Commentary — June 1, 2011, 10:24 am

Nathaniel Rich on Cell Phones and Cancer

The chair of a working group from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said yesterday that cell phone use should be considered “possibly carcinogenic.” The W.H.O. is the most significant body to classify the radiation emitted by cell phones in this way.

Nathaniel Rich, author of the novel The Mayor’s Tongue, wrote about the debate over whether cell phones cause cancer in the May 2010 issue of Harper’s Magazine. His article is available, for free, at http://harpers.org/archive/2010/05/0082932. You can also download the free PDF from our archives. (And of course you can subscribe here to get free access to more than 160 years of Harper’s Magazine.)

For those interested in getting additional context on the cell phone news, Cancer Research UK has posted an excellent piece contextualizing the W.H.O.’s findings.

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(1) To need his glasses and be struck by an awareness that they are not at hand, an ordinary enough circumstance for Frederick Douglass, except sometimes it’s accompanied by a flash of extraordinary dread. If not quite panic, certainly an unease disproportionate to a simple recurring situation. Dread that may be immediately extinguished if he locates his horn-rimmed, owlish-eyed spectacles exactly where he anticipated they should be. He sees them and almost sighs. Nearly feels their slightly uncomfortable weight palpable on his nose. Finding the glasses enough to reassure him that he remains here among the living in this material …
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(1) To need his glasses and be struck by an awareness that they are not at hand, an ordinary enough circumstance for Frederick Douglass, except sometimes it’s accompanied by a flash of extraordinary dread. If not quite panic, certainly an unease disproportionate to a simple recurring situation. Dread that may be immediately extinguished if he locates his horn-rimmed, owlish-eyed spectacles exactly where he anticipated they should be. He sees them and almost sighs. Nearly feels their slightly uncomfortable weight palpable on his nose. Finding the glasses enough to reassure him that he remains here among the living in this material …
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