back to article Mobile phones still safe... probably

The UK's Health Protection Agency has examined the evidence for mobile phones causing cancer, and concluded that there isn't any, but left plenty of wriggle room for naysayers and doom merchants, not to mention headline writers. The 348-page report (PDF, lots of blank pages but still long) didn't involve any new studies, only …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Catch up FFS!

    "just as we did with cigarette smoking and using CRT VDUs while pregnant: the former turned out to be deadly, the latter is generally forgotten by those campaigning for more research."

    More research on CRT VDU usage? What next, research into the safety of the Spinning Jenny?

    (I'm sure that plenty of Reg readers will now bombard me with examples of CRT displays still in use; form a queue below )

  2. Sean Nevin

    I can't understand why so much attention is given to the possibility of cell phones / wireless technology causing illness, yet none to all the chemicals and additives in food. Flavours, colouring, preservatives, pesticides and goodness knows what else. If anything is making us sick, it's all that garbage.

    I can only imagine that it's related to a vast quantity of people still regarding technolgy as "magic" whereas food has been around for a while now. Sigh.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You do know

      That all those flavours, colouring, preservatives etc come from food technology. Most are derived from what you would consider 'natural' ingredients, it's just that the active ingredient that gives something it's distinctive taste, colour whatever has been isolated and refined just like they do with medicines. It has been proven that your body sees no difference in the nutrients you deliver to it no matter what the source be that pills, drinks, intensely farmed produce or homegrown organic. In many cases intensely farmed veg is better for you as it contains more of the valuable vitamins and minerals as the species has been bred for it and been fed properly as it has been growing.

      I'm not saying that things like cheap sausages with all the extra added fat are good for you, you still need to take care about what you eat and the food industry does churn out a lot of crap made with too much fat and sugar it's just many people such as yourself keep spreading these myths about all the 'dangerous' chemicals that have been found time and again to be blatantly wrong. They do you no harm and some actively keep you healthy by ensuring harmful parasites are not present in your food. Overall food is better for you now than it was 50 years ago.

      Also an E number does not mean it's an unnatural ingredient. There is an E number for every single type of food additive no matter what its source. For example E300 is just vitamin C but if you were to label an orange with it's list of E numbers a lot of people would assume it had been through some kind of chemical process.

      It's funny you complaining about the myth of wireless illness (which it is) while spreading other myths yourself because you don't understand the food technology 'magic'

      1. frank ly Silver badge

        Re: You do know

        I bought a cheap packet of crisps last week and I only read the ingredients (in tiny, tiny, font size) after I'd eaten them. Sodium chloride and acetic acid had been added to them as some kind of flavouring agent !! We need to get back to using natural, healthy products and ban these chemicals.

    2. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      My god, you're right! No one ever talks about that stuff! Someone should be alerted, and Something Should Be Done! Maybe someone could form an organic food movement and press for the categorization and labeling of foods accordingly.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Even organic food contains the deadly DiHydrogen-Monoxide

        1. Richard Wharram

          Didn't we just have a one hundred year anniversary of when hundreds of people died due to both the solid and liquid forms of Dihydrogen Monoxide?

          Deadly stuff.

          Also, thousands of people die every year due to gravity. Yet it still hasn't been banned and we are subjected to it constantly. The Daily Mail should run a front-page about it.

    3. Brezhnev's Shadow

      Baad natural toxin plant chemicals!

      "About 50 percent of chemicals, both natural and synthetic, that have been tested in standard, high-dose, animal cancer tests are rodent carcinogens."

      "99.9 percent of the toxic chemicals we're exposed to are completely natural -- you consume about 50 toxic chemicals whenever you eat a plant."

  3. twelvebore

    Off the top of my head, here's a few candidates for the next Big Health Scare that I'd like the Daily Mail to pick up and run with:

    1. worrying about stuff you don't understand causes stress, and consequentially leads to an increased risk of heart disease, and other stuff you don't understand (hence causing more stress, see point 1).

    2. reading Daily Mail headlines leads you to worry about stuff you don't understand, whilst simultaneously failing to educate you about said stuff. This leads to an increased risk of heart disease, and other stuff you don't understand (see point 1).

    3. listening to people who read the Daily Mail causes stress, with a consequent increased risk of heart disease. See points 1 and 2.

    4. apparently there's been a massive increase in heart disease over the past few years. I should be worried, because it's all due to stuff I don't understand. According to the Daily Mail and a bloke I met down the pub. See points 1, 2 and 3. And 4.

    5. Sod it. I'm off to drown my sorrows in alcohol. Apparently this isn't good for my health. According to the Daily Mail. See points 1, 2, 3 ... 4... and most of the rest of the book.

    1. Graham Dawson

      AND it'll cause house prices to fall.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where's all the DoD/MoD/Russian Data

    that is sitting in archives since the second world war...

    The Russians, American and a number of European countries are aware of the dangers and have actually bothered to read the papers published.

    The UK went down the toilet on ElectroSmog Pollution/Brain Cancer when they sacked all the old fogies that were working there since the 50's who actually had experience and worked in the MoD on Radio Communications and Radar and turned the Regulator into a sales team made up of former estate agents.

    Remember Yuppy Flu and CFS, in the 80's, that was Electro-Smog induced as they were the first UK workers to be exposed to very high levels around the clock and in a working environment.

    just cos they either died of cancer or fled abroad to escape it doesnt mean they were pulling a sicky for fun.

    the UK's Rf emissions levels are still rising...

    1. twelvebore
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Where's all the DoD/MoD/Russian Data

      So I guess the important points in your proposition are that:

      a) the evidence is there, it's all been known for years by Some People

      b) the evidence is being kept secret from The Other People

      I can't put my finger on it, but this sounds very familiar. I'm sure I've heard this before, or maybe seen it on the telly in some programme or other.

      Can you tell me, is deja vu a symptom of having my brain fried by RF radiation? Or have I been hanging around the Internet for too long?

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Where's all the DoD/MoD/Russian Data

      Yeah, your right. RF can kill. Try standing in front of an active radar dish or TV transmitter. Like within a few feet. It'll likely kill you.

      But we are comparing MegaWatts with MilliWatts here.

      If there is any chance of a mobile phone killing you or causing BrAiN CaNcEr then it's likely we'd know about it by now. It may only be the "late 90's" since mobile phone use became ubiquitous, but there were Yuppies talking on ancient analogue "brick" mobiles which pumped out a hell of a lot more power than a modern digital mobile phone years earlier.

  5. Eddie Edwards
    Thumb Up

    Great article. One niggle:

    "established that moderate use of a mobile phone reduced the rate of cancer (though well within the margin of error)"

    If it's well within the margin of error, it's not really "established" then, is it. Unless tossing a coin 100 times and getting 51 heads means that it's now "established" that the coin is biased to heads (within the margin of error).

    Call me a pedant but it's a shame that such a tour de force of rational reporting on the subject of statistical interpretation is spoiled by this small apparent misunderstanding of statistical interpretation :)

  6. Swarthy Silver badge

    Can I get a grant to study this?

    It wouldn't be too difficult:

    Set up two (larg-ish) colonies of mice, preferably by taking a very large colony and splitting down the middle. Have these colonies in two different climate-controlled rooms on the same floor of the same building, one with an RF transmitter to emulate cell signals, one without. Don't let the researchers doing the test know which is which. Let the mice grow/live/breed/die for a bit (2 or 3 murine lifespans should do). Observe said mice during their life cycles and annotate murine cancers, bone density, and all of the other ills "caused" by cell phones. If the group with the RF transmitter has a notable increase, then you can do further studies to refine what the cause is. If the incidences are even, then the issue is put paid. If (my guess) incidences are lower, then you have more studies to find out why RF cures these things, and until that is fully understood, we have a new homeopathy/magnet therapy option.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Can I get a grant to study this?

      Can we think of any reason why a source of 12cm wavelength radiation might have a different effect held against a 12cm diameter human head compared to a 1cm mouse head?

      I'm not saying there is anything behind cell phone radiation - it's just not as simple as that.

      1. andreas koch

        @Yet another AC:


      2. Brezhnev's Shadow

        Re: Can I get a grant to study this?

        Even Ericsson didn't put external mouse-heads on their mobes, seems a cunningly-disguised coil of metal wire worked much better ;)

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  8. Mr Finance

    Myself, I love the strap line 'but we recommend continued studies' attached to all this non required research. Roughly translates to 'can I keep my job please'. By now it is obvious to anybody remotely educated in the principles of statistics and physics that more research is not needed.

  9. Mr Young

    You read the Daily Mail as well?

    I want a copy of their spellchecker software - it's so obviously much better than mine.

  10. JeffyPooh Silver badge

    Piss-poor science

    Read some of the "scientific" papers and test standards and you'll weep for the death of science. The workers in this field must have heads filled with the same jello as used in their phantom heads. E.g. Their models predict mm-cubed hotspots from wavelengths two orders of magnitude larger; a feat of sub-wavelength focussing that should revolutionize technology. E.g. Test standards that mandate mm-precise positioning of the Phone Under Test because if it shifts by a fraction of a degree the results change (i.e. it's a random number generator). The results on a good day might provide one significant figure of accuracy, but are naively reported to three or four digits of noise.

  11. Goobertee

    Missing the obvious new threat

    WHERE OH WHERE are the people studying fingertip cancer! With so many people using smart phones, but not talking on them, that's where the current hazard is. I know there have been a few articles warning of the risks of repetitive motion damage to thumbs and a few other joints related to phone use (from the distant past--anybody remember mouse shoulder?), but it's CANCER! that will kill us.

    We need a study!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The next big scare

    We've had radiation scares for gamma rays, x-rays, ultraviolet and microwave and short-wavelength radio. That still leaves a lot open for The Next Big Thing.

    For example, does listening to cricket commentary on Radio 4 cause problems? (you can make your own up).

    What pirate radio on MW radio responsible for the '60s? I think radio waves around 700kHz frequency have a lot to answer for.

    Speaking of higher frequencies, VHF radio is pretty scary stuff. I mean, look at those little transmitters for iPods -- they chuck out so much of the stuff it can down out Radio 4. And what about radio controlled aircraft? They have been known to kill people, it must be the radiation.

    What about infrared? It causes heating, too much of it and you burn up. Get rid of TV remote controls.

    What about visible light? Everyone knows staring at the sun can make you go blind so torches, especially LED torches and car headlights need to be made really dim to avoid problems.

    And anyway all of these things are RADIATION and radiation is really dangerous.

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