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Is your cell phone trying to kill you?

Mike Elgan | Aug. 4, 2008
Banning or avoiding cell phones wouldn't make a noticeable dent in rates of accidents, diseases or behavioral problems in children.

Some 1.7 million of the visits in 2003 were related to something going wrong with medical treatment. Visiting a doctor is probably several orders of magnitude more dangerous than text messaging.

It's probably true that some people are being distracted by text messaging. But why are cell phones being singled out as a major cause of injury when in fact they are not?

Do phones really *cause* hyperactivity?

The authors of the Danish National Birth Cohort study say very clearly that other factors besides cell phone radiation may account for behavioral differences. For example, lower socioeconomic status may contribute to both increased cell phone use by mothers and behavioral problems in children. Also: Families where parents are on the phone all the time may be paying less attention to their kids.

The assumption of a causal relationship is made mostly by the press. Why are they so eager to blame phones?

Dr. Herberman's misguided memo

Dr. Herberman, who sent the memo to staff saying kids shouldn't use phones, admits his fears are not based on published studies, but on a belief about what future studies will discover.

Actual published research is extensive but inconclusive, and mostly favors the idea that cell phones don't cause cancer.

Researchers at the University of Utah this year analyzed nine studies on the use of cell phones by brain tumor patients and found "no overall increased risk of brain tumors among cellular phone users." Other studies conducted in the past two years in Europe determined the same thing -- that using cell phones doesn't significantly increase the likelihood of cancer.

However, other studies have found some link between cell phones and cancer. The euphemism is "inconclusive," but in fact studies are contradictory. After all the research, we can say only that cell phone exposure over several decades might -- just might -- increase the risk of cancer.

Look at it this way: You can place everything into one of three categories: 1) known to cause cancer; 2) might cause cancer; 3) is not even suspected of causing cancer.

Items in category 1 -- things that science has proved increase the likelihood of cancer -- are too many in number to list here, but include things like foods cooked above 248 degrees; some common food colorings; popular children's bath products; red meat and processed meat; dairy products; alcohol; some soft drinks; and others.

So here's my question: Why does Dr. Herberman ignore the hundreds of things known to cause cancer -- items which are used daily by staff and some of which I'll bet are served in the University of Pittsburgh's cafeterias -- and focus on one item from the list of things that might cause cancer?


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