Dial C for Panic

A 1999 Ford Transit Ice Cream Van at Heath Vil...
The Chimes of Nemesis

Should you be worried by the WHO’s warning on mobile phones? Well don’t let me stop you. On current evidence you’re more likely to be run over by a taxi – hell, you’re more likely to be run over by an ice cream van playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. But the World Health Organization has decided that they are a ‘possible cause’ of cancer. So if worrying is your thing, knock yourself out.

I know what you’re going to say. All this ‘putting things in perspective’ stuff is well and good, but getting cancer in your brain is f***ing scary. I am forced to agree. But if we take precautions in proportion not to how likely a threat is but to how frightening, we’ll all go around with crash helmets over our crotches in case we ever meet that Amazonian fish that swims up you. That’s the scariest thing in the world.

So how can we properly calibrate our fear with only ‘possible cause’ to go on – are phones extremely deadly, or only slightly deadly? With billions using mobiles, the prospect of them all getting cancer would make any previous threat to human life seem laughable. Perhaps everyone has a time bomb in their head right now. It could be. Many years may pass before cellular genetic damage manifests itself detectably. With little more than ten years’ real-world evidence, how can we know?

Well of course they have been around longer, it was just that they were rare until prices plummeted at the turn of the century. Indeed in the form of carphones and briefcase-sized portables, mobiles of a sort have been with us since the 70s at least. These were different from ours though. They were on different frequencies, they were analogue rather than digital, they didn’t use a cellular system. Most saliently of all perhaps, they created far stronger electromagnetic fields. So it is entirely possible that while the phones used by the red-suspendered bond traders of the 80s were deadly, the modern kind is not.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

The question for the rest of us is, should this extremely vague pronouncement change our lives? Well speaking for myself I suspect that, pursuant of very many poor lifestyle choices, I am already too raddled with incipient tumours for this to make any measurable difference. But while the jury is still out I think it would be wrong to let kids use phones unnecessarily.

Which is to say, at all. Let the pristine little buggers text.

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