“I cannae hear ya captin. I dinnae have the power!”

My first reaction to the news that a prominent oncologist is issuing an advisory that cell phones may indeed cause cancer, was, to put it succinctly, “well bloody hell.” Reports like these are scary for two reasons: First, they demonstrate the stark constrast between the way we’re living our lives and the way we ought to be.  Second, the fact that they keep coming out doesn’t seem to change our habits. I do Student Lifestyle marketing for a living, which means I’m constantly reading market research studies on tech usage among the “Mellenial Generation” – basically people 24 and younger – defined by having grown up in the information age.

 I barely make the cut, which means in a lot of cases I’m a much-less-extreme version of the typical millenial. And I probably spend about 2 hours a day on my cell. But I know millenials that spend  closer to 6. I recently had my first 5 hour conversation on a cellphone. Young people are increasingly mobile – they don’t own land lines phones, they don’t own desktop computers – everything is done on the cell or the laptop and it’s all mobile. New laptops are being released with built-in wireless data-cards – or essentially the same radio antenna’s that these research reports are saying you should keep away from your body. My laptop spends 15 hours a day strapped to my back, in the passenger seat of my car, or right in front of me. My cellphone spends 24 hours a day on my nightstand 2 ft from my head, at my ear, or in my left-hip-pocket.  I figured I’d read through the report’s suggested tactics to minimize the risk of harmful effects from cell phones: 

Practical Advice to Limit Exposure to Electromagnetic Radiation Emitted from Cell Phones

  • Do not allow children to use a cell phone, except for emergencies. The developing organs of a fetus or child are the most likely to be sensitive to any possible effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields.

Well shit. My sister has had a cellphone since age 6. I had one at age 15. And I’m sure there are moms dropping their kids to montesori school at the age of 4 with a cellphone in tow.

  • While communicating using your cell phone, try to keep the cell phone away from the body as much as possible. The amplitude of the electromagnetic field is one fourth the strength at a distance of two inches and fifty times lower at three feet. Whenever possible, use the speaker-phone mode or a wireless Bluetooth headset.

 Away from my body? I’m shoving the thing into my ear constantly so that i can be heard over the din of background chatter, music at clubs, and the other person on speaker.

  • Avoid using your cell phone in places, like a bus, where you can passively expose others to your phone’s electromagnetic fields.

What else am I supposed to do on the bus?

  • Avoid carrying your cell phone on your body at all times. Do not keep it near your body at night such as under the pillow or on a bedside table, particularly if pregnant. You can also put it on “flight” or “off-line” mode, which stops electromagnetic emissions.

My cellphone is my trusty steed. I need it as an alarm clock. A calendar. An internet browser. To check facebook. to update twitter. to call people. It hasn’t been more than 5 feet away from me in 10 years.

  • If you must carry your cell phone on you, make sure that the keypad is positioned toward your body and the back is positioned toward the outside so that the transmitted electromagnetic fields move away from your rather than through you.

Interesting. I think I could handle that.

  • Only use your cell phone to establish contact or for conversations lasting a few minutes, as the biological effects are directly related to the duration of exposure. For longer conversations, use a land line with a corded phone, not a cordless phone, which uses electromagnetic emitting technology similar to that of cell phones.

This is not good news. If you add-in my cordless phone usage, we’re up to 6 hours a day – easy. I don’t own a corded phone. I don’t want to own a corded phone. Corded phones just look so… depressing.

  • Switch sides regularly while communicating on your cell phone to spread out your exposure. Before putting your cell phone to the ear, wait until your correspondent has picked up. This limits the power of the electromagnetic field emitted near your ear and the duration of your exposure.

I do this anyway. I put it on speaker and put it down – usually so I can multi-task – while I wait to see if they’ll pick up.

  • Avoid using your cell phone when the signal is weak or when moving at high speed, such as in a car or train, as this automatically increases power to a maximum as the phone repeatedly attempts to connect to a new relay antenna.

Umm… didn’t we go over this? Cars & trains are boring which is why we use our cellphones in the first place.

  • When possible, communicate via text messaging rather than making a call, limiting the duration of exposure and the proximity to the body.

I think I need to up my plan to ulimited texts. Apparently texting is free in Asia.

  • Choose a device with the lowest SAR possible (SAR = Specific Absorption Rate, which is a measure of the strength of the magnetic field absorbed by the body). SAR ratings of contemporary phones by different manufacturers are available by searching for “sar ratings cell phones” on the internet.

I just checked on CNET – the RAZr which I used to have is pretty low. Blackberry Pearl is the 2nd worst phone to get. No iPhone on there at the moment.

My conclusion. We’re all screwed. How long before another research study that proclaims the danger of bluetooth headsets. or the WiFi signals that now blanket our entire world – information workers today spend almost their entire day – at work, at Starbucks, and at home – awash in wifi signals. I may be some kind of nut, but it seems to me that if we have any hope, it’s to invent new technology to get ourselves out of this mess. Donate to American Cancer Society‘s Relay for Life to help find one.

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