Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Do Cell Phones Cause Brain Cancer?

Holding any RF device up to your head for long periods of time could be problematic.  Experts say cell phones are " safe"  - but what are they basing this on?

In the old days of cell phones, they called them "car phones" and as a young clueless 29-year-old "early adopter" I had one installed in my 1988 Camry when they first started coming down in price.  I think I paid $300 for the install and it was like $30 a month for no airtime (60 cents a minute), but free airtime after 7:00 and on weekends, when "no one uses their cell phone."  And that was a lot of dough back in 1989!

The phones back then were installed in the car, with an antenna at the back window, a module in the trunk, and a phone headset mounted by the dashboard.  There were not a lot of cell towers out there back then, but the phone had nearly 5 watts of broadcasting power, so it worked pretty well.

Fast-forward 20 years and the cell phone - as a hand-held device - is ubiquitous.  With the death of pay phones, everyone HAS to have one.  And they are so cheap as to be "disposable".

But some critics argue that holding an RF transmitter next to your brain is not a good idea - and could cause all sorts of things, like brain cancer. Are they being alarmist kooks, or is there a nugget of truth to this?

Well, there is a nugget of truth.

Remember when I said my "car phone" had five watts of power?  And how they mounted the antenna at the BACK of the car?  That is because it was known then that 5 watts of RF transmission was not good for your brain.

When the first "hand-held" phones came out, such as the famous "brick" phone shown in the opening sequence of "Miami Vice" the output wattage was dropped from nearly 5 watts to about a half a watt (500 milliWatts) by FCC mandate.  MilliWatts sounds a lot better, doesn't it?

Why was this?  Well they knew that 5 Watts of power would, over time, microwave your brain.  So that was considered a bad idea.  But 500 milliWatts seemed like a "safe" level.

How did they come up with this number?  It is not clear to me whether they did testing (on some poor animal, no doubt) or just picked an arbitrary number.

Regardless of how the number was arrived at, the main thing is, the FCC recognized that RF radiation was bad for you.  The only question is, what was a "safe" level?  We are told 5 Watts is bad, but 0.5 Watts is "safe."  The question is, do you believe this?  Or is this one of those deals - like cigarettes - that in 20 years we will look back and say "what were we thinking?"

But the same critics say that even if it was tested safe by the FCC, that no one anticipated the extensive USE by some people, of cell phones.  Many folks put these things up to their heads, it seems, 24 hours a day.

Could the cumulative effects of low-power radiation, over time, be as harmful as a short dose of higher-level radiation?

And therein lies the rub.

The choice is yours.  For me, it is not an issue, as I don't use the cell phone much, for reasons totally unrelated to the radiation issue.

People who are on the cell phone all the time are just...well....such trash.

There.  I said it.

A wired headset might get the RF away from your brain, but clipping the unit to your belt is only moving the point of radiation to another part of your body.

I think for both physical and mental health reasons, it never pays to be "on the phone" all day long.  Limit use of these toys and you will be wealthier, healthier, and wiser.