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Technology Bytes: Can Your Gadgets Kill You?

Technology + Gear
by Michelle Schusterman Apr 22, 2010
Michelle Schusterman wonders whether the serious long-term health problems posed by electro-magnetic radiation and mobile devices is worth giving them up.


I have a very distinct memory of first hearing the rumor about cell phones and brain tumors over a decade ago. My friend turned off the TV and said, “Well, I hope not. This thing is glued to my ear either way.”

A flippant remark, but that seems to sum up how we feel about electro-magnetic radiation that comes from mobile devices. I’ll die twenty years too soon? That’s okay, just please don’t take my gadgets away!

A recent article on Boulder Weekly brings us back to reality with more recent facts about technology and health.

  • Danish scientists found that cell phone use has an effect on the brain’s metabolism, increasing “energy turnover” near the learning center of a brain in a way that may cause damage to brain cells. Though scientists could not prove that cellular use contributed to the death of those cells, the type of brain activity they saw was similar to that seen in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Another Danish study showed that women who used cell phones two to three times a day during pregnancy increased their risk — by 54 percent — of having babies that exhibited signs of hyperactivity, behavioral problems and emotional disorders by the time they reached school age. When they tried to account for other environmental factors, such as smoking, the connection between cell phone usage and developmental disorders only seemed stronger.
  • A Swedish study from the Karolinska Institute indicated that regular use of cellular or cordless phones over a decade or more was associated with an increased risk of acoustic neuromas, a benign type of brain tumor.
  • Another Swedish study found a five-fold increase in deadly brain tumors among those who began using cellular before the age of 20. The increase in risk from using cordless phones was four-fold.

What frightens me isn’t whether or not this stuff is true – I believe it is. What frightens me is that I’m writing about this on my laptop. What frightens me is that you’re reading it on yours, or maybe on your Blackberry or iPhone.

I don’t think it’s a matter of giving it up at this point. The fact is, if it weren’t for mobile technology and all of its gadget glory, I wouldn’t be making a living right now. Pending a zombie virus that’s spread through texting, I just don’t see any of these devices going anywhere.

So what’s the solution? Accept the inevitable illnesses and issues as payment for the wonder of Facebook and tablet computers? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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