Cellphones, we use them every day; some all day. But how much do we actually know about them? Not their tech specs and features; I mean the technology and what it can or cannot do.
Like many other things, cellphones are surrounded by many many myths – some I find a bit crazy; others just come from a general lack of knowledge. Today I hope to break down a few of these myths and shed some light on them.
To get started, my favourite of the bunch: “Prolonged cellphone use can cause brain cancer or tumours because of radiation.”
The thing is, there have not been many medical studies on the issue, and they still don’t offer any definitive proof. And like all things medical, one study says one thing, while the other says the opposite.
For example, a 2008 study by an Israeli scientist claims that phone use causes tumours in salivary glands, and that regular users have an increased risk of 50 per cent for developing tumours. In the same year, an Australian cancer specialist said the exact opposite.
And, a 2005 study of 4,000 Europeans by the Institute of Cancer Research found no link to any types of cancer among regular phone users. So this one is still up in the air.
The one we will most come into contact with, however, is the gas station fire myth. This rumour dates back to the 1990s, when a phony email made the rounds of people’s inboxes around the world. The email claimed that Shell Oil had issued a warning about three instances of cellphones causing fires at the pumps. However when contacted, Shell said it was a complete hoax, and had no such reports of any such incidents.
However, it has been proven that static can cause fuel vapours to combust; but cellphones just don’t emit a strong enough of anything to do the trick. So you are in fact at a greater risk getting in and out of your car than having a lengthy conversation on your phone.
Another popular one is if you use a cellphone while flying, the signal can interfere with the plane’s compass and navigation systems, possibly leading to a crash. Another debatable topic, as some pilots have gone on record saying it does happen. However studies by NASA and the FAA have found no instances where a cellphone caused a crash. But another study in Britain in 2003 showed some interference
with compasses and navigation systems, but that was done in controlled settings, not on real planes.
This added to the fact that pilots aboard American Airlines use iPads with 3G radios, instead of bulky navagational charts (even during take-off) puts a large hole in this myth.
If you have ever gone into any ICU ward or just gone to get some form of testing done, whether it be X-ray or ultrasound, you might notice a sign asking you to turn off your cellphone. At first, I thought this was for courtesy, until a nurse explained to me that apparently cell signals disrupt hospital equipment and can kill patients. This however is false.
This was proven to be 100 per cent untrue in a study done by the Mayo Clinic. There were some 300 tests, using two different cellphones on four different carriers on almost 200 medical devices – and not one disruption. And this wasn’t a one-time thing; the study was carried out several times, each lasting over five months. So it was a pretty solid one.
I leave you with one other note. The preachers of cellphone doom and gloom did get one right. I’m sure many of you have heard that carrying around your cell in your pockets can lower your sperm count. This is actually true; well some what. A study done by a fertility clinic in Ohino tested some 361 men with infertility issues and divided them based on cellphone usage.
Men who used their cells for over four hours a day were found to have much lower sperm counts and higher amounts
of poor quality semen. However the study is being reviewed as it didn’t take other factors such as drug use into account; and follow-up studies will also test electromagnetic radiation on sperm cells in labs to see if they’re directly affected.
I hope that I have shed some light on the damnation preached about when it comes to cellphone usage, and hopefully taught you a thing or two.