Friday, May 18, 2012

Thank You...for Using Cell Phones

One of my favorite movies is Thank You For Smoking (based on a book by Christopher Buckley and rated R - so definitely for grownups).

If you haven't seen the movie, it's a satire featuring a guy who is chief PR spokesperson for the floundering tobacco industry. It's a hard job, but Nick Naylor (played by Aaron Eckhart) is a master at spin, at avoiding his own conscious, and rationalizing his career to his questioning young son.

Without spoiling the ending, in the last scene, Nick ends up in a conference room as a valued adviser to lobbyists of the cell phone industry, who are worried because research is showing a link between their products and brain cancer. The not-so-subtle message is this: We all know that smoking is bad for your health. Will cell phones one day share the dubious stage with cigarettes?

While acknowledging that Thank You For Smoking is fictitious, some worry that cell phone usage is truly harmful. According to the Environmental Working Group, the city of San Francisco recently passed a right-to-know ordinance, "making it the first city in the nation to require cell phone radiation disclosure at the point of sale." The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), which opposes radiation disclosure, yanked its annual conference out of San Francisco and filed a lawsuit against the city. Now the city of Burlingame, California is considering a similar right-to-know ordinance.

The EWG maintains a cell phone radiation database, which ranks the phones according to radiation emissions. According to the group:
Recent studies find significantly higher risks for brain and salivary gland tumors among people who have used cell phones for 10 years or longer. The state of the science is provocative and troubling, and much more research is essential.
I looked up my HTC Droid Incredible, and its one of the worst offenders on the EWG list. I use my cell phone for a large part of my work week (I don't have a telephone land line), so this information makes me squirm. Since research is still pending, it could be that there are no health risks associated with cell phones; perhaps long-term cell phone users are also exposed to other hazards. But do I want to take that chance for me or my kids? It doesn't seem likely that I'll give up my cell phone.What's a girl to do?

I'm going to buy a head set for my cell phone this morning at our local gadget store. And I'll consider spending an extra $30 per month at an old-fashioned land line. If I do, am I succumbing to environmental paranoia and throwing away money, as some of my family members would suggest?  And if I don't, am I taking unnecessary risks with my health? I'm not sure what to believe.

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