We are, apparently, just not safe enough and we need more warning labels. It’s only reasonable. We have warning labels on food, cigarettes, airbags in cars, gas cans, water heaters, children’s toys, you name it. But there are some notable, and very worrying, areas where warnings don’t exist yet. If we’re going to be really responsible and cautious and do everything we can to protect everyone as much as possible, then we need to go that little bit further.
To this end, I think we need legislation to require PC manufacturers to put warning labels on their products along the lines of “Dropping this product on your foot from any significant height may result in injury.” Or what about warning labels for Wi-Fi antennas that would read: “Poking this into your eye may result in eye injury”?
The problem with this whole idea is that the evidence for cell phone radiation being a health hazard is inconclusive. The opinion of the National Cancer Institute is that ” Several studies have investigated the risk of developing … brain tumors [and the] results from the majority of these studies have found no association between hand-held cellular telephone use and the risk of brain cancer … However, some, but not all, long-term studies have suggested slightly increased risks for certain types of brain tumors … Further evaluation of long-term exposures (more than 10 years) is needed.”
In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and discussed on the University of South Florida’s Health Web site found that, at least in mice, “long-term exposure to electromagnetic waves associated with cell phone use may actually protect against, and even reverse, Alzheimer’s disease.”
As if Boland’s platforming weren’t enough, Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, who always seemed to me to grok technology better than most pols, has also jumped on the “cell phones will turn your brain to mush” bandwagon. Newsom has plans to require that cell phone packaging in the city display the amount of radiation a phone emits. What a cute idea. How many of us will have any idea how to interpret this data? Very few. Moreover, how many will pay attention to the data? Hardly any.
According to the Los Angeles Times, a spokesman for Newsom said: “The mayor believes that cell phone safety is the next frontier in terms of consumer safety.” Really? They must put something in the water there if they think they got all of the other big risks covered.
The Big Mac warning could go something like this: “These food-like substances carry a significant risk of causing heart problems, a fat butt, and really unattractive cellulite.” And for the Coke that comes with it: “This drink contains high fructose corn syrup which is known by science to be one step away from a deadly poison and could cause you to develop type II diabetes.”
You know that finding these warnings or anything like them on any fast food is as likely to happen as I am likely to learn to break dance.
So, why is it that the food lobby can deflect obvious and rational consumer warnings while the high-tech industry seems incapable of doing the same thing? I’m thinking it’s not a question of money; the high-tech world is well-heeled enough to buy enough lobbyists to drive their agenda. Nope, it’s all about education and power politics.
When it comes to high tech and IT and science in general, the public and the pols still think it is all magic. Tell them a joke like “computers run on smoke because when it leaks out they stop working” and they think you’re relating a fact.
Worse still, for the sake of politics, it’s easier for them, pols and populace alike, to all remain ignorant. If you can make it up or use disinformation, it’s easier than having to use rational, considered argument. It’s also quicker and those pesky facts that require actually thinking about, who needs that?
You wait. Next on the list will be Wi-Fi, then Bluetooth. To misquote Pastor Martin Niemöller: