"How did we ever get along without cell phones?" has always been a rhetorical question, but we may have to back off from worshipping technology and start seeking some real answers.
In her new book "Disconnect," epidemiologist/toxicologist Dr. Devra Davis raises serious health issues surrounding the ubiquitous communications device. She offers no smoking gun to prove conclusively that the electromagnetic fields from cell phones cause DNA mutations and brain tumors, but studies going back decades hint at the possibility. Davis certainly shows that the cellular industry has done its best to twist science, suppress unflattering research, thwart consumer protection measures such as warning labels, and make devastating use of the "I'm rubber, you're glue" defense..
Industry officials profess to be supremely confident in the safety of their products. I'm sure it's just a coincidence that when they scheduled a conference call to discuss a strategic response to "Disconnect," there was suddenly a spike in demand for tin cans and the disappearance of the world's largest ball of string.
The number of mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide exceeds 4.6 billion (370 times the number in 1990), so officials like to think of the technology as being Too Big To Fail, and uses totally unbiased research to discuss its benefits in glowing terms. ("When you use our product, you have your choice of being a sophisticated liberated woman or a manly cowboy who...oh, wait, that's the totally unbiased tobacco industry research. Never mind.")
Speaking of tobacco, our whole love affair with cell phones reminds me of a modernized version of Bob Newhart's old routine about Sir Walter Raleigh introducing tobacco to England. ("Let me get this straight...you pay a big monthly fee...ha ha...for the honor of endlessly recharging a mutation-inducing device *giggle* that you clutch near your brain so you can *chuckle* say stuff like 'Not much, how 'bout you?'")
Cell phones are not going to go away, but the industry needs to come clean now, before government regulators and lawsuit-happy lawyers can clamp down on them. Perhaps "bundling" offers could be a bit more forthcoming. ("For one low price, you get cellular service, Internet, cable TV, chemotherapy, hospice care...Guess it turns out you DON'T have unlimited minutes.")
If truth-in-labeling laws are FORCED upon the cell phone industry, things could get ugly. ("I like 3G, but I'm hearing about 4G. What sort of coverage can you promise me?" "Uh...six feet of dirt?")
Even zombies will find foods more appealing than brains. ("2007 fruitcake...ummm...2007 fruitcake.")
The solutions offered by those concerned about cell phones? Use a wired headset. Choose low-radiation phones. (Radiation levels vary greatly.) Stop talking when you run out of things to say.
At least think twice about giving cell phones to children. Their thinner skulls make them particularly vulnerable to the electromagnetic fields. Yet parents routinely give their kids cell phones almost as soon as they're born. ("And here's one for your imaginary friend and the monster under the bed and...") And who would have thought we would come to the point of mothers advising, "If all your friends jumped off a bridge ... please make sure you have this cell phone so you can call and tell me all the gory details"?
Perhaps Davis' book will be a wake-up call for the nation. But I suggest that you try answering it on your land-line phone.
Note: Danny Tyree welcomes e-mail at email@example.com.