Busting Persistent Cell Phone Myths, Part I

Few of our modern conveniences have generated more mythology than cell phones. In fact, we found enough cell phone myths for two articles. Join us as we bust those myths, one by one.

As ubiquitous as cellular phones have become, it’s no wonder that cell phone myths have proceeded to rampage through our society with all the persistence of the Cloverfield monster. Yet in most cases, they’re just as unreal as that cinematic horror, no matter how scary (or hopeful) they may seem to be.

In this two-part article, we’ve collected six top myths regarding our favorite gadgets, and offer a heaping helping of reality to counteract each one. We’ll start with the biggies first.

Myth 1: Cell phone radiation can cause cancer.

There’s no convincing evidence that this is true, despite repeated studies into the issue. The basis of this cell phone myth is flawed research that 1) was not peer reviewed before release (a big scientific no-no); and 2) has never been repeated in subsequent laboratory trials.

The concern is understandable, however, since cell phones are basically long-range radios, and as such emit radio frequency (RF) radiation. But while high levels of RF can cause tissue heating, the RF range used by cell phones is far below that necessary to have an effect, cumulative or otherwise, on human tissues. Plus, RF exposure is steadily decreasing as cell phone quality improves.

For those who say that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, we have to point out that both the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine have published studies refuting this cell phone myth. The National Cancer Institute agrees with them.

Myth 2: Cell phones cause gas station fires.

People will argue with you up and down about this one, because of erroneous news reports that blame cell phones for sudden gasoline fires. However, further examination of the cases has always proven that cell phone use was coincidental; something else, usually static electricity, actually caused the fires.

While it seems possible that this cell phone myth could come true, there’s never been a well-documented case of it. However, both gas station owners and cell phone manufacturers operate under the credo of “better safe than sorry,” which is why they’re careful to warn you of this possibility.

Use common sense (and check with Mythbusters!) and you will avoid being taken by these common cell phone myths.