Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Cell Phone Cancer debate continues

In the most recent instance of the triumph of wishful thinking over basic physics, a ‘collaboration of international EMF activists’ recently released a report repeating the tired argument that ‘cell phones cause brain tumours’. Their evidence: Studies discrediting the link between cell phone radiation and tumours were funded by telecommunications companies, which deliberately excluded data that might have shown a link.
Many people probably first heard about the ‘risk’ of cell phones when David Raynard, whose wife died of brain cancer, appeared on ‘Larry King Live’ in 1993 to support his law suit claiming that the tumour had been caused by her cell phone. His evidence: ‘She held it against her head and talked on it all the time’.
More recently, King hosted three neurosurgeons who said they would never place a cell phone against their head because of the risk. They may be good neurosurgeons, but apparently they flunked physics.
Cancer occurs when cellular DNA is disrupted, producing mutant strands of DNA. That is true for carcinogens, viruses and radiation. All radiation is composed of photons, and the energy they contain depends on the wavelength of the radiation. Yellow light has a frequency of 5x1014 Hz and is not powerful enough to break DNA bonds. Otherwise, we would have to sit around in darkened rooms all the time.
The frequency of a typical cell phone is about 1 x 109 Hz, while that used in a house hold microwave over is 2.45 x 1012 Hz. In other words, the radiation from a microwave oven packs only a thousandth of the energy of yellow light, while that from a cell phone packs a millionth of the energy. The energy of EMF radiation from power lines has a million fold less energy than a cell phone.
That is nowhere near enough energy to break bonds in DNA. For a microwave oven, it would be like trying to cut barbed wire with plastic scissors. For a cell phone, it would be more like paper scissors. And for EMF from power lines, in the words New Yorkers, fuhgeddaboutit.
And if that isn’t enough, Danish researchers reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2001 on a study of half a million cell phone users in that country, linking computerized records of cell phone use to cancer databases. The result: no detectable risk. An editorial in the same journal by physicist Robert L Park of the University of Maryland summarized the evidence against a potential link. Many other studies have found the same results – which is to be expected if the laws of physics do, in fact, hold in this universe.
And as for those YouTube videos purporting to show cell phones popping corn: They’re fake. Cardo Systems, a manufacturer of Bluetooth headpieces for cell phones, has admitted that it created the videos to scare consumers and encourage them to buy its products. The effect was created by dropping popped corn on the table, then editing out the unpopped kernels.


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  2. A physicist wrote an article comparing cell phone radiation to leaky microwave ovens: