COLUMN: Warning over wireless worth a look

Despite this week’s report suggesting a link from cellphones to cancer, I don’t expect a mass movement to shun mobile communication devices.

Nor should there be.

The news, from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, is hardly a definitive link between cancer and cellphones, and in fact offers little more than we already know.

The WHO’s press release identifies radio-frequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” and urges more research and “pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands-free devices or texting.”

It’s a warning that should be taken seriously, but should also be considered within context.

On the multi-level scale of cancer risks, cellphones are several rungs down from the ‘known carcinogens’, obvious ones such as tobacco and asbestos, that populate the top rung. Below that are substances that ‘probably’ cause cancer and further down from that are things that might cause cancer.

In truth, just about anything could fall into that category.

And although there are plenty of studies suggesting a link, there are plenty of others disputing it.

In short, nothing is proven yet. The jury remains out.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t heed the WHO advice for more research.

Without question, there are plenty of unknowns about cellular technology, and as we’ve seen recently around Nanaimo, plenty of concern regarding the communication towers that enable mobile communication.

While many people minimize those concerns as unfounded, often pointing to the proliferation of both cell towers and cellphones as evidence there is no harm, the Luddites’ own arguments do have some merit.

Perhaps foremost among them is the fact the technology became universal and ubiquitous so fast (how many of us had a cellphone 15 years ago? how many of us don’t have one now?) that long-term study has simply not been possible. The technology hasn’t been around and widely available long enough to know the potential long-term effects.

That’s not to say there even are any long-term effects. But the WHO’s latest warning is a healthy reminder that as technology and our use of it changes, so does the need for study into how those changes affect us.

Few can deny that cellphones and wireless Internet – or even the Internet itself, which only became widely available to the public in the mid-1990s – have been a tremendous boon to how we live and how we share information.

Just because we deem them a great leap forward for society, however, doesn’t mean we can ignore the impacts (or potential impacts) of how those great leaps are achieved.

Just think of how much we’re still learning about the countless changes we’ve made in our food supply and how they’re affecting us.

From hormones and pesticides to preservatives and packaging materials, everything we do or change has some sort of effect. Not all are negative and not all show up right away, but we do owe it to ourselves to keep track of what the effects are and do what we can to address, minimize or eliminate them.

The fact we continue learning a myriad of new things about so many different aspects of our world (we’re still identifying new species every year) and how we live in it is proof enough for me that we should never declare any case closed.

Facts, even scientific facts, are facts only until they’re proven wrong. We should always have an open mind to new information.

I’m not tossing my cellphone in the trash, but I am keen to see what further independent scientific study might discover.

 

editor@nanaimobulletin.com

 

 

Just Posted

Nanaimo RCMP are asking for help locating a 43-year-old man whose family is ‘extremely worried.’ (Submitted photo)
Nanaimo RCMP ask for help locating man, family worried

Jeremy Buerge, 43, made comments that were concerning to family members

(PQB News file photo)
Fireworks report highlights enforcement challenges for Regional District of Nanaimo

Director: ‘I just think it’s wasting everybody’s time’

An event on the lawn of the B.C. legislature in Victoria on Tuesday to remember the 215 children whose remains were confirmed buried in unmarked graves outside a Kamloops residential school. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Canada’s racist systems cannot ever be forgiven

Teen letter writer from Nunavut calls for truth and reconciliation

Nanaimo is the first city in Canada to subscribe to the Chonolog environment photo-monitoring system, which allow residents to contribute photos of habitat restoration projects that are converted to time lapse sequences showing environmental changes. (Chris Bush/ News Bulletin)
Nanaimo residents invited to be citizen scientists by sharing habitat restoration photos

Nanaimo first city in Canada to sign up for Chronolog environment photo monitoring service

Regional District of Nanaimo is seeking input from the public for its transit redevelopment strategy. (News Bulletin file)
Public input sought as RDN works on transit redevelopment strategy

RDN wants to know where people want bus stops, shelters and pedestrian and cycling connections

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps near Nanaimo

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

City of Nanaimo council has approved amendments for an animal control bylaw requested by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. The bylaw includes language related to quail. (Wikipedia Commons photo)
Province asks for tweaks to Nanaimo’s animal responsibility bylaw

Ministry concerned bylaw wording could create municipal and provincial jurisdictional overlaps

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo hospital district seeks help from other districts for $1-billion project

Funding for Nanaimo Regional General Hospital patient tower discussed by committee

Stuffed toys, many with donations pinned to them, are piled in the Lions Pavilion at Maffeo Sutton Park at a vigil May 31 honouring the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were discovered outside a residential school in Kamloops. (News Bulletin file photo)
Thousands donated to child and family service agency following Nanaimo vigil

Toys and money donated to Kw’umut Lelum child and family services

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Most Read