Monday, May 17, 2010

Are Our Phones Killing Us?

So are mobile phones dangerous to our health or not? After ten years, studying more than 5000 people, in 13 countries, 21 scientists have delivered the International Agency for Research on Cancer Interphone Study in association with the World Health Organisation at a cost of $26.8 million, so you would think that we would now have the answer. Instead, we have an ambiguous result which seems to mean what ever you want it to mean, with the mobile telephone industry claiming that it shows there is no proven health risk associated with mobile phones, while others point to the finding of an increased cancer risk for people who use a phone for more than thirty minutes a day.

The authors of the report itself advise that “biases and errors” within the study mean that a causal link cannot be established. In other words, while the data collected seem to indicate that there is an increased rate of cancer among heavy users of mobile phones, it cannot be proven that the higher rate is actually caused by the mobile phones. Bizarrely, it also seems that light use of mobile phones appears to be associated with a reduced risk of cancer, but these results are for the most part being interpreted as reflecting the deficiencies of the study itself rather than the actual effect of the phones. Nevertheless, the findings of the study are sufficiently concerning for it to deliver a recommendation that further study should be done, especially on the effects of long term heavy use.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t leave any of us any the wiser about whether or not we should be shouting into our phones at arms length to avoid exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic radiation. We still don’t know if those long lingering phone calls to that someone special might actually be killing us, and it is staggering that so much time, effort, and money can be spent and still not have a reliable answer. Of course, with so much of the world now so heavily dependent on instant communications anywhere anytime, it would mean a tremendous disruption to our modern lives if it turned out that the cancer risk is real. Some might even be prepared to live with the risk so that they can continue to enjoy the benefits, but either way we all deserve a straight answer to the question of whether our phones are killing us.

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