Thursday, July 24, 2008

Scaremongering

Is it me or is this bloke just engaged in pointless scaremongering?

The director of a leading US cancer research institute has sent a memo to thousands of staff warning of possible higher risks from mobile phone use.

Ronald Herberman, of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, said users should not wait for definitive studies on the risk and should take action now.

That's a great research institute, telling everyone not to bother with the research and just panic, perhaps we should apply that principle to the MMR vaccine next time. His memo will almost certainly provide a great service to many sleazy tort lawyers looking to extort vast sums of money from the mobile phone companies by telling credulous juries that their clients were made ill by their phones.

He lists tips including switching sides regularly while talking on mobiles.

I do that already, but the police keep pulling me over and telling me that I'm driving dangerously. I'm not a medical researcher and come to that I haven't actually had a mobile for years (people often seem amazed by that) but I seriously think that if something that widespread caused cancer then we would already know. It isn't as if the possibility hasn't been studied until now. More to the point there are few obvious mechanisms by which the radiation emitted by the phones could cause cancer.

5 comments:

Mark Wadsworth said...

Exactly. It's pointless scaremongering.

JuliaM said...

He's just joining the legions of medical experts that have declared how much salt we can safely eat, or how much water we need to drink...

John M Ward said...

It increases the risk, as it is a form of microwave cooking of the brain and head tissues. That is known, and has been for a long time. Indeed, it is elementary physics, remembering the inverse-square law of energy propagation.

Although I was the Executive Officer in the Radio Dept of the then DTI responsible for licensing all civilian radio uses at that time, and prepared the licences to develop what was then called Cellular Radio (it's in the official files), I do not have one myself. I don't like 'em! :-)

Ross said...

John, the heating effect of phones is a fair point, I suppose some damage could be caused by that.

I should have said that the radiation emitted by mobile phones doesn't have sufficient energy to damage DNA at a molecular level so it seems unlikely to cause cancer.

John M Ward said...

Yup; it's possible that the "microwave cooking" of tissues etc could reduce natural defences against even low-level radiation -- or for that matter any other causes of cancer.

It's just an additional variable in the equation, and one that I am personally pleased to be able to avoid(!)