Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Cell Phones: Government Intervention

Timothy Jopling

Timothy Jopling

Prof. Pavel Zemliansky

GWRIT 103

25 November, 2005

Cell phones. They are credited as being one of the most important devices of the modern man. Even though they seem innocent at first, their underlying problems show themselves in time. Cell phone use during driving creates accidents and has been known to increase the chance of brain tumors. I think it is about time that the government takes a little stronger stance in order to create a safer life for cell phone consumers.

Way back in 1993, a man by the name of David Reynard appeared on Larry King Live. He claimed that his late wife's brain tumor was caused in part by her use of a cell phone. Reynard filed a lawsuit against NEC, an operator, and numerous companies but was dismissed from court in 1995 due to "lack of evidence". This incident started the idea that cell phones could/will cause cancer.

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) responded to these claims by hiring a public health scientist, George Carlo. Carlo began conducting studies and found that cell phones did indeed affect with pacemakers. This find didn't settle well with the CTIA and Carlo found himself without funding. Even though his funding was eventually reinstated, he was no longer allowed to research on defibrillators, automobile safety and whether or not cell phones met industry-defined standards (Mokhiber, Russell).

In addition to having limited funding, American based labs also denied him use of their labs. It turns out that these labs were also owned by major cell phone companies. He managed to find a lab in Europe that would support his work (Democracy Now!).

Though in his studies, he found what was to be thought as the cell phone industry's worst nightmare, acoustic neuroma. This is a tumor that is found to be 50% higher in people who use cell phones 6 years or more. He also found that the chance of contracting a rare neuro-epithelial tumor nearly doubled. This also correlated with the side of the head that the cell phone was used on (Mokhiber, Russell). Also, a vast number of cell phones broke the law concerning the amount of radiation that a cell phone was allowed to emit.

Recently there has been an agreement with Elizabeth Jacobson, the person in charge of cell phone regulation at the Food and Drug Administration, and Thomas Wheeler, executive director of the CTIA. This agreement was over the FDA doing additional safety studies funded by the CTIA. This could be a bad thing. Due to the past cover-ups the cell phone industry has attempted with Carlo, working with the FDA could further hide the facts (Mokhiber, Russell).

Another research group also tested the theory of cell phone related tumors. Their findings were just as astonishing. The Testra research study looked at 200 mice. Half of the mice were subjected to pulsed digital phone radiation, similar to that of cell phones; the other were one hundred were used as a control. This radiation lasted for two half-hour periods each day. Early in the experiment, the mice had a significant increase in B-cell lymphomas. Lymphomas are "Any of various usually malignant tumors that arise in the lymph nodes or in other lymphoid tissue"(dictionary.com). These cells are present in about 85% of all cancer and continued to increase over the 18 months of the experiment.

The researchers found that the exposed mice had 2.4-times the tumor rate as the unexposed ones. Since the mice were actually a distance away from the radiation source, the results are downplayed by the media. Most cellular handsets are used up against the ear. So even though the mice had distance from the radiation source and developed tumors, handsets used against the ear would be even more evident.

The government needs to step into this debate and create new laws, and enforce existing ones, concerning cell phone emissions. Even if the emissions take a while to create malicious effects, putting a hamper on them would also create more trust between the consumer and the product.

Another area where the government is greatly lacking is the use of cell phones while driving. A negligent bus driver skidded off the road with students on board due to negligence. She had been talking on her cell phone when she lost control of the bus. Thirty were injured (“Status Report”). These types of incidents have caused many states to outlaw the use of cell phones whilst operating a bus. But what about cars?

A study in Toronto, Canada answers this question. Donald A. Redelmeier, M.D. and Robert J. Tibshirani, Ph.D. surveyed six hundred and ninety-nine drivers who had cell phones and were in accidents that resulted in substantial property damage. The cell phone bill of the driver was analyzed on the day of collision as well as the weeks prior to the accident.

By viewing the time of the call prior to the accident, the results concluded that the chances of wrecking was quadrupled and that there was no difference between using a hands-free sets vs. hand held units.

The National Public Services Research Institute for AAA titled "The Effect of Cellular Phone Use Upon Driver Attention". They used a driver simulation testing response times due to tuning a car radio, a simple conversation on a phone, a complex conversation on a phone, and dialing on a phone. The research found that "All forms of cellular phone usage lead to significant increases in response times or non-response to highway traffic situations" (McKnight).

Even though steps have been taken in local governments to make driving while using cell phones illegal, it still hasn’t made the roads outside of those city limits any safer. Having a nation wide ban is a great way to cut down on accidents everywhere. The benefits would reach everyone. Since accidents would be lessened, the costs associated would be lessened also. This would create more money to turn back into the economy.

Since "September 11th" the nation has been setting national records for supporting governmental agencies for the protection of the United States. The support starts to shudder when the debate of civil liberties comes into question.

By the use of cell phones, the safety of the entire United States can be ensured. This method for ensuring safety would be monitoring select phone calls in the attempt to be clued in to planned attacks. This way, the government can take pre-emptive action against the supposed threat.

The great debate is over whether the government will abuse this practice or not. I think that monitoring is great methods for keeping the safety but also think that this system will have to be very through. Since our system of government is based on checks and balances, so should the monitoring. A strict set of guidelines need to be set in place so as not to disrupt the balance of power between law officials and the public

In 2001, the Federal Communications Commission ordered all cellular telephones to add Global Positioning Systems to their cell phones. Some consumers were fearful of the government tracking their position, but this is not the case. The GPS systems are being used for great public services such as 911 and more importantly, tracking lost children.

Missouri Department of Transportation is planning to use GPS enabled cell phones to track conditions across 5,500 miles of road. The cell phones will report it's location in real time and can then be used to see if the traffic is flowing, congested or flat out stopped. This system will then be used to create a messaging process to alert drivers by sending text messages, changing automated road signs, and displaying messages on display units like OnStar (Lieb).

This system will be a great benefit to road crews and building the like. Knowing where congestions happen on more accurate intervals will allow the state road crew to build more efficient roads which will help decrease fender benders.

If a cell user is afraid of being tracked, all he/she simply has to do is turn his/her cell phone off. In addition to turning the cell phone off, a user may also detract his/herself from being tracked by company services; but not from the cellular service company.

The reason for this is cellular congestion. Cellular companies use GPS to find the most economical/efficient method to sending a phone call (Lieb).

If the government implements these methods, life would definitely be better. The roadways would be safer, the country would be secure and consumer’s health would be at the top of the list. Even though these methods may take some getting used to, think about cell phones fifteen years ago: Did anyone expect their lives to be changed this much? Researchers from Teleconomy Groups stated that, "No other medium has been able to infiltrate society so widely and so quickly” (Wakefield). The speed of “infiltration” and lack of government involvement has allowed for habits that need to be ceased now.



Works Cited

Mokhiber, Russell & Weissman, Robert. “Cell Phone Nightmare”. New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health. November 4, 1999. retrieved 17 November 2005. <http://www.nycosh.org/workplace_hazards/Weissman_on_Carlo.html>

Lieb, David A. “Mo. May Track Cell Phones for Traffic Data”. TCM.net. 14 October 2005. retrieved 17 November 2005. < http://news.tmcnet.com/news/2005/oct/1193340.htm>

McKnight James & A. Scott McKnight. “The Effect of Cellular Phone Use Upon Driver Attention”. AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Retrieved 17 November, 2005. <http://www.aaafoundation.org/resources/index.cfm?button=cellphone>.

"Status Report." Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Vol. 40, No. 6 (July 16, 2005): 1-8. <http://www.iihs.org/sr/pdfs/sr4006.pdf>

“Special on Cell Phones: Are They Harmful to Your Health?”. DemocracyNow!. 9 December 1999. Retrieved 17 November 2005. <http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=03/04/07/0414226>

Wakefield, Jane. “New generation embraces mobiles”. BBC NEWS Online. 22 June 2004. Lexus Nexus.Retrieved 1 November 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3830527.stm