As an admitted heavy mobile user I’ll have to take note of the latest findings from the World Health Organization, which reported late last week the findings from a $30 million study into cellular phones. The release suggests a link between long-term use and brain tumors. According to the findings, heavy mobile users suffered up to 50 percent more tumors, and that there is a significant increase in the risk of cancer. Unfortunately, the full study won’t be published for the next eight weeks, but will be something I will have to read very carefully.
So far several groups have offered advice that includes not letting younger children use mobile devices at all, suggesting that teens text instead of talk (not really going to be a problem there) and that males should avoid keeping the phones in pockets because of concerns of fertility.
OK, this is where this is getting a little silly too – the latter one notably. How is a mobile phone in a pocket going to affect one’s fertility? I suppose putting the handset in one’s pocket while using a Bluetooth or wired headset might not be a good idea, but the point is that this suggestion is being made before we’ve had a chance to read the study.
The other thing to note is that the mainstream is quick to make judgments, and worse offer advice without even seeing the full study. As I mentioned, the full study won’t be released for another eight weeks, so while this is a cause for concern let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Of course this isn’t stopping potential interference from government agencies; and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.) is among the latest to call on Senate hearings to examine the health implications.
Yes, we need to be concerned, and there is no question about that. And maybe we should point our collective fingers at the mobile industry, whose executives have repeatedly said they’ve found no link between cancer and mobile usage. If they did learn there was a problem, they should have looked at how big tobacco has paid big money for doing essentially the same thing.
But before the WHO gets all up in arms, we need to consider “how” we can make mobile devices safer? Will all phones need headsets so they’re not placed right up against the head? Will we need to find another way to shield the devices? Finding solutions is the answer as opposed to trying to tell the world not to use these mobile devices. As this column has stressed over the last year, billions of people now rely on mobile phones as their primary means of communication to the world. Scaring them with worries and no solution isn’t going to solve anything.
More importantly, maybe we need to consider what else this means. Are Bluetooth headsets really going to be any safer, and is keeping the phone in the pocket a worry beyond fertility? Is Wi-Fi, WiMAX or any other wireless technology that delivers data going to be safer? Maybe this is something to consider before we blanket our cities.