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By Dan Rowinski

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Your brain on cell phones: Give it to me straight, doc.

A new study from the National Institutes of Health released in the Journal of the American Medical Association says 50-minute cell phone exposure leads to increased glucose metabolism of 7 percent in the brain in the area closest to the antenna.

What does that mean?

Frankly, I have no idea. I am a journalist, darn it, not a doctor.

In the basest terms, it means that your cell phone is increasing brain activity when you are talking on it. The study says the findings are of “unknown clinical significance,” so it looks like the AMA does not have a clue what it means, either. Obviously, more study will be needed.

For years, people have wondered if cell phone radiation leads to cancer. It is an easy fear. It is a device that you keep in your pocket or on your belt near some of the, lets call them “sensitive” parts of the body. Or you hold it next to your ear, basically as close to your brain as possible.

Related coverage:

Is your cell phone trying to kill you?

Attack of the killer cell phones, Part 2

Commercial cell phones have been around since the 1980s. As of yet they are not linked to cancer or any other type of bodily harm that research can identify. According to the Environmental Working Group there could be links to certain types of brain or salivary gland tumors for people who have used cell phones for 10 years or more.

According to the Washington Post
, the city of San Francisco imposed cell phone radiation labels and several other cities across the country are considering similar rules. CTIA, the wireless trade group, is fighting against such labels, deferring to the Federal Communications Commission and the Food and Drug Administration as experts on cell phone health-related issues.

Technology news organization CNET does a good job of keeping up with cell phone radiation levels, releasing a report on specific absorption rate (SAR) of every major phone from every major carrier and original equipment manufacturer. Take a look at the report; there is a good chance that your phone is in it somewhere.

I am reminded of the end of the movie “Thank You For Smoking” about a lobbyist who works on behalf of the tobacco industry and could spin any issue into a positive through his great powers of argument. After having been spurned by the tobacco industry, he starts his own lobbyist firm and the end of the film shows him talking to three cell phone executives telling them to “repeat after me: There is no conclusive evidence that cell phones are related to cancer.”

Overall, the whole issue is still inconclusive, regardless of what the movies say. We may know in 10 or 20 years. As reporter Devin Coldeway at TechCrunch wrote about the issue on Wednesday, “it could be that after 30 or 40 years, we all get head cancer. Or we all get super powers. It could go either way.”

Posted by Dan Rowinski on Feb 24, 2011 at 12:19 PM


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