June 06, 2011

Cell phones & Cancer (infographic)

It was a strange feeling when I heard about CNN's breaking news that cell phones caused cancer. I had long known the need for caution, when it came to microwave radiation. But singling out the low power of a mobile phone in this age of electro-magnetic saturation seemed too fantastic.

Yet, the first few paragraphs in the CNN article seemed to portray it as a done deal. As if the most damning of evidence had quietly piled up. The strangest part was that there was no new studies being cited.

It took a little searching around and spending some time with comments on sites, that are not CNN, for things to start making sense. There were no new studies. Instead, based on the existing data (and wishy-washy footnotes that had been known for years) WHO had decided to formally include cell phone emitted EM radiation in the "needs confirmation" category. Yes, lead is in that category, but that is lead. Not inorganic lead compounds. Those are in another category which includes those items that actually do cause cancer.

The CNN article made it seem like cell phone radiation belonged to that other list.

Nevertheless, at the suggestion of a colleague, I figured the best way to reasearch this would be to put an infographic together. Here it is, on the left. It quickly introduces the EM spectrum and the ionizing vs non-ionizing nature of different radiation. And how the amount of energy emitted by a cell phone is limited. Before citing the tremendous body of research that has found no clear indication of a linkage between mobile phones and cancer. And finally a quick review of the grouping system used by the WHO and why Group 2B does not mean the sky is falling down.

This is one of the longest infographic I have made. Click for the full size.


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