Epidemiologists have for years tried to settle the question of whether or not cell phones cause health problems without coming up with a definitive answer. Meanwhile, the cell phone industry has maintained that it's unlikely that the phones are a health risk because the only effect on brain tissue is local heating, and cell phone standards make sure that heating stays below any danger level.
But a paper published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association by researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the Brookhaven National Lab identifies another effect, showing through their experiments that holding a cell phone to the ear increases the metabolic activity of nearby brain tissue. What this means for long term health is unclear, but it certainly supports the calls of those who want more research, and those who are practicing prudent avoidance by trying to select cell phones with the lowest radiation and limiting their talk time.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.