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Reporters' Roundtable: Do cell phones cause cancer?

CNET mobile phone editor Kent German and I talk with Dr. Debra Davis, Author of "Disconnect: The Truth about Cell Phone Radiation," about how we don't quite know the effects of mobile phones on the brain--especially the brains of children.

Last month, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), said it now lists mobile phone use in the same category as lead, gasoline engine exhaust, and chloroform--as a "carcinogenic hazard."

Previously, the WHO's IARC had said that there were no adverse health effects from the use of cell phones. The wireless industry, including the CTIA lobbying group, and the Federal Communications Commission and U.S. Food and Drug Administration have also long maintained that cell phones are safe.

So which is it? Are we doomed to bounce back and forth between the beliefs that mobile phones are safe and that they're not? Or is the tide turning towards a widespread understanding of their dangers? And if so, is the mobile phone industry in the future going to end up looking like the tobacco industry, maintaining a position that scientific research has shown to be wrong?

That's what we're discussing today, with two great guests:

In the studio, we have Kent German, section editor on the mobile phone beat here at CNET.

Via Skype, Dr Devra Davis, Author of "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 president of the Environmental Health Trust.

Now playing: Watch this: Ep. 81: Do cell phones cause cancer?


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Some of our discussion points

Kent, you've been covering mobile phones for a while, can you give a brief history of this controversy? How did you come to rely on Dr. Devra Davis as a commentator?

Dr Davis: How did you get into this study?

I want to lay a technical baseline down here. Give us a physics lesson in how cellphones work

Discuss power use on near vs far towers.

Cancer: How radiation affects it; examples.

What is SAR?

You say "The peak radiation exposure occurs in the moment you first click to answer the phone." Please expand.

Discuss history of research on mobile phone safety.

Discuss the WHO findings. What did they say? How different from previous studies?

Discuss your focus on children.

Warnings and regulation differences around the world?

Recommendations: For families, for grown-ups, for the industry.

Chat-room questions
Mors_d: I only have a cell phone as my primary telecommunications device. Because of this; it is usually within arm's reach. How worried should I be about abnormal growths or extra limbs?

Spike: How does it compare to flying in an airplane?...

Garst: Rafe, can you ask if the OnStar system has been tested by the government as a "cell phone?

For more:
CNET roundup: Cell phones and the radiation risk

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