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A Balanced Look At Cellphone Radiation 171

Posted by kdawson
from the who-you-callin'-sensitive dept.
A month back we discussed an article in GQ on the alarmist side of the cellphone-radiation question. Now reader pgn674 passes along a PopSci feature article looking at the current state of cellphone radiation research. It profiles people who claim to be electro-hypersensitive, "who are reluctant to subject themselves to hours in an electronics-laden facility" for studies. The limited research on that condition is still showing that sufferers, in blind tests, are unable to detect radiation at levels better than chance. The article also touches on the relationship of non-ionizing radiation to cancer. The conclusion is that while it seems unlikely high-frequency fields in consumer devices directly cause cancer, they might promote it, and might also indirectly cause other health deficits beyond simply heating nearby tissue — though one skeptical researcher cautions, "The gap between a biological effect and an adverse health effect is a big one."
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A Balanced Look At Cellphone Radiation

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  • Typical (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    who are reluctant to subject themselves to hours in an electronics-laden facility

    Which just goes to show how much the tinfoil hat actively interferes with the thought process.... In order to conduct a valid scientific experiment on such matters, it requires a room which is 100% free from other radiation sources. Which means the rooms in the facility are anything BUT "electronics-laden".

    But we're already fully aware that being vulnerable to EMR is the very least of these people's problems, which are usually only solved through extensive use of mind-altering drugs.

    • Now that you mention it, the times I've been in the closest to radiation free rooms (faraday cages for testing cell phones), I felt quite uncomfortable. I always figured it was the poor ventilation of a small room, but just as likely the human body can't live without radiowaves as it is likely radiowaves (wifi) are hurting us.
      • Re:Typical (Score:5, Funny)

        by DangerFace (1315417) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @05:40AM (#31387864) Journal

        Now that you mention it, the times I've been in the closest to radiation free rooms (faraday cages for testing cell phones), I felt quite uncomfortable.

        I know what you mean - I always get this weird disconnected feeling whenever I've been away from the internet for a few hours...

      • by umghhh (965931)
        human body is connected to the human brain and that in most cases is a major source of problem as this brain is badly equipped. conditioned by faulty education, provided with false information by authorities and other gullibles and on top of it all is ill equipped to cope with things that were not common on savannas and jungles that are ape grandpas and grandmas lived on.

        OTOH it does not matter whether this type of radiation kills us directly or by making us sick trough our minds. If we (majority of us any

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by phantomfive (622387)

          No amount of industrial grade propaganda is going to change that. We learned from bad experiences that industry lies.

          So maybe you could get smart and listen to scientists instead of industry. Or better yet, do the research yourself and become knowledgeable.

          • by RockDoctor (15477)

            So maybe you could get smart and listen to scientists instead of industry. Or better yet, do the research yourself and become knowledgeable.

            That is too much like hard work. You've got to give the poor ikkle-wikkle radiation-sensitives a solution that actually does work for them (like a 12V car battery up the ass) instead of requiring them to do some work ; the solution has got to be within the understanding of their poor radiation-frazzled minds without requiring anything more demanding than sucking on a n

      • Now that you mention it, the times I've been in the closest to radiation free rooms (faraday cages for testing cell phones), I felt quite uncomfortable. I always figured it was the poor ventilation of a small room, but just as likely the human body can't live without radiowaves as it is likely radiowaves (wifi) are hurting us.

        We might not NEED it, but I would not be surprised if we did somehow sense it. Really, we are all raised in the background hum [wikipedia.org] of the universe. Add to that the stuff we generate with communications and it's a butt load of white noise. It would be interesting to build some large structures that could be used for a double blind test, some rooms are Faraday cages, some are not, some are bombarded by WIFI, and they all look alike. I'd like to see if there is an effect on normal people and on people that claim t

    • "Which just goes to show how much the tinfoil hat actively interferes with the thought process...."

      Exactly! Tin-foil hats are a plot from the government, they really just amplifying the cellphone radiation! Don't listen to Ondore's lies!
    • by Znork (31774)

      it requires a room which is 100% free from other radiation sources.

      One may wonder how the subjects deal with the comparatively strong field that usually surrounds them in the form of earth's magnetic field. Better sit very... very... still.

      solved through extensive use of mind-altering drugs.

      Many modern variants which, ironically, are barely better than placebo...

    • But we're already fully aware that being vulnerable to EMR is the very least of these people's problems, which are often caused by extensive use of mind-altering drugs.

        There, fixed that for you ;)

      SB

  • Luddites (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @03:29AM (#31387364) Journal

    A lot of those so-called "radiation sensitive" people are nothing but Luddites in disguise.

    In Malaysia, there have been cases of communities in uproar, having many people claiming that they suffer from "excruciating painful headaches" to "cancer" and all that, just because there is a cellphone station nearby.

    Those "radiation sensitive" people demand that the authority remove those "radiation hotspots" immediately, and it turns out that, in some of those cases, the so-called "cellphone stations" haven't even begun operation and never emit any radiation !

    Luddites !

    • Crazy people will be crazy people
      OT (mostly):

      A lot of those so-called "religious" people are nothing but Luddites in disguise.

      In America, there have been cases of communities in uproar, having many people claiming that they have an undetectable "soul" and suffer from "purgatory" to "eternal damnation" and all that, just because there is a magical man in the sky.

      Those "religious" people demand that the authority encforce these "holy laws" immediately, and it turns out that, in some of those cases, the

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Apart from the obvious cries of "Offtopic", I would like to add one thing:

        the so-called "holy laws" aren't even in the bible and never were sinful to begin with (homosexuality)!

        Lev. 18:22

        You do your cause no good by being completely wrong (and I say this as one who is pretty apathetic about religion).

        The 5.4GHz==harmful crazies are more of an immediate problem than religious crazies because getting something banned is a lot easier than getting it unbanned, and because these idiots like to dress their nonsense up as science far more than the religious ones, and psuedoscience is potentially very harmful to our

        • Ooo thanks for the citation. Most fundies i've talked to about homosexuality cite something to do with spilling seed/onanism. Which was I suppose more against jerking off, they applied it to gay sex (as babies wouldn't be produced). Weird.

          ID is dressed as science all the time. One person modified charles darwin's origin of species with ID information and things like 'darwin hated women and was racist' in it. BTW gay sex in the US was illegal until 2003, some states you could get over 15years! So don't thin
          • ID is dressed as science all the time. One person modified charles darwin's origin of species with ID information and things like 'darwin hated women and was racist' in it. BTW gay sex in the US was illegal until 2003, some states you could get over 15years! So don't think that religion isn't creating all kinds of legal harm.

            I'd forgotten how bad those people were in the US, since where I am they are fairly rare, not localised enough to elect lower-house politicians and even mainstream Christians will mock them. I suppose it's easy to forget how lucky we are over here.

          • by Bakkster (1529253)

            Ooo thanks for the citation. Most fundies i've talked to about homosexuality cite something to do with spilling seed/onanism. Which was I suppose more against jerking off, they applied it to gay sex (as babies wouldn't be produced). Weird.

            One can also imply that the interpretation that it is a ban on homosexuality (some claim only against anal sex) is correct by the Bible continuously referring to proper marriage as between a man and woman (Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:5, for example) and sex as only appropriate while married (Hebrews 13:4 and 1 Corinthians 6:15-20). There are other verses as well that imply homosexuality as a sin (Romans 1:26, Jude 1:7). Taken as a whole, the simplest conclusion is that homosexuality is equivalent to adult

      • by ultranova (717540)

        I wonder why the above is unnaceptable. Both views are equally insane and unsupported by science. But you can be harsh to the cellphone radiation crazies but not the religious crazies?

        Um... You just were, so obviously you can.

        Just thought it interesting that if I posted my rewording of parent's post (in some thread about religion)I'd have been moddded to oblivion but you've been modded up.

        That might have something to do with the fact that you just turned an article about possible health effects of a cell

    • by Anonymous Coward

      the other han,d there is a tremendous psychological incentive here to wishfully believe that there is no danger-- because the proposition that cellphone radiation near your head (or wifi for that matter) actually is dangerous leads to thoughts horrific to contemplate-- namely that you'd have to stop/reduce the amount of calls you do, or worse, to live in a wifi-less world.

      I strongly suspect that people are more likely to believe things that do not challenge/threaten their current lifestyle (or whatever it

      • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @06:43AM (#31388080) Homepage

        As Lessig said in his latest website chat, 75% of studies not funded by the cellphone industry found evidence for a connection.

        As a matter of interest, who *were* they funded by? People with an interest in proving a link between RF from mobile phones and cancer?

        • by Joce640k (829181)

          Mod this up.

          "Cellphone Industry" studies are far more likely to be scrutinized and finely-combed looking for flaws then "independent" studies (is any study truly independent?).

          I've known electrosensitive people and they've all been whackjobs who wouldn't know what science was even if you served it to them on a plate with a sprig of parsley on it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Gordonjcp (186804)

            they've all been whackjobs who wouldn't know what science was even if you served it to them on a plate with a sprig of parsley on it.

            They're allergic to parsley, you insensitive clod!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        The problem is that class-action litigation is also an industry, and that industry is just as capable of commissioning "studies" not to discover scientific truth but to create a useful appearance.

        In fact, I'd say litigation is more capable of doing so, given that they can win victories far more easily with useful appearances. If "Big Doohickey" discovers that doohickeys causes a serious risk of seizure, they will have to try to keep everyone fooled that there's no danger, for as long as they're selling doo

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by agrif (960591)

        As Lessig said in his latest website chat [blip.tv], 75% of studies not funded by the cellphone industry found evidence for a connection.

        I would like say that (as I understand it) Lessig pointed this out to get the obvious reaction from his audience ("Oh wow, the cell phone industry is trying to lie to us!"). He wanted to point out that this is the reaction people always have when they see something like this, and to examine what in our society causes that mistrust and how we may be able to fix it. He uses this specifically when he talks about corporate funding for political campaigns, later on.

    • by beh (4759) * on Sunday March 07, 2010 @05:22AM (#31387796)

      Obviously, yes, there are those people claiming hypersensitivity, basing it simply on their fear of the radiation getting to their bodies.

      But, I wouldn't go as far as saying that there is no danger at all because of them, much the same way I wouldn't conclude the radiation being dangerous if non of these people claimed hypersensitivity.

      The question to me comes down to long-term exposure damage, which we cannot much about yet - and it would be difficult to force companies into very long term safety tests before being allowed to market their devices. But I do feel that the subject should stay under investigation for longer.

      In the time after WW-II, US armed forces tested how their troops could fight near the blast of a nuclear weapon - and, hey, pretty much everyone was healthy in the first tests afterwards. Cancers don't measurably spring up within hours of a test. Still, you have claims from soldiers claiming their cancers were caused by those events decades later...

      In Germany, soldiers working on mobile radars are trying to get compensations for tumors they seem to have received by operating the radar devices. Yet, I bet you, on the first tests of those, there were no permanent health problems reported in the days/weeks after the initial tests.

      Most famously, big tobacco - your first cigarette isn't clearly measurable the one killing you. Neither is the second, third, twenty-first or onehundredfifthyfourths the lethal one. There is no doubt left about cigarettes being lethal now, but big tobacco made lots of profits over the years by claiming that cigarettes are safe, and that noone could ever link any individual cigarette to lung cancer. And it's still the argument used now by smokers against 'too heavy handed' anti-smoking legislation - why should smoking be banned in pubs. Let non-smokers go somewhere else. Or - more ridiculously, smokers in some countries (like the UK) actually claiming it's breaching their human rights if you prohibited them from lighting up in public. (Who cares about the human rights of the non-smoker next to him, if noone can prove it was 'my' cigarette that gave him lung cancer)?

      Neither of those examples can obviously prove whether there is cellphone tower radiation is harmful; much the way that the luddites trying to raise panic about them can prove their harmful, nor that their existence proves cell phone radiation harmless.

      What I would wish for - is that the subject stays under some form of independent investigation - without any lobbying from either side. (don't see though, how that could ever happen)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sjames (1099)

        Or - more ridiculously, smokers in some countries (like the UK) actually claiming it's breaching their human rights if you prohibited them from lighting up in public. (Who cares about the human rights of the non-smoker next to him, if noone can prove it was 'my' cigarette that gave him lung cancer)?

        The problem is the anti-smoking crowd are verging into ever more tenuous territory. Some seem to believe that seeing someone downwind smoke is a hazard to their health. They also seem to be unconcerned about the dozens of cars spewing a great deal more toxic gasses right next to both them and the smoker. They do this without even a shred of a study showing that cigarette smoke in an open public space is the least bit harmful to passers by. Much like the anti microwave loonies, many will start coughing at th

    • Re:Luddites (Score:4, Insightful)

      by nickspoon (1070240) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:04AM (#31388410)

      Name-calling isn't going to help anyone. The fact of the matter is, to some people hyperelectrosensitivity or whatever the buzzword is nowadays is a very real phenomenon. It has been shown pretty conclusively that the electromagnetic radiation itself does not cause the issues (in one study researchers used an inert box with blinking lights on it to produce the same effect), but that does not mean that the condition is unimportant, or not to be taken seriously. That would be like telling a schizophrenic "none of that stuff is real, shut up".

      Rather than laughing at these people, we should consider their problem a mental disorder and treat it accordingly. This does, of course, mean that you consider the condition the problem, not the EM sources.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        but that does not mean that the condition is unimportant, or not to be taken seriously.

        I think in this case that's exactly what it means.

      • by Locklin (1074657)

        Precisely. This is an anxiety disorder pure and simple. Their reaction to a ringing cell phone is exactly the same as a person with spider phobia's reaction to spiders. We don't try exterminating all spiders, we treat the individual with the problem.

      • by LanMan04 (790429)

        hyperelectrosensitivity or whatever the buzzword is nowadays is a very real psychological condition.

        /fixed

    • by Locklin (1074657)

      The description in the story smells like a severe psychological problem that is being ignored. Some people faint at the sight of spiders or even large groups of people -this person faints when he notices a cell phone. Anxiety disorders can be treated, often very effectively. People debiting whether the spider is somehow magically damaging the victim's brain doesn't help anyone.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    1: "GQ"
    2: "PopSci"
    3: The entire summary reads like a news announcer sounds. I can actually hear in my head as I read it, my inner voice's pitch changes exactly like a certain bored-out-of-her-skull Asian Reporter.
    4: kdawson :(
    5: ...
    6: Profit! (wouldn't be a list on /. without it!)

    • You were right. Fraud Alert, in my opinion.
    • by Vexorian (959249)
      It was way easier to skip it, just do it at the word "balanced". Reporters think balance is to give the same attention to both sides of the discussion. But scientific issues work differently, science requires you to be biased towards the theory that is actually supported by evidence. Using journalism's balance in science is the Arkansas school board approach...
  • You know who else is "electro-hypersensitive"?

    Dracula, that's who.

    And he has about as good a chance of existing as a real "electro-hypersensitive" human being.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Huh? Dracula is supposedly sensitive to UV radiation, not radio waves.

      The entire human race is sensitive to UV radiation and some are definitely more sensitive then others.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @03:56AM (#31387478)

    Check out your pharmacy. I'm fairly sure there are some Bach flowers tinctures available by now that can cure the problem. If everything fails, get a few healing crystals.

    • by Bazman (4849)

      I had some back pain once, and a friend suggested healing crystals. Suddenly I became aware of a pain in the region just below my back and above my legs.

      • I don't think that's how you're supposed to use them, but whatever floats your boat...

      • That's nothing. Until I applied the healing crystal I didn't even know that I had pain in the region!

        It wasn't a healing crystal but a building brick and it was not placed on me but hurled at me, but still...

    • By the way: I’m selling infallible anti-cellphone-radiation healing crystals for only $5000 a piece!
      Remember: Infallible! Or money back!

      (The best strategy to deal with idiots, is to make money (or power) off of them. It’s called natural selection. Bill Gates understands this. Steve Jobs does. Every politician understands it. Etc, etc, etc. ;)

  • So x-rays must be completely harmless if I can't "detect" them? Think of airplane noise, as it is permanent near large airports. Would be ridiculous to claim it seeds tumors in human bodies. It just disturbs attentiveness, concentration, calmness, sleep. If you are a sensitive person, these disturbances may severely affect your quality of life. Noises can be heard, i.e., "detected", so there's no dispute as to the possible harm they can do. But how adequate are these criteria? Consciousness is not a system
    • by nido (102070)

      One reasonable post amongst a hundred scoffers. I salute you, good sir. :)

      I wonder how the technology worshipers among us would scientifically study this issue. You'd have to isolate the influence of radio waves on a human body-system. The problem is, of course, finding controls in a radio-free, transient electromagnetic field-free, man-made-chemical-free world...

      Science is hard to do when your experiment has a billion variables.

    • by Eudial (590661) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:12AM (#31388454)

      The people unable to detect the cellphone radiation are people who claim to get headaches and whatnot from said radiation. If there is no correlation between reported headaches and actual presence of radiation, then obviously that is a relevant find suggesting that the headaches are in fact not related to cellphones or electronics.

      • There is a sneaky error in your logic. Since in reality it’s impossible to find that there is no correlation in general for everything.
        You can only find that there is no correlation in the subset of reality that you actually test for.

        Your argument is like creating a firewall that by default lets everything trough, and has a huge set of filters of what to block. You know someone will find yet another way around one of your rules. Which is why no firewall or real security system is designed that way aro

  • The conclusion is that while it seems unlikely that high-frequency fields in consumer devices directly cause cancer, they might promote it,

    Like, how? They take out public service ads? "Hey, kids, cancer is your friend!"

  • My take (Score:2, Interesting)

    A critic in me reckons that increased cancer levels (if there are any) may be attributed to overall worsened environment conditions (pollution, etc.), decreased food quality (and mass usage of food additives) and mass hysteria related to the risks of adverse health effects caused by EMF radiation.

    Anyway, I really believe anyone can make his life safer (as for now God really knows if EMF radiation can interact with our own electric fields) by using mobile phone as little as possible - I speak on my cellular

  • ... then I guess we'd better wait for the Fox News coverage! They'll be fair, too!

    Glenn Beck: "What I wanna know is, why don't these cell phone companies deny this rumor that their phones are cooking my brain? I'm not saying my brain is actually fried, but it sure feels that way and why won't they deny it?"

    • I don’t trust anyone who claims to have “no bias” (aka is “neutral”). Because I know that in physical reality, there is no such thing.

      Every human’s senses do massive filtering and processing. And our brain can by definition only store information by its difference from everything. And so, our very thought processes only work trough bias.
      Plus, the vast majority of our information input (e.g. everything on the Internet) is already processed by many brains and machines execu

  • Does a micro-wave have ANY potential to break an atomic bond? If the answer is 'yes' then I think the simple conclusion would be that wireless radiation could cause cancer. Of course the next issue would be probability.

    On a different angle, microwaves produce heat in the absorbing material, and the warmer matter becomes the more likely atomic bonds are to break, so another simple (I'll stress simple) conclusion could be that microwaves increase the likelihood of cancer.

    Those two conclusions, however simpl
    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:32AM (#31388282)
      Microwaves can definitely break hydrogen bonds. (You can boil water in a microwave oven.) Therefore they could, in principle, disrupt proteins. However, in order to do this, considerable energy is needed; you need to reach temperatures over 40C in human beings, an increase of 3 degrees over normal body temperature.

      The issue is one of penetration. For the radiation from cell phones this is very low. The depth affected is comparable to that which is warmed by, for instance, sunshine. Except for a cell phone close to the ear - where most of the heating comes from the battery and the electronics getting warm - the effect from all combined sources is very small, much smaller than the effect of sunshine or even an incandescent lamp a couple of meters away.

      So, barring the discovery of some kind of magic effect, the conclusion has to be that the risk is negligible because the absorbed radiation is infinitesimally small compared to the energy absorbed from the other wavelengths of incident radiation.

      You get much more penetration for lower frequency radiation - up to VHF - than for microwaves, and for the best part of a hundred years we have been exposing people to rather high doses of it. The radiation from the converter stages of a superhet radio or a VHF/UHF television greatly exceeds what you get from wi-fi or your DECT phone. But strangely, nobody suffered from headaches as a result of listening to AM radios, perhaps because they did not know that radio and TV receivers actually emitted radiation, often at several volts per meter.

  • It's just about getting on disability in Sweden. They're the laughing stocks of the world to buy into this kind of fraud.
  • "The gap between a biological effect and an adverse health effect is a big one."

    IMO the gap not as big [slashdot.org] as some scientists try to paint. And heck, that was about food, stuff which is digested by our stomach on a chemical level.

    The radiation which directly influences the organs? Hell yes.

  • You know what radiation is a hundreds of thousands of times stronger than cellphone microwaves, and incredibly brighter?

    THE SUN!

    If you are in fear of getting sick from microwaves, you MUST have hundreds of thousands of times more fear of sunlight. It’s simple physics.

    So? Your choice?

    • The Sun doesn't modulate its signal down into coherent patterns. It's static. By contrast, cells respond in odd ways when there are steady frequencies in the 10 to 500hz range present. Think "sympathetic vibrations". Everything has a resonant frequency.

      Also, it's not really a cancer issue so much as a, "How does it affect cognition in the nervous system?" question.

      -FL

  • Say you hide active RF transmitters on your body and visit the guy. If he doesn't react then it is pure bullshit. Use controls with powered down RF transmitters, no RF transmitter etc.

    And his symptoms while on a boat can also be due to sea sickness. Or maybe it was the motor on the boat, you know, nice big spark gap generators called spark plugs if it's gasoline, or the generator supplying power to the boat.

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