Thursday, June 2, 2011

Are mobiles phones a Health Hazard?

An article in today's Australian paper caught my eye; it was about mobile phones and one particular sentence got me thinking: "the expert working group that classified mobiles as possibly carcinogenic noted the strongest evidence for the new classification, though limited, linked mobiles to two types of brain cancer, Glioma and Acoustic Neuroma". It then went on to say that the evidence was based on early model mobiles which are known to produce considerably more power than the newer generations of 3G mobile phones, and it's this "power" that might be associated with the increase in brain cancers seen since the '70's.
A number of thoughts flashed into my mind: the first was the late Dr Chris O'Brien OA, the Head and Neck Surgeon of RPA fame, who was such a charismatic figure helping so many others as he struggled with his own soon to be fatal brain tumour. Chris himself admitted to being constantly on his mobile phone.
Secondly, the Research information on mobile usage and brain cancer is still relatively new - probably about 20 years - and I suspect that like most demographic health information, we will have to wait for another 20 years before the picture becomes much clearer and concrete conclusions can be made.
The other thoughts that went through my mind were the non medical things that the mobile phone has brought with it, like "cyber bullying" in schools and how it has affected the dynamics within the family. My eldest - a girl, now an amazing lady - will gladly report that when she was a teenager, the only phone in our house was firmly tethered to the wall in the hallway by a wire ! If she wished to have a private conversation (virtually impossible with four devious, male siblings) was to stretch the telephone line out through the nearby front door and sit in the porch outside - which was a dead give-away, and rapidly resulted in her brothers sudden desire to go out the front to "play". But for a parent, having that ability to "oversee" our children's conversations, it enabled us to support them when they appeared distressed. By the time our youngest was a phone user, telephones were mobile, and we felt like we had been excluded from a part of his life (and maybe that's a good thing?).
A final thought was that the link between mobile phones and cancer still is extremely tenuous, and nothing near as certain as the link between cigarettes and cancer, or sun-baking and skin cancer; so I think we need to factor in "relative risks" when thinking about which issues we should be actively perusing.
My take is that those with the more vulnerable brains - that's our small, precious people - should be taught how to strictly limit mobile phone use and where possible use hands-free or a blue-tooth earpiece (as should we all). That's just after you've plastered them in sun block and told them smoking is disgusting!
Ampersands & angle brackets need to be encoded.

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