UK Cell phone cancer researchers: The jury is still out. Especially for kids.

UK Cell phone cancer researchers: The jury is still out. Especially for kids.

Summary: The bad news, after the latest round of cell phone cancer research, is that cell phones have yet to be ruled out as a potential cause of brain cancer "or whether children face greater risks than adults, British scientists said on Wednesday." The cell phone industry would have you believe that the good news is that no definitive link between cell phone usage and brain cancer was proven in this most recent study.

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TOPICS: Mobility
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The bad news, after the latest round of cell phone cancer research, is that cell phones have yet to be ruled out as a potential cause of brain cancer "or whether children face greater risks than adults, British scientists said on Wednesday." The cell phone industry would have you believe that the good news is that no definitive link between cell phone usage and brain cancer was proven in this most recent study. That's BS. The truth of the matter is that if the jury is still out, which it clearly is, there isn't a whole lot of good news. OK, in this case, there's apparently some good news. It's that cell phones don't cause short term health risks. But according to the Reuters report:

University of Nottingham professor Lawrie Challis, chairman of the 8.8 million pound ($17.90 million) Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR) Program, said studies so far had included few participants who had used cell phones for 10 years or longer.

"We cannot rule out the possibility, at this stage, that cancer could appear in a few years' time," he told a news conference. "Most cancers take 10 years to appear."

Challis also noted that the U.K. studies that made up the report had not yet examined children. British scientists had shied away from exposing children to radio frequency fields, which are generated by devices such as mobile phones and phone masts, for ethical reasons, he said.

However, he noted that it was possible for children to be more sensitive to radio frequency radiation than adults and said a second MTHR program is under way, involving 200,000 people in Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Britain.

Over the years, I've taken a lot of heat for my position on the cell phone cancer issue, a part of which has to do with children and cell phones. If I could sum up that position in a nutshell, it's that as long as the jury is still out, you're welcome do what you want with your own body (so long as you're aware that the jury is still out and that you could be taking a risk). But for Pete's sake, don't blindly take that same risk with your kids.

Another part of the position is that there should be a federal regulation in place that requires all cell phone packaging and marketing materials to display the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) rating of the cell phone in question. Before any phone is allowed onto the US market, two SAR ratings (one for head, the other for body) must be registered with the Federal Communications Commission.

You could argue that this is simply to certify that phones do not exceed the maximum allowed SAR rating of 1.6 W/kg (watts per kilogram). But if that were the case, then all that would be required would be a pass/fail score. Instead, the actual score is published which to me represents a means of arming the public with information that could be relevant when it comes to their tolerance for risk. One problem? Try finding this information. It isn't easy. When the iPhone came out, was anything written about its SAR rating? Do you even know what it is? If you ask me, until the cell phone cancer jury is officially "in," SAR ratings should be common knowledge and readily accessible. Not buried. The head SAR ratings for the 4 and 8GB iPhones are same at .974 W/kg.

Let's say you're not willing to condemn cell phones yet but, given that the jury is still out, you might want a phone that's not on CNET's top 10 highest SAR-rated phones on the US market. Or maybe you'll go one step further and only pick from CNET's 10 lowest SAR-rated phones. Or maybe you'll blow-off SAR as an issue for yourself, but consider it when buying a phone for your kids. Others with a financial interest in cell phone sales have argued that the efficacy of equipping your kids with a cell phone (so that they can call in case of an emergency) far outweighs any potential risk. And yes, to be fair, there have been some very public cases including one from last September involving text messaging where cell phones have saved a child's life.

There are no easy answers which is why I say not to blindly take a risk with your kids. For example, if you honestly believe your kids need a phone for their safety's sake, there are some things you can do to mitigate the unknown risk. Teach them how to use it in speakerphone mode when possible. Use Bluetooth-based headsets (Bluetooth radios don't have near the power of the radio that must communicate with the nearest cell tower). Buy a phone that isn't one of the maximum SAR rated phones. Tell them to keep the phone in a purse or a backpack instead of in their pockets (where the body SAR rating goes into effect) to put at least some distance between the radio and their skin. You get the picture.

The jury is out. I guess you can see that as meaning the glass is half full. But when it's cancer we're talking about, maybe seeing it as half-empty makes sense. For now.

Topic: Mobility

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28 comments
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  • What a stunning conclusion....

    ... cell phones have been in really *common* use for 10 years and after 10 years study the conclusion is that they need more funding to do another 10 year study.

    This sounds like a committee perpetually funding itself by making sure that no meaningful conclusions are ever reached.... more study needed.... deja vu? What's that???? More cash please....
    bportlock
    • Precisely

      There are over a BILLION cell phones out there. If there was any kind of link it would be trivial to spot.

      This is all about funding through hysteria.
      frgough
      • It's like climate change...

        ... there is loads of funding for projects to avoid climate change but no funding for projects to *disprove* climate change.

        Scientists and politicians then tell us that no projects exist that disprove climate change. Obviously cause and effect are unknown and the fact that your project cannot get off the ground due to lack of funding....
        bportlock
        • Which universe you living in?

          In fact there's load's of funding to disprove climate change - just ask Exxon. But then since you seem to be in another universe, you probably didn't catch the news.

          If you are trying to prove fantasy (and I include cell phone radiation dangers) then you are always going to have difficulty. Perhaps the opponents could provide some mechanism for non-ionising radiation to effect cells or would that be too hard?
          tonymcs1
          • Ah - the usual TonyMcS reaction

            [i]"In fact there's load's of funding to disprove climate change"[/i]

            Really? Ask people involved in climate and atmosperic research rather what the funding situation is like.

            As for Exxon - nobody believes studies funded by a company with a massive financial investment in the status quo.

            Anyway, since you're obviously still having difficulty with your reading, I said in the initial post that this whole study was IMO pointless. So you're telling me to agree with what I already said.
            bportlock
          • Well

            As I understood it the connection between the concentration greenhouse gases and temperature is well established scientifically and was first discovered in the 19th century.

            Can you point me to some contrary studies published and peer reviewed in a recognised scientific journal?
            jorwell
          • Of course not...

            [i]"Can you point me to some contrary studies published and peer reviewed in a recognised scientific journal?"[/i]

            ... nobody can get funding to do such a study - [b]that's my point[/b]. There's loads of funding if you want to "study the effects of XXXXX caused man-made climate change"

            I'm not disputing that things are warming up climate-wise. What I am saying is that there are too many studies funded which only support one side of an argument and the contrary view gets bugger all. Then the lack of opposing studies is called "proof". The phones study and climate studies are merely two instances of my statement.

            For years you could not get funding to study gastric ulcers. It was known that they were caused by excess acid. One Australian doctor said they were caused by bacteria and he was derided, left Australia and went to the U.S. to escape the derision of the medical establishment in Oz. He was right about the bacteria nad got a Nobel prize http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Marshall

            What people forget is that science is never right - it only makes better and better models, but these models must always be examined and checked for flaws and imperfections - that's what Marshall did. There is always leeway for error in science and studies to contradict a model are more important than studies to back it. There were thousands of ulcer studies over the years, but it took Marshall (one study) to disprove the "proven wisdom". Climate change theories [b]need testing[/b]. At present wee accept this stuff like it is holy writ.

            As for climate....

            Just this week the UK researchers admitted that their models were rubbish, left out loads of factors and therefore their results are largely speculative. The oceans have a huge affect and yet they have been left out of the current models

            [i]""One reason why the 10-year projection has not been done before is because the ocean has traditionally had very poor observational coverage," Dr Smith said.

            "They been very sparse and a little bit "noisy" so they have been difficult to interpret what the real temperatures were over large parts of the ocean." "[/i]

            http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6939347.stm
            bportlock
          • Greenhouse gases

            has become a euphemsism for man-made carbon dioxide. However, the most powerful greenhouse gas known is water vapor. A change in the relative humidity of one percent is equivalent to increasing CO2 concentrations by 1000%.

            Furthermore, condensation of vapor into liquid water removes tremendous amounts of heat from the atmosphere. Evaporation removes tremendous amounts of heat from the oceans. Cloud cover increases the amount of radiation reflected back into space by tremendous amounts, yet NO climate model takes into account precipitation, evaporation or cloud cover. Why? Because we don't have a clue how it works or affects climate.

            Thirdly, the surface of Mars, and other planets in the solar system are also showing warming trends similar to that of Earth.

            Global warming is nothing more than a political movement wrapping itself in science in an attempt to gain credibility.
            frgough
  • Largest study ever declared cell phones safe

    http://blogs.zdnet.com/Ou/?p=388
    Largest study ever declares cell phones safe!

    "The bad news, after the latest round of cell phone cancer research, is that cell phones have yet to be ruled out as a potential cause of brain cancer ???or whether children face greater risks than adults"

    Ah, the old challenge of proving a negative. David, can you prove you've never clubbed a baby kitten to death? That doesn???t work does it?
    georgeou
    • Sounds very familiar to cigarette company bias

      Now we all know cigarettes cause cancer, now, right? How long did it take to admit that fact. If there is such a discrepancy in whether it does not not, chances are we are all slowly frying our brains with these devices. I'm surely not going to subject my own child to testing throughout her childhood to find out. How much are your children worth to you anyways?
      Kid Icarus-21097050858087920245213802267493
      • Cigarettes don't cause cancer

        If they did, every smoker would die of cancer, and this is demonstrably false.

        What cigarettes do is increase the RISK of cancer.
        frgough
        • When smoked...

          ... by or near you, not in the pack.
          ecostap
          • CIgarettes don't cause cancer, they create conditions that assist formation

            This is what happens -
            Throughout the course of your life you will come in contact with millions, billions, trillions of carcinogens, many of these enter your lungs by breathing what appears to be clear air (tumors start at the microscopic cellular level). Most lung cancer is caused by products like asbestos. When you breathe in, these fibrous products get stuck in your lungs, but the fillia in your lungs clears them out by forcing you to cough it out. Cigarette smoke as tar, however, which coats over the existing carcenogens and allows new ones to get stuck and coughing isn't enough to get them out. They burrow into your lung tissue and cause tumors.

            There. Smoking does not CAUSE cancer. It does, however, facilitate it.

            Cell phones are probably similar. I doubt that they CAUSE cancer, or all cell phone users would get cancer and those that live on them would probably get it quicker (particularly if we are discussing cancers caused by radiation). It's more likely that if they play any part at all that it's a faciliation instead.
            laura.b
  • So what you are saying

    Is that there is some bias towards studies that tend to confirm a particular position.

    It is normal in such situations to ask the question cui bono - who benefits? Presumably the scientists themselves benefit from the funding but they don't decide how funds are allocated.

    So who is it that has the funds to support this supposedly biased research and what interest do they have in doing it?

    However, I return to my original position that the influence of carbon dioxide on temperature has, as I understand it, been established for some time now. It may be that it is wrong, but under these circumstances I would expect someone to bring forward some decisive contrary evidence.
    jorwell
    • Misplaced

      Should be the reply to "of course not" from bportlock
      jorwell
    • A bit off target? ;-)

      [i]"It is normal in such situations to ask the question cui bono - who benefits? Presumably the scientists themselves benefit from the funding but they don't decide how funds are allocated."[/i]

      Indeed. This is the core issue. It is generally accepted in the science community that a lot of people would be out of a job if there was a shift in climate funding.

      It has become a self-sustaining industry just like the mobile phone cancer research. Whatever results come out, more studies are needed as they have an expensive empire to support.
      bportlock
      • But you still haven't answered my question

        The scientists themselves may have an interest in sustaining the research but they don't provide the funds.

        So for your argument to be valid someone with access to substantial funds must have some interest in supporting some areas of research and repressing others. Who might this be?
        jorwell
        • Wake up Jorwell...

          .. you know where science funding in the UK (and most other countries) comes from http://www.scitech.ac.uk/Grants/Contents.aspx (formerly PPARC) which means govt.

          Green and environmental issues are a hot political issue - lots of votes.

          Green issues = green taxes = more money for gov.t bureaucracy (and *THAT* lot are a self sustaining empire if ever there was)

          So we have publicly salaried and funded scientists supporting vote-winning policies for a gov.t that needs excuses to raise more revenue to support its own publicly funded staff ..... are you seeing the connection yet?

          It doesn't matter whether the climate theories are right or wrong, [b]there's too many people who benefit from saying that the theories are correct[/b] and no-one will be allowed to disprove otherwise, because would just be plain stupid. It might just cause the gravy-train to stop.
          bportlock
          • Really?

            I don't see what votes there are in green issues.

            Vote for me and I'll make you give up your car or make it prohibitively expensive to own one. I don't see that one as a winner.

            And surely, if it was generally agreed that changes in climate were happening and were caused by human activity then all research would stop, the case it proven and closed and the scientists would all be out of a job.
            jorwell
          • Politics 101

            [i]"I don't see what votes there are in green issues."[/i]

            In the UK the two main parties have a solid core vote which allows neither of them to win elections because it is not big enough to win a majority. That means that swing voters decide elections. These are very wishy-washy voters and easily influenced - following whatever the trend is. These are the votes that are needed and "green" is an issue at the moment. Why else do you think that the parties are falling over themselves to attract "green" voters? Do you think they do it for fun?



            [i]"Vote for me and I'll make you give up your car or make it prohibitively expensive to own one. I don't see that one as a winner."[/i]

            Those of the "green vote" bent don't see it that way. They *say* they are prepared to suffer for the sake of the planet, but when they actually *have* to give something up, listen to them squeal. The core vote will vote no matter what the policy is.

            Keep an eye on "Newsnight" next week were they a running a program on exactly this issue.


            [i]"And surely, if it was generally agreed that changes in climate were happening and were caused by human activity then all research would stop, the case it proven and closed and the scientists would all be out of a job."[/i]

            Ha! stick to databases old son - you know nothing about people! :-)
            bportlock