Cell Phone Health Issues
Communications & Networking
February, 1998

As local competition heats up, more widespread and longer use of wireless phones is bound to draw attention to radiation effects.

Do cellular or PCS phones cause brain cancer That’s what a group of British scientists are saying. Heck, one of them has even accused a local cellular distributor of breaching consumer protection laws. He plans to launch criminal proceedings against the company and, at the very least, hopes to make it mandatory in Britain to have health warnings printed on service contracts and phones. The issue isn’t a new one, as veterans from Canada’s cellular phone industry can attest. And it’s very easy to see this matter brewing into the same debate experienced by the tobacco industry. The cycle — and if you keep track, you’ll see it in the mainstream media — will go something like this: scientist releases report talking about dangers of wireless; public gets stirred into mild frenzy; some show like the Fifth Estate takes an in depth look at the topic; and then comes the industry spin doctors, armed with studies and testimonials that downplay, discredit and dispute. Eventually, the public forgets and life goes on.

Whether the electromagnetic energy that fuels cellular phones actually releases damaging levels of microwave radiation almost becomes irrelevant. We live in a world where perception is always in a battle with common sense. For example, I know that when I talk on my PCS phone for longer than 15 minutes the ear piece heats up to the point where I wonder about health issues. What’s causing this heat I have no idea. Is it bad for me I hope not. But having experienced it, will I ever feel comfortable getting rid of my landline phone and doing most of my talking on a wireless Maybe one day, but at this point I’m not so convinced it’s a good thing.

So where does this leave Canada’s cellular and PCS companies who are positioning themselves for local competition It’s only a matter of time before the constant drive to provide more airtime for less money — even flat-rate packages — will wake up the scientific community. As the scientist from England was reported as saying, “In my opinion, anyone who uses a mobile telephone for more than 20 minutes at a time needs to have their brain tested.”

Obviously, wireless companies entering the local market will want people to use their phones for more than 20 minutes at a time.

This issue promises to resurface, each time with a stronger face. My advice for Canadian wireless companies: get prepared.