The true costs of cell phones

January 16, 2013

A recent study by James Roberts, professor of marketing at Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business, claims that “cell phone and instant messaging addictions are driven by materialism and impulsiveness and can be compared to consumption pathologies like compulsive buying and credit card misuse.” The study, which was published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, suggests that cell phones are also eroding our personal relationships. The published article can be found here (with paid subscription). 

In addition to these interpersonal effects of cell phone use, there are other social costs to consider, such as the effects it is having on education and classroom instruction, a point that deserves much greater attention. Then there are the health effects of cell phone use to consider.  The WHO has claimed that the non-ionizing radiation from cell-phones is possibly carcinogenic, and a recent court ruling in Canada suggests that there is a link between cell-phone use and cancer. On the other hand, in the US, the FDA, the FCC, and the CDC, as well as the National Cancer Institute, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have all claimed that there is still no conclusive link between cell phones and cancer. However, according to Dr. Charlie Teo, one of Australia’s leading neurosurgeon’s, most of the studies on which these results are based are partly funded by telephone companies with huge financial interests at stake. He himself is highly suspicious because brain tumors are on the rise and many of the tumors he is coming across are on the area of the brain near the ear. 

Perhaps the biggest concern of all, however, is the environmental cost of cell-phones and the health implications of the environmental waste they generate. These two articles from the Treehugger website (here and here) provide an informative introduction to the topic. And this Frontline video (also shown below) made by a group of researchers at UBC, provides a sobering and disturbing look at what is happening to all of the waste that is generated by this constantly expanding cell-phone industry.

Given the costs to our relationships, to the environment, and to human health (either directly or indirectly), it is clearly time to rethink cell phones. Compared to the mounting and potentially staggering costs of cell phones, the fossil fuel industry may soon seem benign.   

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