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Communications Wireless Networking Cellphones Medicine Science

A Balanced Look At Cellphone Radiation 171 171

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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  • 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 !

  • Re:Luddites (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2010 @04:37AM (#31387636)
    Radiation crazies have been prove crazy, but the religious crazies cannot be prover wrong (or right).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2010 @04:38AM (#31387638)

    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 is that makes the money).

    So I wonder if any of that bias leads to a more ready dismissal of the cellphone/cancer danger. As Lessig said in his latest website chat [blip.tv], 75% of studies not funded by the cellphone industry found evidence for a connection.

  • Re:Luddites (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Idiomatick (976696) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @04:59AM (#31387712)
    Thats a silly meme. We can disprove tons of things about religion.

    The power of prayer for example. It would be easy to set up a bunch of people to pray for one guy, not for another. Simple.

    We can prove that the bible is unreliable. We can show that a large portion of the bible is also immoral. This proves that God is either fallible or that he wanted to fuck us over by giving terrible instructions dooming a large chunk of the world. We can show that god is a giant asshole ... repeatedly. We can disprove the bible by contradiction a bunch of times. We can prove that the bible rips off other older religions (so either the real god ripped off someone else's good book and made it come true, or simply the people just ripped off the stories). We can disprove the time line. And so on...

    That list goes on for a long LONG time. Eventually the bible will have more holes in it than scarface. The source for the religion is completely worthless (btw, same goes for other well defined religions).

    And in the end what makes you think that the cellphone nuts have been more disproven than that? They could say there is extra interdimensional radiation, or undetectable amounts. Or it only affects them when they aren't being tested, who knows. It wouldn't be any crazier than religion, we are just less forgiving.
  • 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)

  • by BitterKraut (820348) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @05:36AM (#31387850)
    There is no scientific way of deciding what is worth preserving and what isn't. That's why we have politics. To ridicule the cautious has always been a political strategy. Sometimes it was necessary for progress, sometimes it led to desaster. Those who think they know the outcome in advance are just as superstitious as the overly-cautious.
  • 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?

  • Re:Luddites (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Idiomatick (976696) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @07:51AM (#31388348)
    It may not disprove God but it certainly can disprove each individual religion. Sure God could just create inconsistencies to fuck with us. But Christianity doesn't have that power and fails when the basis for it is crushed.

    If the religious need not follow logic then they should be ousted as such. Increasing awareness that a huge group exists which ignores logic and is therefore unpredictable should be a priority. My question was how the hell are we supposed to deal with these people? There is a big disconnect between how we would treat people with totally failed logic driving their ethical decisions and idea of the world and how we treat the religious. Why is that? What difference is there truly aside from popularity of a particular delusion. If schitzofrenics start setting up groups and running for office it wouldn't be stood for...
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Re:Luddites (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_raptor (652941) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @08:50AM (#31388642)

    You appear to have mistaken "logic" for naturalism. Logic is a method for arriving at a consistent response to a given set of data assuming certain axioms. That you believe that religious people even exists is a logical conclusion based on certain axioms. For example that the data from your senses is reliable and that what others tell you of their beliefs is true or can be inferred from their behaviour.

    There are libraries of theological works that can not be attacked on the logic of their arguments but only on the strengths of the axioms they assume and the data they use.

    I can see why you have failed in your attempts to convince religious people if you are that ignorant about the tool you are attempting to use.

  • Re:Luddites (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wickerprints (1094741) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @09:03AM (#31388706)

    Invoking God is the religious equivalent to dividing by zero in mathematics. By claiming that an omniscient, omnipotent, everlasting deity is the reason why everything is the way it is, nothing is truly falsifiable and anything can be made to be true. It's pointless to try to convince someone that their faith is illogical, because the very act of belief is not rational.

  • Re:Luddites (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Philip_the_physicist (1536015) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @09:56AM (#31389216)

    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 society, if it ever gets hold.

  • Re:Typical (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr2001 (90979) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @10:19AM (#31389470) Homepage Journal

    I disagree, while a lot of the claims are absurd, those of us that are hypersensitive still have real issues. I couldn't go to a large electronics store to buy a TV since even the smaller shops with a mere half dozen TVs on display had too many of me to stand. It's a relatively common problem for a subset of people with tinnitus.

    Um... you're not describing a hypersensitivity to electronics. You're describing sensitive hearing.

  • Re:Luddites (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2010 @12:02PM (#31390490)
    Yea. The whole universe is simulation run by aliens... probably for a school project.--Prove it wrong.

    Or I am the only truly conscious entity in the universe, the rest of you are just fake imitations of sentience. Prove that wrong.

    These things cannot be proven/disproven with logic or science anymore than there can be a proof of god one way or another. The truly logical faith is agnostic.
  • Re:Luddites (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Low Ranked Craig (1327799) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @12:17PM (#31390656)

    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.

  • Re:i'm safe (Score:2, Insightful)

    by drewlake2000 (704213) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @12:45PM (#31390956)
    osteopath != chiropractor.
  • Re:Typical (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @03:59PM (#31393042) Journal

    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 sjames (1099) on Sunday March 07, 2010 @05:34PM (#31393880) Homepage

    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 the mere sight of a cigarette even when it's not lit.

    Perversely, many of those anti smoking people also fight vigorously against any other form of nicotine intake, and for that matter, against people using nicotine in their own home. Like the anti EM loonies, the anti smoking loonies believe that nicotine=smoking=bad, just like microwaves=radiation=bad.

    That isn't to say that the smoker isn't harmed by smoking nor that the radar techs weren't harmed. Both get a MUCH larger dose.

IN MY OPINION anyone interested in improving himself should not rule out becoming pure energy. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.