Cell phones: the next health scare

Britni Williams

It’s been all over the news for the last week. The World Health Organization has labeled cell phone usage as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

I’m not altogether surprised by this finding, but I am surprised by the amount of attention the general population is giving to this “possible” carcinogen when a large portion of the United States population (approximately 27.8% of adult males and 22.3% of adult females according to the World Health Organization) have ignored the Surgeon General’s warning that tobacco can cause cancer.

Let’s take a look as a few other possible carcinogens, as stated by the American Cancer Society:

• Ultraviolet radiation A, B and C

• Diesel engine exhaust

• Insecticides

Now, here are just a few of the known carcinogens, according to the American Cancer Society:

• Asbestos

• Ethanol in alcoholic beverages

• Nickel compounds

• Some oral contraceptives

• Soot

• Tobacco

• Wood dust

It’s probably a good idea to know what things can cause cancer, but also to know that it’s impossible to avoid all of them and still be a citizen of the modern world. I couldn’t get to work without driving on the highway and getting exposed to diesel engine exhaust. Most of the fruits and vegetables I buy probably have a coating of insecticide on them. I live in an old house that probably has pipes in the basement insulated by asbestos. And I most certainly cannot avoid the sunshine (not that we get much in northeast Ohio).

But above all — and maybe this makes me a hypocrite to all the smokers out there — I couldn’t live without my cell phone.

If any of these things were a guarantee of getting cancer, then it would be a smart idea to avoid them. But, seeing as a lot of us are exposed to one or more of these a day, I don’t see the need to get worked up about a disease I most likely won’t get.

That being said, the study conducted by the World Health Organization did make one point that I liked.

Even though there was no actual study done on children, the study noted that kids have thinner skulls and are more likely to be affected by radiation emitted by cell phones.

I personally don’t believe children (especially under the age of 13) should have cell phones. It’s not that I think they don’t have social lives that would warrant cell phone use, but based on observation in the movie theater near where I live, the under-13 age group seems to be the most inconsiderate for cell phone use. With any luck, parents will hear about that theory and think twice about giving their 8- and 9-year-olds cell phones.

For those of you still worried or just plain curious about the radiation emissions from cell phones, you can check out the emission level of your phone at www.cnn.com/interactive/2011/06/tech/table.phone.radiation/index.html.

Britni Williams is a junior news major. Contact her at [email protected].