The Buzz About Cell Phones

Carl Weinschenk

Spotty coverage may be the least of the problems facing cell phones. This article in The Independent says that the handy gadgets may be 1.) killing bumble bees; 2.) causing cancer; 3.) killing enough brain cells to cause premature senility 4.) reducing sperm count and 5.) causing "text thumb."


That's quite a list -- and the story doesn't even mention the dangers of driving while using the devices.


Actually, the litany of potential problems isn't mentioned until the end of the article. The bulk of it deals with the bumble bee issue. It sounds implausible, but the story suggests that the disturbing growth of colony collapse disorder (CCD) -- which has been seen in the U.S., continental Europe and the UK -- may be explained by the gadgets. CCD occurs when the bulk of a hive (literally) takes off and doesn't return. The remaining queen and immature workers presumably die at home, while the bees that leave are thought to perish elsewhere.


The theory really is quite simple. Researchers suspect that the radiation from the phones interferes with the bees' navigation systems. Researchers at Germany's Landau University found that bees didn't return to a hive if phones were placed nearby. Of course, this is nothing more than a hint, but it suggests some sort of link between the bees and the phones and, therefore, is enough to justify further study.


Another way of looking at it: If the government still is leery about allowing cell phone use on airplanes because of potential interference, it is reasonable to think that the devices could impact the small and fragile insects.


Many of the ways in which humans are degrading the environment are dramatic. It's possible that equally or even more disastrous subtle changes are occurring. That's frightening, since society hasn't been able to address even the most obvious problems, such as global warming.


The devastation of the worldwide bee population -- if that indeed is what's happening -- could have ramifications far greater than forcing us to use sugar in our tea.

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