In what now seems like an everyday occurrence, scientists continue to discover more and more items that allegedly cause cancer. Even items such as deodorant, Vitamin E supplements, sun screen, and mouthwash, which are only in the stream of commerce to provide some benefit to consumers, have been linked to the dreadful disease. Recently, when the World Health Organization issued a report that radiation from cell phones can cause cancer, we here at Abnormal Use were not surprised.
Before you start trading in your cell phones and returning to the rotary phones of yesteryear, we suggest taking a closer look at the WHO study. The study indicates that cell phones can possibly cause cancer, not that cell phones do cause cancer. The study is an indicator that some evidence suggests that there may be a link between cell phones and cancer. While we are not research scientists, it is our understanding that cancer can develop over long periods of time and be caused by a number of factors (including deodorant and mouthwash, apparently). In order to definitively state that cell phones cause cancer, the WHO would need to conduct a series of longitudinal studies, rule out the plethora of other environmental factors, and attempt to replicate its findings. The WHO, comprised of scientists from 14 countries, understands the art of valid research and has not leaped to the typical conclusory allegations of third-rate operations. The WHO has simply recognized that there is at least some evidence of a link, and it would be in the best interest of all to at least warn the public.
The much more pressing question at this time is the effect of the WHO study on potential litigation. The WHO study came just days before the U.S. Supreme Court was set to decide whether the plaintiffs’ claims in a proposed class action against 19 defendants, mostly cell phone manufacturers, were preempted by federal law. The plaintiffs’ have claimed that cell phone manufacturers misrepresented the safety of cell phones when they knew of the safety risks.
Even if the Supreme Court holds that the plaintiffs’ claims were not preempted by federal law, it is difficult to see how potential plaintiffs can prevail against cell phone manufacturers. Despite the WHO’s findings, plaintiffs will have a difficult time proving that cell phones are the cause of their cancer. With the extensive list of things researchers have suggested may cause cancer, questions of whether plaintiffs would not have developed cancer “but for” the use of cell phones are difficult to determine. Did the plaintiff ever have an x-ray? A cold? Did the plaintiff use tooth whitener? These are only a few things that studies have indicated may cause cancer. If the plaintiffs wish to use the WHO study as evidence, we suggest they be forced to rule out all the other reports, as well.
We do not know whether or not cell phones actually cause cancer. Only time will tell. In the meantime, we here at Abnormal Use will continue to use our cell phones and add them to the never-ending list of things that are going to one day give us cancer. If you wish to be a little more cautious, please don’t just throw your phone away. Certainly that radiation can be put to good use. Defrost frozen food? Pop popcorn? There has to be an app for that.