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06. 13. 2008

Cell phone radiation and brain tumors

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Come July 1, you can get a ticket for Talking While Driving in California. But no matter where we live, we all know we shouldn't drive while talking on cell phones because it increases the risk of accidents. An exception in California is car talk with a Bluetooth connection, but even hands-free phone time can be risky. Suppose you get distracted from driving because you're carrying on a Bluetooth argument with your cell service provider about mystery phone charges? Or with your kid for running up those charges?

But there's another potential danger from cell phones. What health risks, if any, might come from cell phone radiation? Especially risk of brain tumors?

I first wrote about this topic 8 years ago. While it's usually pleasant for a writer to discover that an ancient article is not yet out of date, this time it's a bit dismaying. In the year 2000 we didn't know for sure whether cell phone radiation could cause brain tumors. Now that cell phones are in the hands of maybe a billion people (and, more to the point, held to their ears only an inch or so from the brain), it's worrying to realize that nothing much has changed. We still don't know for sure.

As CNET recently observed, "So, in short, the jury is still out, research is ongoing, and we will continue to monitor its results." Little more is known about the radiation risks today than back at the turn of the century. Additional studies published in the past few years claim that cell phone use is safe. But the studies didn't examine the effects of long-term and frequent phoning. Most of us will be using our cell phones for decades. Many of us use them for hours every day.

The CNET comment comes from its recent roundup of US government data on cell phone radiation levels for dozens of phone models sold in the US. The lists are preceded by a brief explanation of what they mean. They are organized by manufacturer, so it's easy to check yours out. There are also separate lists of the ten phones with the highest and lowest radiation emissions.

CNET's compilation was called to my attention by the New York Times's fine health columnist, Tara Parker-Pope. Take a look also at her previous piece on cell phone radiation and cancer. She describes comments from 3 high-profile neurosurgeons who battle their patients' brain tumors every day. The neurosurgeons all use cell phones, of course. But they also note that they don't hold the phones next to their ears. 'Nuff said.

Posted by Tam    Category: body | cell phones | current affairs | feature
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