Thalidomide, Asbestos, Tobacco: Name three things not considered dangerous when introduced to the public. We may have our fourth; cell phones. While we still don’t know for sure that there is a direct link between cell phones and cancer, one has to wonder how it could be possible to place an object next to the head that generates an electromagnetic field for thousands of minutes a month (go check your bill); and yet not have any long term health risks?

Cellular telephones emit radio frequency or (RF) energy, which is a form of radiation. Radiation exposure is what causes the nurse who just took your x-ray to run behind a protective wall, so how could having your INSERT PHONE BRAND HERE pressed against your cranium be good for you?

We all face risk/reward decisions every day. Do I eat another donut? Do I smoke that cigarette? Do I…well, you know the drill. Face it, we are bombarded everyday with things we know aren’t good for us. Does that mean we should be protected from ourselves? I think not, but we should know what our risks are as well as the risks we are subjecting those around to.

You see, it does us no good to be in another situation 30 years from now where we find ourselves confronted with the fact that the wireless industry knew back in 2008 that cell phones caused cancer but didn’t tell anyone, or that leaked memos or emails from a handset manufacturer warned of the potential long term risks to using their products. I want to be an informed consumer and we are owed that by those chosen to protect us.

What’s this got to do with business?

Funny you should ask. Back in September, before the markets threw up all over us, there was a debate brewing on Capitol Hill over the prolonged use of cell phones and the link to cancer. They concluded that more research is needed but I am worried that the conversation will be swept away with the financial bailout tide along with the money to fund the research, which I am sure by now has been reallocated to pay for Dick Fuld’s seat on the board of the New York Museum of Modern Art.

But it’s about the kids people!

That particular hot button issue on the Hill was about cell phone use and kids. Why? Because cell phone radiation travels approximately two inches into an adult brain, but clear through to the center of a child’s brain says Ronald Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. Mr. Herberman also went on to say that he couldn’t tell the committee that cell phones are dangerous, but he also couldn’t tell them they are safe.

Studies done outside the U.S. have produced contradictory results. A 2006 study by the Swedish National Institute for Working Life found increased incidence of cancer among heavy users. But that was based on outmoded wireless technology, and a more recent Scandinavian study found no link. Results of a multinational study coordinated by the International Agency for Cancer Research are due to be released in late 2008.

In the U.S., this issue rests in the hands of the FDA, which shouldn’t make anyone feel good. These are the same boys and girls that allowed 44,000 deaths via prescription drugs in 2005, which is more people than died in car accidents, all illegal drug deaths combined, and even second hand smoke related deaths. In fact, it was the highest incidence credited to “accidental deaths” that year so forgive me if I don’t rush into the warm embrace of the FDA when they say cell phones don’t cause cancer!

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