Cell Phones and Cancer: Where to Hold Your Phone

The World Health Organization released news of a study that found there could be a possible link between cell phone use and cancer.

Although the news came as a shock to cell phone users, the fact that cell phones emit radiation is not a new one. Take a look at your iPhone manual and you'll see this in the fine print:

For optimal mobile device performance and to be sure that human exposure to RF energy does not exceed the FCC, IC, and European Union guidelines, always follow these instructions and precautions: When on a call using the built-in audio receiver in iPhone, hold iPhone with the dock connector pointed down toward your shoulder to increase separation from the antenna. When using iPhone near your body for voice calls or for wireless data transmission over a cellular network, keep iPhone at least 15mm (5/8) away from the body, and only use carrying cases, belt clips, or holders that do not have metal parts and that maintain at least 15mm (5/8 inch) separation between iPhone and the body.

For Blackberry users: "keep the BlackBerry device at least 0.98 in. (25 mm) from your body when the BlackBerry device is transmitting."

Although the news has come across as quite controversial, there is little evidence that the report will change how people use be using their cell phones. There were several ways that users could mitigate their exposure to SAR radiation from their phones -- including texting or using headsets, but with recent Twitter posts that read: “I can’t decide between being seen wearing a Bluetooth headset or just getting brain cancer,” it seems like the benefits we get from our phones are still far outweighing the risks.

In fact, we like our phones so much that many of us use them before even getting out of our beds.

Does this suggest that we are a media and communications consuming generation with no regard for personal safety? Maybe not.

When looking at some of the actual conclusions of the study, the "possibly carcinogenic" label may not hold much weight.

The "possibly carcinogenic" category is used when there is inadequate evidence of cancer-causing effects in humans but there is sufficient evidence in animals.

Industry groups for cellphone makers stressed that the "possibly carcinogenic" group also includes substances such as pickled vegetables and coffee.

Even the study itself has been criticized:

The cellphone review was controversial for several reasons. It started with people who already had cancer and asked them to recall how often they used their cellphones more than a decade ago with older cellphone devices.

As controversial and potentially disturbing as the WHO study may be to cell phone users, all phones are manufactured to not exceed limits of exposure set by the Federal Communications Commission of the United States and the Council of the European Union. As it is now, cell phones are "deemed safe by science," according to John Walls of the CTIA.

But as more studies take place, and science changes, this might be an issue worth paying attention to.

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Bryce Tarling

Bryce Tarling

Bryce is currently studying in the Douglas College Print Futures Program in pursuit of a career in writing and editing. He has worked as an English teacher both in the Lower Mainland and in Japan. He has also served brief stints in the restaurant industry. In his free time he enjoys photography, consuming media in the form of books, film, and music, and finding delectable places for trying... more

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