Tag Archives: cell phone cancer risk

Cell Phone Cancer Scare Refuses to Die

Some people are scared that cell phones cause brain tumors. There are enough of these bedwetters that San Francisco just passed a new law to “require all retailers to display the amount of radiation each phone emits.”

For most phones, that’s roughly one watt; the legal limit in the U.S. is 1.6 watts.

Studies have yet to find a link between cell phones and brain cancer. The main reason is that it is physically impossible; one watt of radiation just isn’t enough to cause any tissue damage.

The human body naturally generates about 100 times as much energy at rest, and 1000 times as much during exercise. One measly watt isn’t enough to affect anything.

One wonders why the bed-wetters are only worried about brain cancer; cell phones are held in the hand. And unlike the brain, which is shielded by hair, scalp, and skull, the hand is completely unprotected from cell phone radiation. If cell phones did cause cancer, activists should be at least as worried about skin and bone cancers in the hand.

But they aren’t. One reason is that those cancers don’t sound as scary as brain tumors do; it’s harder to get people worked up and frightened.

The other reason is that cell phones don’t cause cancer. Not in the hand. Not in the brain. Not in the face, the, jaw, or any other body part might take the brunt of the single watt of energy our cell phones emit.


Regulation of the Day 96: Health Warnings on Cell Phones

The state of Maine and the city of San Francisco are considering requiring warning labels for cell phones.

Perhaps some warning labels are in order. After all, few things are more annoying than people SPEAKING AS LOUDLY AS POSSIBLE INTO THEIR PHONE ABOUT WHAT’S FOR DINNER when a normal tone of voice will do.

But these warning labels have nothing to do with letting people know that their phones can make them look like jackasses.

No, the labels warn the credulous that their phones emit electromagnetic radiation. Otherwise known as light waves. Some people believe that this causes brain cancer.

Brain atrophy, maybe. But cancer? Most studies have found no correlation, let alone causation.

Something else to consider: the demographic group far and away most prone to brain cancer is also far and away the least likely to use cell phones – the elderly.


Cell Phones, Cancer, and Certainty

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CNN reports: “Last summer, Dr. Ronald Herberman, then director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, issued a warning to about 3,000 faculty and staff, listing steps to avoid harmful electromagnetic radiation from cell phones.”

“Electromagnetic radiation” is a fancy way of saying light waves.

Herberman has been on his cell phone crusade for a while now; I diagnosed him with a severe case of The Certainty last year.

Still, let’s assume he’s right that cell phones cause tumors. What actions should be taken? I present the following CDC data on leading causes of death as a way to guide our priorities:

Heart disease: 631,636
Cancer: 559,888
Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 137,119
Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 124,583
Accidents (unintentional injuries): 121,599
Diabetes: 72,449
Alzheimer’s disease: 72,432
Influenza and Pneumonia: 56,326
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 45,344
Septicemia: 34,234

Deaths from cancer attributable to cell phone use? Zero. There is an important lesson to be learned here.

Think of it like this: every dollar and every hour of researchers’ time spent investigating cancer risks from cell phones is money and time not spent curing heart disease. Or cancer itself. Or stroke. These “big three” combine to end more than a million lives each and every year.

Which is a better use of limited research resources? Herberman, by bringing funding and attention to a non-issue, is quite possibly costing lives that could otherwise be saved.

The Certainty has very high costs. In Herberman’s case,  measurable in lives.