Physics: Principles and Problems


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Cellular Controversy
Posted August 2002

Cellular phones have become common in American culture. Close to 85 million people in the U.S. (which accounts for nearly 30 percent of the population) have jumped on the wireless bandwagon.

Of course, with any technology, there have been questions about the safety of its use - especially when the device is held so close to the brain. Over the past decade, a number of high-profile lawsuits have been brought against cellular phone manufacturers by cancer patients who claim that the radiation emitted from their phones caused tumors to form.

As these cases make their way through the courts, scientists have been performing experiments to determine whether cellular phones do cause cancer. Generally, their findings have shown no link.

A recent study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis tested the effects of cell phone radiation on rats. The researchers bombarded two test groups of rats with either radiation from digital phones or analog phones for five hours a day, each day, for two years. After examining the brain tissue of the test subjects at the end of the experiment, the scientists discovered no significant difference in tumor frequency in either test group against a control.

However, this does not mean that the radiation did not have an effect. This study, among others, has reported an effect on genetic activity and protein development in subjects. While these findings do not show anything directly harmful, it is a common belief among researchers that radiation from cellular phones does indeed affect the body, even if the effect is small.

Other ailments have been blamed on cellular phones, such as headaches and feelings of warmth near where the phone is held against the head. However, researchers have pointed out that headaches can be a result of job stress (since many die-hard cell phone users need them for high-stress jobs), and the feeling of warmth could simply be coming from the phone's battery.

Additionally, research has shown that digital cellular phones release about one-eighth as much radiation as antiquated analog phones. Most cellular phone suppliers and carriers have migrated their networks over to a digital medium in the past few years.

Still, the biggest dangers of cell phone use do not appear to be biological, but rather behavioral. Drivers who talk on cell phones while they drive have a higher occurrence of accidents. This has caused some communities to put a ban on cell phones while driving, or at least mandate the use of a headset while talking on the phone in a car.


Activity
Use the Internet to research cell phones and the risks involved with using them. Design an informational pamphlet with a partner that explains these dangers.


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Physics: Principles and Problems