Posted by: Craig Mathias
cancer, cellular, driving, radiation, saftety
There is only one issue that can derail the broad and continual adoption of wireless devices and technologies, and, to be blunt, that’s whether cell phones cause cancer. I often run into people who are quite literally frightened of radio energy, particularly at community meetings where a new cellular tower is on the agenda. They bring their kids, and talk about how the wireless industry seems to be running a big, uncontrolled experiment on all of us with potentially very dire consequences. Should we be concerned?
Yes and no, but mostly no. You have to consider that we literally have over a hundred years of experience with wireless, and, if a definitive connection between exposure to consumer-grade RF energy and any adverse health impacts existed, we’d almost certainly have seen it by now. On the other hand, as anyone with a background in formal logic theory knows, it’s impossible to prove a negative, so no one will ever be able to say that RF energy absolutely does not cause cancer or other problems. Indeed, note that I included “consumer grade” in the wording above. There are plenty of RF emitters that can and do cause great harm to living entities, and quickly, with improper use or exposure – or human error.
And, to be fair, we’re still gaining experience with radio, so it is fair to say that problems may become apparent in the future, especially as usage grows and total cumulative radiation levels correspondingly increase. Even so, I personally do not believe that a smoking gun, so to speak, will be found here. My personal advice is to be prudent but not paranoid. Minimizing personal exposure is that kind of prudence, but, let’s face it, we’re exposed, in technological societies, to all kinds of radiated energy every day. That technology enhances our lives. Suppose we do find a link, again to be blunt, between cell phones and cancer. What would we do? A warning label, perhaps, as is the case with tobacco? Restrict their use? Ban them entirely? Ban other intentional electromagnetic radiators, and maybe the unintentional as well, thus outlawing essentially anything consuming electricity? The impact to the global economy and standards of living would be dire. Personally, I’d rather die of cancer when I’m 80 than shivering in a cave when I’m 30.
I continue to monitor this issue. So far, after reading over 200 papers from scientists, engineers, and government officials, I’m quite comfortable with working in wireless and using and recommending wireless devices. It’s been widely noted in the press that a rumored report from the World Health Organization at some point that may really turn up the debate here, so I’m sure we’ll re-visit this issue again (please note that I have a policy against spreading rumors, but the importance of this issue merits an exception). In the meantime, though, I’ve always said that I’d find a new line of work if a definitive connection between exposure to consumer-grade radiation and any adverse health impacts (in humans) of any form is ever established. I do not expect to be changing careers anytime soon.
But, on the other hand, there is a real, established, proven connection between using a handset while driving, talking or texting or whatever – and collisions (note that I don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence by calling these events “accidents”). I favor banning the use of any form of electronic communications while operating a mobile vehicle, hands-free device or not. Period. People really are getting killed here, practically daily, and there’s no excuse for this kind of disregard for human life. As the bumper sticker says, drive now, talk later.