Patterico's Pontifications

3/30/2008

Study Heightens Concerns about Cell Phones

Filed under: Miscellaneous — DRJ @ 5:02 pm



[Guest post by DRJ]

UK’s The Independent reports on a new study that says cell phones double the risk of brain cancer and may be more dangerous than smoking and asbestos:

“Mobile phones could kill far more people than smoking or asbestos, a study by an award-winning cancer expert has concluded. He says people should avoid using them wherever possible and that governments and the mobile phone industry must take “immediate steps” to reduce exposure to their radiation.

The study, by Dr Vini Khurana, is the most devastating indictment yet published of the health risks.

It draws on growing evidence – exclusively reported in the IoS in October – that using handsets for 10 years or more can double the risk of brain cancer. Cancers take at least a decade to develop, invalidating official safety assurances based on earlier studies which included few, if any, people who had used the phones for that long.”

The increased risks are estimated due to the larger number of people using cell phones compared to smokers. The study has been criticized as selective, unbalanced, and contrary to the results of other studies. However, it is being received with more seriousness because the author is highly regarded:

“Professor Khurana – a top neurosurgeon who has received 14 awards over the past 16 years, has published more than three dozen scientific papers – reviewed more than 100 studies on the effects of mobile phones. He has put the results on a brain surgery website, and a paper based on the research is currently being peer-reviewed for publication in a scientific journal.”

I think the jury is still out on cell phones but my guess is they probably do increase users’ risks of cancer. We’ll see how much in future years.

— DRJ

31 Responses to “Study Heightens Concerns about Cell Phones”

  1. Well, The Independent is having issues with their server, so, cannot read the story at the moment, but, I have worked in the wireless industry since 1994, and have seen these studies time and time again, and none of them have actually provided any factual, medical, and/or scientific proof. Matter of fact, there were a few studies that completely repudiated the thought that wireless devices cause cancer.

    Now, many of the older analog phones, particularly the bag phones and “brick” phones could cause some problems, particularly if the antenna was placed near the eye, especially those at 3 watts. Todays digital phones, particularly GSM ones, have a very low output due to better tower connections.

    Now, if someone provides that proof, I would believe it. But, as someone who has been using them, and deals with people who use them on a constant basis, including people in the industry, I am just not seeing it.

    I’m typically more concerned with people using them while driving, even with headsets, as their attention is not distracted, but diverted, especially those who are texting or using their Crackberries.

    It would be interesting to have a study on Bluetooth and how it relates to headset and phone to car connections, though.

    Interestingly, the old pagers were actually shown to cause muscle related issues, most particularly in the waist area. People were getting muscle spasms and such from the frequencies.

    William Teach (5d9f94)

  2. WT, this is a great example of a “teachable moment” for some people who need to do a bit of critical thinking. First, your comments on relative risks are spot on (I remember a photograph, years ago, showing a person holding up a sign protesting the dangers of nuclear power causing cancer…while smoking a cigaret).

    If cell phones cause cancer, we should be able to test by the Ames technique:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ames_Test

    Thus far, all things that we know cause cancer also cause mutations. Not everything that causes mutations causes cancer, however.

    There is also the issue of dose-dependence.

    But you are VERY correct. This sort of thing is written about often, and we need to come up with the right way to either prove it or put it to rest!

    Eric Blair (2708f4)

  3. William Teach,

    I checked the link and I think you’re right about the UK’s server. Hopefully it will come back up later.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  4. I wonder when the lawsuits will begin for 2nd hand radiation.

    Dennis D (ae900a)

  5. Do the cell-phones emit ionizing radiation?

    SPO (7b9595)

  6. British newspapers are notoriously sensationalist and not scrupulous about checking their facts, even worse than the LA Times. They’re especially bad with science.

    Let’s keep some perspective here, folks – and wait to see if his paper passes peer review by a respected journal. No, The Lancet doesn’t count.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  7. I can only hope that cell-phones will kill people – expecially those idots who swerve all over the road while attempting to drive while talking on the damn things.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  8. I think the jury is still out on cell phones but my guess is they probably do increase users’ risks of cancer.

    Or maybe it has to do with the neuronal firing of the brain, upper and lower motor neurons, and/or the electrical propagation of muscle contraction associated with moving the tongue, jaw, face, etc., when talking “too much”? Not to mention the excessive electricity generated from wobbling the tympanic membrane, ossicles, and cochlear membrane, etc. involved in hearing?

    Hey, perhaps the “increase” is most likely due to pointing your ears too directly at the Sun or Outer Space, or from not wearing enough tin-foil head coverings?

    Or just give me a few $tens of million and I’ll find the “real” culprit – statistically “proven”, of course.

    J. Peden (1eca79)

  9. Come to think of it, J. Peden, I do live near Roswell …

    DRJ (a431ca)

  10. DRJ, have you been to the UFO Museum in Roswell? A former student bought me the coolest poster from there, years ago.

    Eric Blair (32cb22)

  11. Come to think of it, J. Peden, I do live near Roswell …

    Well, that explains everything, unless the Metrons – also under the direction of George Bush – happen to be involved. Beyond that, I have no idea what’s going on.

    J. Peden (1eca79)

  12. Anyway, forget the Typical White [Males], transforming light waves/particles into sound waves is perhaps the real source of our current maladies, say what?

    J. Peden (1eca79)

  13. Your knowledge is way beyond mine, J. Peden. Maybe I’ve been standing too close to the microwave all these years.

    Eric – I stopped in many years ago. I think they’ve added a lot of stuff since then. I have seen some good posters, though.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  14. Since Khurnana – as interpreted by the Independent – appears to be out of his mind, someone might just need to explain that.

    J. Peden (1eca79)

  15. Tell it to Johnnie Cochran.

    I agree the jury is out. However, there is pretty clear evidence that cell phone radiation affects body tissues. Why not get a headset, especially as we near the enforcement date of the handsfree law anyway? Or use the speakerphone when you can.

    Each phone is rated by SAR(?) Specific Absorbed Radiation, I believe. Check the number and get the lowest you can in a phone that matches your needs.

    I have few enough brain cells as it is. Not really interested in having the doc’s take an ice cream scoop to my brain.

    fat tony (56bbbf)

  16. Laetril, my friends, Laetril.

    No, really, I’m so sick of hearing about and trying to pin down what appear to be obvious hoaxes or unscientific [mis]interpretations – which just happen to enlarge the hoaxster and are invariably finally proven to be false, or else fade into nothing – that I’m not even much interested in investigating such claims anymore. Unless I’m somehow forced to, such as in the case of AGW.

    You can literally run around all your freaking life chasing, and being run neurotically by, such claims due to your concern with your own “health”/life and death, to the point where you can either lose your health or are never satisfied – to the artificial extent these claims want to lead you to believe you should be – that you are ever “really” healthy.

    Well, duh, you are inevitably going to die.

    So I’m not going to waste my time worrying about cell phones in particular, unless Khurana has some actual science to back him up – which I would doubt is the case. Even then, I probably wouldn’t worry about cell phones compared to other things, and as opposed to things I know I can do to actively keep myself as healthy as possible – and these things are pretty much cost free, and nearly everyone with a functioning brain already knows what they are. [Hint: eating “organic” foods is not one of them.]

    J. Peden (1eca79)

  17. The article doesn’t mention what the overall rate of brain cancer is. Superficial Googling turns up figures from 6 per 100000 to 20 per 100000. That high figure is roughly the same as the chance of dying in a car accident in the USA. Maybe I’ve interpreted the cancer figures incorrectly. However, it doesn’t seem to be panic time just yet. Worth monitoring and investigating, though.

    Jim C. (d32322)

  18. I agree. It costs me nothing to keep the phone away from my brain case and I get demonstrable benefit from it. If it helps me avoid brain cancer, that’s gravy. Unlike AGW, where all the “solutions” seem to be worse than the so-called problem.

    Anyway, good point that there is an imaginary cancer cure, just in case my phone gives me an imaginary cancer.

    One thing I am pretty sure the article elides is the distinction between cancers and solid mass tumors that are benign, but still no fun. I thought there was some study that showed a correlation of same-side tumors and cell phone usage.

    fat tony (56bbbf)

  19. Now that the Independent story is accessible again, I see that it doesn’t even mention the technology of cell phones tested. Was it just GSM, or were CDMA phones tested.

    The story author also co-wrote an even more atrocious piece of junk science last year, claiming that cell phones are destroying bee colonies.

    It even included a phony quote from Albert Einstein about bees (ridiculous even if true because Einstein wasn’t a bee expert).

    Here’s my sci-tech column about that garbage story.

    And here’s a worthy debunking from the Yorkshire Ranter.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  20. There goes Bradley again, bringing facts and truth to a media scientific scare story.

    What a party-pooper!

    Another Drew (f9dd2c)

  21. More of the malarey and bunk from those fruadulent so called scientists carrying out some rediculous study that is rediculous

    krazy kagu (be5799)

  22. Another Drew,

    This site is rightly skeptical of journalistic accuracy, but not nearly skeptical enough!

    Bradley J. Fikes (a18ddc)

  23. Now, many of the older analog phones, particularly the bag phones and “brick” phones could cause some problems

    That reminds me of a story people were passing around about how microwaves really are dangerous. The “proof” had to do with a study of microwaves made in the USSR in the early 70’s. Yeh, that really doesn’t prove ANYTHING about the safety of what’s in my kitchen today.

    Luddites will twist a study of old technology to damn current technology any day.

    MamaAJ (788539)

  24. Googling Geoffrey Lean brings up all sorts of pseudo-science, such as this bit about how we’re all doomed.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  25. I think he also was the guy who wrote about the English woman who claimed to be allergic to electromagnetic waves.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  26. William Teach – What kind of pagers were you talking about? A pager is a receiving device, meaning it usually doesn’t have the ability to transmit. For users to feel effects from the “frequencies”, it would have to be sending out messages, and not simply receiving them.

    Remember, depending on the day of the week, you should either be eating no red meat, or only red meat.

    Apogee (ed2fe8)

  27. We’ve replaced actual science with new Junk Science Crystals, let’s see if anyone notices…

    Seriously, what is the frequency of the cellphone?

    What’s it’s wavelength? How does that compare to the size of a cell? To DNA?

    How much energy does a cellphone put out?

    What temperature rise in a unit of water does that equal at 2″?

    How does it compare to the Earth’s magentic field, solar rays, or naturally occurring radiation of any kind?

    This crap only scares people because they won’t crack a book or do an internet search on the basic premises behind it.

    It also doesn’t help that the idiot press corps usually hides the premise and relevant facts.

    Merovign (4744a2)

  28. The quality of these studies depends a lot on how well they eliminate confounding factors. This one is difficult to evaluate before its even peer reviewed.

    A lot of junk science is done by press release.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  29. About the same dangerosity as the “Indiglo” in your Timex.

    Sheesh.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  30. Denialism Blog fisks it; turns out there actually aren’t any results or other scientific content in the paper, just a literature review.

    Alex (8d502f)

  31. Dont worry JOHN STOSSEL will prove this study is flawed and ful;l of inaccuracys

    krazy kagu (6a69d6)


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