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Cell Phone Use and Radiation – WHO Says?

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Much of the American public has known for years, perhaps since 1983 (when cell phones came into being), that cell phones emit radiation to a certain degree. I heard on one occasion that there was a possibility that cell phone use may reorganize one’s brain cells. Right or wrong, until now there have been lots of rumors about what cell phones may do to a cell phone user’s brain. Now, there is a definitive statement by the World Health Organization (WHO–the same folks who brought us greater knowledge of the Avian and Swine Flu pandemics) about the possibility of what the radiation coming from cell phones MAY do to cell phone users. It is possible that I could still quarterback the Redskins (maybe more than possible given the ‘Skins’ current quarterback status), but not very likely.

The World Health Organization (WHO) based in Geneva, Switzerland, says there is truth to the rumor that cell phone radiation may do some harm to those who use cell phones close to their heads and that the radiation associated with cell phone use may cause cancer – but it is not sure. Additional experimentation is sure to follow…additional money will be raised and/or donated by the telecommunications industry for this experimentation (or testing), you may be sure, which will result in an unbiased, objective study we can all feel good about. (Insert sarcasm here). Nonetheless, I find it hard to get fired up about a "possibility" of harm.

It is estimated that there are 5 billion cell phone users globally, and the spectrum of reactions to the WHO’s announcement has been astounding… as though we didn’t know that there could be some bugs associated with cell phone use. There are advantages and disadvantages, it seems, to everything technology brings us. Now, there is even a phone “app” that tells how much radiation your cell phone is emitting. The app may have a few bugs too, we are told, but it is supposed to alert the user to when the radiation level their cell phone emits reaches the “red zone”. Do we really need to go to Japan, or take a tour of Chernobyl, to realize that there are degrees of radiation and that too much radiation is bad for us?

We have been lectured by doctors for years about the damage the sun’s UV rays can cause, about electromagnetic (radioactive) fields and the range of negatives to things radioactive. Yet, there are still resorts dedicated to vacations in the sun, electromagnetic fields still surround power stations, power lines, and power plants—and we very much need the ease and comfort that both electric and nuclear power provide. Then, there is radiation therapy for cancer—if you need it, you are not going to quibble about the number of RADs you are receiving that hopefully are going to reduce the size of a growing tumor. We know about radiation. What we don’t know, still, is a definitive answer to the question: Does cell phone use cause cancer?

If possible, we need to get better data on the effects of cell phone use—now that cell phones have been in use for almost 30 years this information should be available–and put the issue of cell phone radiation in its proper scientific perspective. I am guessing that using cell phones while driving probably causes more deaths in a year than cell phone radiation. But I haven’t noticed a drop in cell phone use while people drive in my town (or in any other place I have visited in the past ten years).

Do our cell phones emit too much radiation? One commentator likened cell phone use close to the head to being similar to sticking one’s head in a microwave. (Do not try this at home.) While that latter image is fairly amusing, I would submit that we do not need to consult a "guru" to be able to see that our kids use cell phones so much that their brains may eventually be placed “on hold”. Or that we have come to depend on cellphones for everything, including what the latest political poll says about the millions of people running for president. Regardless, whether texting or “sexting”, cell phone use during school, or while driving, is bad.

My humble, un-scientific opinion? The WHO (or, insert appropriate agency) should obtain better data, meanwhile users should move their cell phone at least an inch away from their ear, avoid using a cell phone while driving, and… no one should stick their head in a microwave.

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    I have been aware of the issues for years, since a Doctor friend of mine made me aware of the problem. In many ways its like history repeating itself – years ago cigarette manufacturers told us that smoking was good for you! – we all laugh at that now. Now we have the situation that even the cell phone makers tell us in their instructions not to put a phone against our bodies when switched on – do they know something that we don’t. I have been using a wired headset for years and recently here in the UK I use an air headset that plugs into my cell phone and conveys the sound to my ear by an air tube (no wires) which reduces the SAR radiation to less than 1% when compared to normal phone use.