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Opening Arguments

Cancer, er, cancel my calls

No study has yet shown a link between cell phone use and brain cancer, but the head of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Center is warning his faculty and staff to limit their phone use because of the possible risk:

In the memo he sent to about 3,000 faculty and staff Wednesday, he says children should use cell phones only for emergencies because their brains are still developing.

Adults should keep the phone away from the head and use the speakerphone or a wireless headset, he says. He even warns against using cell phones in public places like a bus because it exposes others to the phone's electromagnetic fields.

OK, let's start having some laws to ban cell phones in public places like restaurants and bars and, yes, all workplaces. If there's a chance we can be exposed to that deadly secondhand electromagnetism, why take the chance?

The scary part is that this guy is basing his warning on "unpublished evidence" the rest of us haven't been able to see. He said it "takes too long to get evidence from science," so people should take action now: "Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn't wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later," Herberman said. Boy, no potential for abuse in that attitude, huh?


Mitchell Surface
Thu, 07/24/2008 - 11:36am

He said it

Harl Delos
Thu, 07/24/2008 - 1:42pm

Michael Milken figured out a way to speed up research on prostate cancer. If you have an idea you want to check out, you don't need to spend a year or two preparing a grant application; sketching on the back of a cocktail napkin will do. And when you're done, you don't spend a year or two preparing a paper for publication in a journal. You present your results right away, at a conference Milken holds, so that other researchers can leapfrog from your results.

He has had such spectacular results that others (such as Michael J. Fox) are following his lead to speed up the research they are interested in. At this point, Milken isn't working on prostate cancer as much as he is working on teaching charities how to sponsor research.

Herberman isn't saying, "do this now because it takes too long to do the research." He's saying, "the research has been done and it's alarming."

And he's not saying "ban cell-phone use". He's saying "limit their use". Is there any reason for little kids to use cell phones as if they were toys? Shouldn't they be supervised most of the time by adults? Don't they spend most of their time in fixed locations, where landline phones would work just as well?

It's a little different with global warming, where Hansen is saying "we shouldn't be doing any research on this, because I'm right, I'm right, I'm right." The fact that his mathematical models can't predict the past is a warning that they probably can't predict the future, either.