Weasel Words at the WHO

P. J. Connolly began writing for IT publications in 1997 and has a lengthy track record in both news and reviews. Since then, he's built two test labs from scratch and earned a reputation as the nicest skeptic you'll ever meet. Before taking up journalism, P. J. was an IT manager and consultant in San Francisco with a knack for networking the Apple Macintosh, and his love for technology is exceeded only by his contempt for the flavor of the month. Speaking of which, you can follow P. J. on Twitter at pjc415, or drop him an email at pjc@eweek.com.
By P. J. Connolly  |  Posted 2011-05-31 Email Print this article Print

Today, I saw this headline at CNN: "Cell phone use can increase possible cancer risk" and once again, I'm struck by how quickly people can make something out of what might as well be nothing. After all, you can replace the first three words with just about any other three words and it will still sound scary; you might even be able to make it scarier with the right combination of words. Go ahead and try it for yourself.

Business people on cell phones

If cell phone use becomes as socially unacceptable as smoking, maybe there will be hope for civilization after all.

I don't want to belittle the possibility that there may be some connection between cell phone use and cancer rates, but we've had cordless phones for something like 30 years, and mobile phones of one variety or another for almost as much time. One would think that if there were some causal relationship between holding a device that emits non-ionizing radiation next to the skull, we would have seen the results long before this.

On the other hand, if cell phones prove to be as great a public health risk as smoking is perceived to be, maybe I can become as self-righteous about telling someone to hang up the phone as anti-smoking campaigners have been in their cause.

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