What do lead, chloroform and your cell phone have in common? According to the World Health Organization, they can all increase your chances of getting cancer.
Though quick to note that the WHO's newly-announced findings do not denote a definite health risk from the use of cellular technology, a new story from CNN cites findings from an international coalition of 31 scientists that link cell phone use to an increase in brain cancer.
In explanation of the findings, Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurology at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, likened the radiation given off by a cellular phone to a small microwave. "What microwave radiation does in most simplistic terms is similar to what happens to food in microwaves, essentially cooking the brain," he said.
"So in addition to leading to a development of cancer and tumors, there could be a whole host of other effects like cognitive memory function, since the memory temporal lobes are where we hold our cell phones," Black continued.
In rebuttal, the cell phone industry claims that the WHO study conducted no actual new research, instead relying on previously published data.
The only thing the two sides of the argument seem to agree on is that it is incredibly difficult to firmly link anything to cancer. "The biggest problem we have is that we know most environmental factors take several decades of exposure before we really see the consequences," Dr. Black said.
Of course, when dealing with a topic as sensitive as cancer, and a gadget that the European Environmental Protection Agency has likened to smoking and abestos, it pays to be cautious. "When you look at cancer development -- particularly brain cancer -- it takes a long time to develop. I think it is a good idea to give the public some sort of warning that long-term exposure to radiation from your cell phone could possibly cause cancer," said University of Washington bioengineering professor, and renowned expert on the effects of radiation, Dr. Henry Lai.
If you were hoping for a succinct, pithy answer for your now-growing fear of holding that phone to your head, I can't offer that. Truth is, we won't really know if you ought to ditch your iPhone for a rotary for years to come, if ever. That said, with the World Health Organization leaning toward a grim prognosis and cell phone manufacturers already warning you to hold the devices at least an inch away from your cranium, it's probably a good idea to buy a Bluetooth headset.
At least until we find out that Bluetooth causes gingivitis.