Are cell phones really safe?

Every time you make a call, are you irradiating your brain? That's up for debate, depending who you ask. It's a constant see-saw battle between the forces of fear and the forces of pragmatism. Some scientists say cell phones don't cause any brain damage. Others say they do, and still others say they do, but only with extreme amounts of exposure.

There are many, many, MANY studies of the phenomenon, and depending on who you listen to will change your beliefs. The federal government, for instance, has several reports saying there is no danger from cell phones.

But different groups of Swedish researchers found that a) Radiation from cell phones hurts rats' brains, and b) rural cellphone users are more likely to get brain tumors from phones than urban users.

What is a concerned, hesitant cell phone user to believe?

According to an article published today in the Toronto Star, the difference in reports may very well depend on if the researchers have ties to the cell phone industry.

The Star quotes Jerry Phillips, an American cell phone researcher, who says, "There's so much money involved, that the only thing industry sees is the money. ... They couldn't give a damn about basic science."

The article continues:

Allegations by several U.S. scientists interviewed by the Toronto Star include corporate intimidation and having their work altered to soften concerns about potential risks. And they say manipulation of scientific studies is slanting public debate around a legitimate health concern as the cellphone industry, using popular images such as Barbie and Hilary Duff, shifts its marketing efforts to pre-teens.
In a recent meta-study, University of Washington researchers analyzed 252 studies from around the world, and their results show a noticeable difference between independent research and studies directly funded by the cell phone industry. According to Dr. Henry Lai, studies with no direct industry funding found biological effects from cell phones 81 percent of the time, whereas studies that received industry funding found the same effects only 19 percent of the time.

It seems pretty clear which is the more reliable subset of studies, just as with global warming scientists who work for the oil industry tend to find no evidence of the coming catastrophy. Sadly, though, it's probably a moot point, since cell phones have quickly become a ubiquitous and indispensible service in the U.S., and the cell phone industry is increasingly busy reaching out to sell phones to folks who can't currently afford them.

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