Sunday, April 15, 2007

An alarming link

Though many of my friends find my stubborness to get a cell phone infuriating, I still rely on a landline for a number of reasons: it's simpler and less consumptive, the situations when a portable phone would be useful are, for me, rare, in many places where I've worked, there's no service (in fact, I often like being unreachable), and I loathe the culture that has grown up around cell phones (like IMing) - people compulsively needing communication, though it is frequently devoid of meaning and obscures how isolated people in our society truly are.

Now, German researchers are linking radiation from cell phones to the massive disappearance of bees in the United States and Europe, which first occurred last fall. The theory proposes that the radiation from the phones disrupts bees' ability to navigate, preventing them from returning to their hive and dying of exposure.

If bees are unable to recover from their affliction, agriculture faces a mammoth challenge. How can plants reproduce without bees to carry their pollen? The worst-case scenario is not pleasant.

I wonder whether bees are dying in developing countries? Since far fewer people own cell phones (though numbers are on the rise) in the Global South, bees should be doing better there.

If bees are the canary in the coal mine regarding cell phones, their situation is similar to that of the frog species and other amphibians which have been dying off in massive numbers over the past decade. While they provide no immediate use to mankind (except perhaps to the French!), frogs are understandably sensitive to changes in water quality. While evidence is not conclusive (in part because their demise has been so general), it seems logical that they are responding to changes in water quality, not necessarily immediately fatal to them but enabling other species, viral or bacterial, to gain an adaptive advantage, upsetting the balance within aquatic ecosystems in both both hemisperes.

A final point: studies showing a connection between cell phone use and brain tumors are, as yet, inconclusive, though there has been evidence of correlation (see the article in the Independent for details). However, I am wary to put chemicals such as lead, beryllium, arsenic, mercury, antimony, and cadmium near MY head.

1 comment:

Jeanne said...

Andrew, I had heard about the brain tumor connection but not the link to bees. I don't have a cell phone, either, although I borrow Bob's when I have to. He uses his only to call customers who don't answer their door when he knocks for a house clock call. (Many door bells in this nation are not operating, he can attest.) I look forward to reading more on this fascinating site, named for one of my favorite dogs.