Study Links Cell Phones to Brain Damage
The title of the article, “Study Links Cell Phones to Brain Damage,” by Elizabeth Svoboda, appears much more alarming than a close look at evidence presented would lead you to believe. The impression you get from the title is that a study has been conducted on humans that links cell phones use to brain damage; the study has in fact been conducted on rats. The use of the words “brain damage” seems like an intentional attempt at sensationalism.
A common person would assume that using cell phones can cause you to lose your mind. The use of these words having strongly negative connotations seems like a conscious choice by the author, because she never mentions the official title of the report (which might have been comparatively milder). Although she presents both sides of the argument, her impartiality on the subject is evident by her use of a vague claim that “many hundreds of reports… suggest cell phone use may cause…headaches and memory loss” (Svoboda).The issue is introduced as one that has been under discussion for a while, but this time there is enough evidence to make people take notice. The purpose of the article is to create awareness about the hazards of cell phone use and stimulate more research on the subject. But the problem arises when the author tries to support the issue with the evidence that radiation emissions from cell phones cause noticeable effects on the brains of rats.
According to the title, the article is supposed to prove that cell phone use has adverse effects on humans, but there isn’t any mention of any specific report that suggest so. The question arises: considering the physiological differences between the brains of humans and rats, is this study proof enough that human brains would suffer the same effects? The author claims that if the results of the study by Lief Salford et al. are confirmed by other reports than this would mean serious implications for humans. But shouldn’t the issue be considered serious only when research confirms similar effects on human brains?There is another alarming element in the article: the picture contrasting the difference between a normal rat brain and one exposed to cell phone radiation. At first glance it is hard to believe that two hours of exposure could have caused such noticeable damage.
But then it’s hard to doubt the scientists who carried out the study. To the author’s credit, she does present the view of the skeptics as well. One of them however belongs to the cell phone industry, so his view is understandably subjective. Is this a veiled attempt at discrediting the skeptics by presenting the view of a person who is biased due to commercial reasons?Nonetheless, Dr. Ziskin, a scientist, is not convinced that the radiations levels claimed to have been used in the research could have had such adverse effects.
Then all this means is that there is still no consensus amongst the science fraternity that cell phones can cause significant “brain damage”. But Dr Ziskin concedes that the issue requires more research. Here the author cleverly uses the opposition to support her suggestion that there should be more research carried out on the subject. The use of such rhetorical devices makes the support seem a bit contrived. Dr Ziskin is presented as an authority figure who is a skeptic, one who presents the opposing viewpoint. But for a skeptic he is easily influenced convinced because in the end he suggests that it would perhaps be prudent to use hands-free headsets to reduce radiation to the brain.
That sounds more like a person who is convinced that cell phones can be dangerous. By presenting the opposing viewpoint of a person who contradicts himself, the author in effect strengthens her standpoint. Could the author’s hidden agenda be to promote sales of hands free-headsets?On the surface, this article seems an honest attempt at presenting both sides of the argument that cell phones can be harmful for humans. But a closer look reveals the use of clever techniques that make use of alarming rhetoric and discreditable opposition to support the author’s assumed agenda: more research is required on effects of cell phones on human brains. There is no denying that more research might be necessary cased on the results of the Leif Salford study, yet the author presents an article that is far from honest.
A less misleading title could probably have mentioned that the study was carried out on rats. A more honest article could also have claimed that there is no consensus on the issue and there isn’t sufficient need to be alarmed unless a similar study on humans proves that cell phones adversely affect human brains.Works CitedSvoboda, Elizabeth. “Study Links Cell Phones to Brain Damage”, Popular Science, 2004.