The World Health Organization’s statement last week that cell phones may cause cancer caused a big stir in our mobile phone-loving culture.
A few bloggers compared it to the U.S. surgeon general’s landmark 1964 report that said tobacco smoking caused lung cancer and heralded a slow change in smoking’s acceptability and prominence.
I doubt that we will soon find governments banning cell in public places and highly taxing them to discourage their purchase, however - as much as some people would probably welcome such laws. Cell phones, whether “smart” or “dumb,” aren’t going anywhere.
The WHO study only said cell phones might cause a rare form of cancer, and added much more study is needed. It should be noted that its own report a few years earlier reached the opposite conclusion. And the cell phone industry was quick to point out that cell phone radiation is now on the same list as coffee and pickled vegetables as possible carcinogens and warnings have not slowed sales at Starbucks.
A number of epidemiologists and oncologists who study cancer trends were critical of the report. They pointed out overall cases of the type of cancer linked in the study to cell phone use have been declining while there are now more than 5 billion mobile phones used throughout the world.
Personally, I am skeptical of the cell phone and cancer link, but I could be proven wrong or change my mind in a few years. Several cancer experts pointed out using a cell phone while driving is a known health hazard - and a far greater, more immediate threat.
This reminded me of our story a few months back on the problem of distracted driving and the push by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to end it.
Now that it includes a possible cancer risk, do you think this is enough to end America’s obsession with cellular telephones? I doubt it.