Thursday, June 03, 2010

They're harmless, they're harmful, they're harmless...

Did you catch the latest cell phone radiation report published by the World Health Organization (WHO)? To be completely candid, I haven't read the actual report, but I have been reading the articles and responses to the report, thinking I'd get the lowdown that way. Which didn't actually work out how I expected.

Some articles, like this one from NPR, report that the study shows no link between prolonged cell phone usage and increases in brain cancer. Others trumpet that the link (and risk) has been confirmed. So, sadly, regarding cell phones, radiation and brain cancer, we're not really any further along than we were before. Does it? Doesn't it? Dunno.

The study is at worst inconclusive, at best it shows there is no link to increased cancer, according to Time, CNN, and The Washington Post. Several international (foreign?) outlets are rather more alarmist — a Scotland paper headline reads "Study links mobile phone use to brain tumours" and another one from The Australian says "Industry study shows brain tumour link to heavy mobile phone usage."

In England, you can start your morning with "Talking on the Mobile Just 30mins a Day Linked with Heightened Risk of Brain Cancer" in the Globe and Mail and then move on to pick up a copy of The Guardian or The Independent to read "Mobile Phone Study Finds No Solid Link to Brain Tumours" or "Steve Connor: Time To Call It a Day for All the Unfounded Hang-Ups About the Dangers of Mobiles." That should clear it all up for you. (Not.)

The one point on which there does seem to be a consensus? The study is flawed (ya think?). To wit:

  • the study was conducted from 1999 to 2004, so not only is technology different today, but "heavy" cell phone use at the time was defined as about two (2) hours a month. Yes, a month.
  • it classed other cordless/wireless device usage, such as cordless landlines (forget the oxymoron - you know what I mean), as "unexposed" to radiation
  • it didn't include children and young adults
  • more than half of the control group eventually declined to participate
  • the results point to cell phone usage actually being linked to a lower incidence of cancer

Microwave News puts it this way: "There's an old saying that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. Welcome to Interphone."

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