Business, Hardware

Scandinavians don?t get cancer from cell phones, but do you?

Despite international studies to the contrary, the US Senate Health Committee plans to continue to investigate the connection between cell phones and cancer. The debate has a long history. Five years ago, according to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Scandinavian researchers could not establish a link between increased cell phone use in their countries and brain tumors. It must be those hot saunas and snow blanket transitions that are keeping the Fins healthy.

Young woman on the phone - an often sight these days. Picture Credit: Petr KratochvilLast year, French and Norwegian researchers did not find a connection between handsets and brain cancer either. Their respective red wine and porridge may stave off the disease in those countries.

A researcher in the Danish Cancer Society indicates that the 1974 – 2003 study of 60,000 people in Scandinavia is not definitive. Isabelle Deltour said: "Either it means that mobile phones don’t cause brain tumors or it means that we don’t see it yet or we don’t see it because the increase is too small to be observed in this population.?

Korean researchers reported in June, 2009 that they used 37 subjects and tested for both sham and real RF exposure from CDMA cellular phones with a 300 mW maximum exposure that lasted half an hour. They monitored physiological parameters including heart rate, respiration rate, and heart rate variability, as well as subjective symptoms. This small study concluded that RF exposure had no effect on physiological parameters or subjective symptoms in either group. What would happen over a longer exposure time was not indicated, nor was cancer addressed.

A European Union Commission stated some time ago: ?The precautionary principle applies where scientific evidence is insufficient, inconclusive or uncertain and preliminary scientific evaluation indicates that there are reasonable grounds for concern."

Given the hands on approach by European researchers and the fact that population of European countries is vastly ahead of United States when it comes to cell phone usage, we have yet to see a detailed study of Americans using cellphone. Given that American population talks longer on the phone than European or Asian counter-parts, the results of that study may or may not differ from already published works but at the end of the day, even a very detailed study may end in smoke and mirrors.

US Senator Tom Harkin [D-Iowa], Chairman of the Senate Health Committee. Picture credit:
US Senator Tom Harkin raised a lot of fuss during his post as Chairman of US Senate Agriculture Committee over the problematic health of young Americans and worked on getting vending machines out from school premises

Members of the US Senate Health Committee seem to agree. US senator Tom Harkin [D-Iowa], who took the Committee?s reins after Senator Edward Kennedy?s death, said he was concerned that no one has been able to prove cell phones do not cause cancer [which may be akin to the difficulty of proving God doesn?t exist]. Senator Harkin was mostly known for his crusade against fast food in US schools and is credited for pushing chains such as McDonalds out from school premises. His war on vending machines didn’t yield in similar victory, even though a large number of schools opted to listen to recommendations set forth by the US Senate Health Committee.

Some researchers think it is possible that a form of non-ionizing, low-frequency radiation from cell phones could damage DNA and cause cancer of the brain and central nervous system.

A report, "Cellphones and Brain Tumors: 15 Reasons for Concern, Science, Spin and the Truth Behind Interphone," was released in August 2009, by a collaborative of international EMF [electromagnetic field] activists. It details eleven design flaws of a 13-country, telecom-funded interphone study. They found that: "Telecom funded studies underestimate the risk of brain tumors, and children have larger risks than adults for brain tumors."

Thus, fears have arisen that the handset manufacturers are playing the monkey game of ?hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil?. Harkin worried: "I’m reminded of this nation’s experience with cigarettes. Decades passed between the first warnings about smoking tobacco and the final definitive conclusion that cigarettes cause lung cancer."

Don?t expect the US investigation into cell phones and cancer to get underway soon. The country is bogged down in a health care coverage debate. It doesn?t leave much time to investigate potential health problems generated by those ubiquitous cell phones. In the meantime, Caveat Emptor – buyer beware.

Note: Theo Valich contributed to reporting.