I've regressed in the past few months to become the stereotypical adolescent female that cell phone advertisements target in their "save money or lose the farm" family plans. Sure, I have my phone attached to my ear, but I'm an adult and it's not like it's going to kill me, right? Well, take a look at this news article, which highlights the results of a recent study concerning cell phone usage: "Cell phone signals excite brain, study finds."
According to the article, "Dr. Paolo Rossini of Fatebenefratelli hospital in Milan and colleagues used Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to check brain function while people used these phones [that is, cell phones that emit electromagnetic fields known as Global System for Mobile (GSM) communications radio phones]. They had 15 young male volunteers use a GSM 900 cell phone for 45 minutes. In 12 of the 15, the cells in the motor cortex adjacent to the cell phone showed excitability during phone use but returned to normal within an hour."
Excitability? Exactly what kind of conversation were they having? Ok, all jokes aside, the researchers concluded that "people with conditions such as epilepsy, linked with brain cell excitability, could potentially be affected [since magnetic stimulation has been shown to cause a muscle twitch]... It should be argued that long-lasting and repeated exposure to EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies) linked with intense use of cellular phones in daily life might be harmful or beneficial in brain-diseased subjects. Further studies are needed to better circumstantiate these conditions and to provide safe rules for the use of this increasingly more widespread device."
Am I concerned about my cell phone consumption? To be honest, the only thing I've ever been concerned about was going over my minutes, but now almost everyone I talk to has the same provider (in-network calls ROCK). Does sitting too close to the TV make your eyes go crossed? Will stepping on a crack break your mother's back? While some warnings could actually be legit, I think the majority of people won't care until the damage is already done. If evidence does prove GSM phones to be harmful, I'll be interested to see what kinds of anti-magnetic devices they create for them. If you have some ideas (like an earpiece extension with an anti-magnetic screen that connects to the phone and that connects to the ear), I'd get your patent ready now....
Sonja Thompson started at TechRepublic in October 1999. She is a former Senior Editor at TechRepublic.