Throughout my seven years of reviewing cell phones and covering the wireless industry for CNET, the issue of a possible link between cell phones and brain cancer has surfaced every few months. And as my colleague Marguerite Reardon explains in her comprehensive feature, the debate isn't going away anytime soon. Indeed, research abounds on the subject, and there are plenty of voices on both sides. Some say there's nothing to worry about, and others recommend proceeding with care.
One voice on the cautionary side is Dr. Devra Davis, the author of the 2010 book "Disconnect: The Truth about Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide it and How to Protect Your Family." An epidemiologist and environmental health researcher, Davis is a founding director of the toxicology and environmental studies board of the National Academy of Sciences and founder of the Environmental Health Trust. Davis argues that cell phone use can have very real effects on health, and that cancer is only part of the story.
A few months ago, I interviewed Dr. Davis after reading her book. Though I can tell you a lot about cell phones, I'm not a scientist, and frankly, I wasn't very good at science in school. Yet, I approached the subject with a genuine curiosity, and I was glad to see that Davis breaks down her arguments in a manner that's easy to follow. The material is accessible and digestible, even if it's a bit scattered in places. And though the book's title is over the top, Davis takes a more measured tone inside. She's no alarmist, but she forcefully advocates that more research is needed. And while she does use a cell phone regularly, she also suggests that cell phone users take small steps to reduce radio frequency (RF) energy.
Q: What is the one thing that you want readers to take away from your book? Davis: If we fail to pay attention to experimental evidence, we're treating people as subjects in an experiment with no controls. And if we say that we'll accept that cell phone radiation is harmful only when we have enough sick or dead people, then we're dooming three generations to illness.
The chapter that I think is most important is the one that discusses the effects on male reproductive health. A phone in a pocket may be linked to lower sperm count. This is not a confirmed association, but I've talked to several urologists who have begun to advise men that they should not keep the phone in their pocket if they're concerned about libido or impotence. That's not to say that they're the cause of impotence; like everything else in health, it's multifactorial and there can be multiple explanations.
How did you first become interested in this issue? Davis: About six years ago my grandson was born. I saw the incredible enthusiasm he had toward a cell phone, and I began to wonder about its safety. Later, I worked for Dr. Ronald Herbermann at the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh. I was stunned by what I found. … Read more