t care and they were expose. Now about 80% are dead.

    Statistics from WHO, say this: “is like playin russian roulette, having a revolver with one bullet in one of the 30 chambers”

    So, IMHO I can’t stop using the cellphone, but I can follow the prevention indications to reduce exposure: using headphones, speaker, etc. either way I don’t have anything to lose.

  72. Scott Hurst

    Jacqueline said “(2) This type of cancer risk is accummulative”

    You have no way of knowing that. First it would have to be proved there is ANY kind of risk, and that hasn’t been done. All the WHO is saying is that we haven’t absolutely positively ruled out any chance that cell phones cause brain cancer. At MOST there is only a very tiny risk, so tiny they haven’t yet verified if it is actually zero or not.

    Jacqueline also said “I am curious about Scott Hurst’s comments. We absolutely do not have the history of data to say anything conclusive about cell phone risks; cell phones are still too new. But if there are studies where people were exposed to the same type of radiation, over the long-term (decades) at frequencies and intensities that are somewhat analagous to that emitted from cell phones, that would tell us far more than these old (early 2000s) cell-phone studies.”

    There is nothing unique about the radiation coming from cell phones. Millions of people have spent their entire working lives exposed 40 hours a week to exactly the same frequency ranges, but to their entire body, and at enormously higher power levels. Cell phones are rather unique in the history electronic communications, for their power output is so very low compared to what communication works have been exposed to since the 1940s.

    If have to ask, did you really read my post or just the first sentence, “The problem is that we do have relevant data for a much greater than a couple decade span.”? It isn’t “somewhat analagous” it is precisely analagous, except the equivilant “dose” is often millions of times higher.

  73. trrll

    The energy of radio frequency photons is very small, much too small to break bonds, or to do more than jiggle molecules around slightly. The amount of energy delivered is comparable to that of the random impacts of water molecules that constantly bombard every part of a cell, so it is hard to imagine any mechanism whereby a biological system could even detect low-intensity RF, much less respond in such a way as to cause harm. The only known mechanism whereby RF radiation can cause injury is to pump in energy faster than the body can dissipate it as heat, which requires vastly higher power.

    The baseline incidence of brain cancer is very low, which means that brain cancer statistics should be very sensitive to any cancer-inducing effect of cell phones, yet there is no evidence of any increase in overall incidence or death rate. Of course, one can argue that we just haven’t been using cell phones for long enough for the hazard of chronic exposure (through some unknown, biologically unimaginable mechanism) to manifest, but in that cases the handful of epidemiological studies that claimed to see evidence of risk after a decade or two of use must all be wrong, too–in which case there’s no evidence of risk at all.

  74. Nigel Depledge

    Jonathan (68) said:

    What we need is more . . . media accountability to deliver truth and not just a good story.

    Seconded!!

  75. Nigel Depledge

    Masha (67) said:

    People were oblivious to the effects of smoking for a long time.

    Not really.

    Even 25 years ago, cigarette packs here in the UK were obliged to carry the health warning “smoking may seriously damage your health”.

    Why it took so long to get the truth about cigarettes out (that smoking can cause cancer) was down to a deliberate and extended campaign of obfuscation by the tobacco industry. A bit like the campaign currently being mounted by Big Oil about GW.

    For a long time (I would guess since the early ’70s), information was widely available to indicate that smoking was harmful. Unfortunately, there were also a great many lies and artificial “doubts” spread by the tobacco lobby. Plus a social attitude to danger that suggested it was somehow weak to be concerned about hazardous substances.

  76. Nigel Depledge

    Nic (61) said:

    Radio frequency radiation can hurt. Take it from a radio amateur who’s had a couple of RF burns. (Cooks your flesh under your skin, admittedly at way higher powers than a phone could ever do). So I was playing with 50 watts into a dummy load (with bad connectors as I found out) – it CAN damage you. A cellphone is way way less powerful (1% as much?) and certainly cannot immediately burn you. But in general your cellphone is so much closer, a lot closer, and in general perhaps to your brain or chest area. I’m not about to dump my phone but I would not dismiss the concerns out of hand – many people use this stuff for many hours a day. The power ain’t there, but long term exposure (which could have no effect – or long term effects) IS there. Keep a phone in your jacket pocket all day as you walk around and it is irradiating (radio waves) you at a low level. I’m certainly not qualified to say if that is a danger, but it is within millimetres of your skin all day.

    Yes, but would an RF burn be possible at all if the rate of heating were to be lower than the rate at which heat is dissipated in the tissue?

    It seems to me that the only way in which RF emissions have been shown to affect biological material is by heating it. If you dissiptae the heat faster than it can be applied, you are highly unlikely to have any ill effect at all.

    Remember asbestos, ciggies, lead in gas all that. I think this at least needs watching.

    Fortunately it has been investigated.

    While it is statistically impossible to rule out the possibility of a link, the studies that have been done do tell us with some confidence that either there is no link between cellphones and brain cancer or there is a very very very weak link.

  77. Nigel Depledge

    Bill (60) said:

    Your not supposed to stand near or look into a microwave oven very often;

    If your microwave oven is correctly shielded, it poses no risk at all. If you have a microwave that is old enough to have potentially duff shielding, isn’t it about time you bought a new one?

    cell phones are the same thing mini micro signals.

    Well, yes and no.

    GSM phones operate at around 900 MHz, which is UHF, not mcrowaves. Other phones operate at about 1.8 GHz, which is still a lower frequency than microwave ovens, but is the same order of magnitude.

    Microwave ovens have emission power in the vicinity of 800 W, whereas phones have a typical peak RF emission power of not more than 1 W. And if you are close to the base station, it will be substantially lower.

    Wait until 2040 and the huge amount of brain cancer. Y risk it and your kids

    Why do you ever cross a street? You are far more likely to be harmed crossing a road once than using a cellphone non-stop for a month.

  78. Mike

    Thanks for putting this out there. I remember seeing Sanjay Gupta recommending to everyone in AC360 that they should be using earbuds when talking with their cell phones from now on… He lost a lot of respect from me for that…

  79. My friends is approached by a telecom company asking permission to setup their tower for 3G and CDMA services . The device is 2.5 tons and takes around 600 sqft. Is this OK for health ? Is there any study done or proof that there is no bad effect if the tower is kept above the house. Please suggest.

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