Warning: Your phone may be hazardous to your health. Sound familiar?

Today we all know that smoking is linked to lung cancer and all types of health problems. But how did we get to this conclusion? Smoking has been around for ages! We can even see drawings from the early Mayan culture around 600-900 AD that alluded to smoking:

 Smoking was prevalent in early Mayan culture

Though tobacco was used regularly throughout history, the first US commercial cigarettes came out in 1865.

About 20 years later in 1888, “coffin nail” was used as a colloquial term for cigarettes—People had already suspected the harmful effects of cigarette use, but it was not until many years later that research could support any scientific basis.

In a study done using guinea pigs in 1900, there was evidence of carcinogens, substances capable of causing cancer in living tissue, found in cigarettes.

After 64 years of numerous other evidence and studies done on cigarettes, in 1964, the US Surgeon General finally wrote a report about the dangers of smoking cigarettes saying that the ingredients nicotine and tar cause lung cancer. In response, Congress passed an act the next year (1965) called the Cigarette Labelling and Advertising Act that required warning labels on cigarette packs saying “Cigarettes may be hazardous to your health.”

That’s an understatement…

It took another 20 years for these labels to become more realistic to the gravity of the “hazardous” health effects of cigarettes, when Congress passed another act called the Comprehensive Smoking Education Act, which created four detailed warning labels for cigarette companies to rotate.

Credit: Smoking Tobacco & Health, Centers for Disease Control

Today, we have come even further with research on cigarette smoking and have publicized the fact that they contain ingredients that are known carcinogens and have also discovered health issues associated with secondhand smoke.

Yet, there is still a battle: Forbes posted this article in 2013 suggesting that there is no link between secondhand smoke and cancer though secondhand smoke is published on cancer.org as carcinogenic.

Smoking vs. Mobile Radiation

How does this relate to mobile radiation??

The cellphone was born in the 1980’s when companies seized the opportunity to make profit from a communications technology created for the Department of Defense. These companies had limited resources and pressured government regulatory agencies—especially the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—to allow cellphones entry into the market without pre-market testing. They got away with it with a rationale called the “low power exclusion rule.” This allowed them to release a product that produces microwave radiation without having to publicize this fact since it differentiates itself in the amount of power it uses compared to a microwave. It seemed at that point in time that the only effect of microwaves were heating tissue.

The FDA approved cellphones with minimal regulation requirements

Since then, cellphones have not been extensively tested: in the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) uses a model of an 11lb (5kg) adult-sized head based off a human figure that weighs 220 lbs (100kg) and is 6ft 2" tall (1.88m) to test the SAR (specific absorption rate) of mobile radiation emitted.

The average height and weight of adults are listed online from multiple sources are substantially lower for men and even more so for women. This means that current model for testing underestimates the amount of radiation that is safe to the majority of the population including those who are average, below average, or especially children.

Size tells us how sensitive we are to radiation 

There is still much debate about the specific health effects of cell phones, and just like cigarettes, there will probably be debate for a long time. Just last week, the CTIA (Wireless Association that acts as a supplier for cellphones) sued the City of Berkeley for the ordinance passed that required cell phone companies to include warning labels on their product. They do not want to advertise the true effects of radiation or let anyone publicize research to show any negative effects to the body.

All this information shows that the Wireless Associations that act as suppliers to cell phone companies and regulators that allowed cellphones to be passed with no pre-market testing do not care about the long-term health effects of these devices (and are more interested in making profit). 

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified mobile radiation as a “possible carcinogen.” Whether or not research finds that mobile radiation is carcinogenic, we do know that there are other negative effects such as infertility that are not advertised.

Like cigarettes, only time will tell the truth of mobile radiation... until then, protect yourself!

 

Why do you think it took so long for research about harmful effects cigarettes to be publicized?

How long do you think it will take for the health effects of mobile radiation to become as publicized as those concerning cigarettes?

How do you feel about current cellphone regulations?

 

Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

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Hannah Engelhardt
Hannah Engelhardt

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