City commissioners in Pembroke Pines clearly have too much time on their hands. This week, the city passed a resolution to warn residents about a potential link between cell phones and cancer and recommend that residents keep their mobile devices at least an inch from their bodies.
Several news outlets jumped on the story. To lend a sense of legitimacy to the resolution, a few stories pointed out that the World Health Organization has warned that cell phones could increase the risk of cancer.
What they didn't mention is that the WHO considers cell phones to be as likely to cause cancer as coffee, pickled vegetables, and talc-based body powders. Where's the resolution that warns of these potentially cancer-causing menaces, Pembroke Pines?
Back in 2011, the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer decided to add the radio-frequency electromagnetic fields from cell phones to its long list of items that could be carcinogenic.
The list is broken into different groups based on the assessed risk. Tobacco smoking, for instance, is in group 1. Cell phones are in group 2B, meaning there is a chance they could cause cancer but nobody really knows.
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in group 2B and found that when it comes to potential causing cancer, cell phones are as risky as being a firefighter; having HIV type 2 or certain strains of herpes; drinking coffee; eating pickled vegetables; working in a dry cleaners; and using talc-based body powders.
So why did Pembroke Pines feel compelled to warn its good residents that an everyday object we all rely on could eventually (but not likely) give them cancer? Because, according to the Sentinel
, one guy, a lawyer nonetheless, had a tumor above his left ear and on his left hand and wanted to get the word out that his cell phone might have been the culprit.
In announcing the news, Commissioner Angelo Catillo said the resolution "isn't about creating panic and alarm. It's about raising awareness in a responsible way."
If that's the case, a little context would have been nice.