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Should we live in constant fear of radiation?

Warnings about the harmful effects of everything from cell phones to microwaves, based on scientific surveys, are everywhere: in newspapers – “Long term use of mobile phones ‘may’ be linked to cancer” on the internet, on the radio, and the list goes on. With all of this information, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of warnings thrown our way.

Yet, despite the effort it will take, we need to make sense of this deluge of facts and figures. We need to think about what these surveys have to say, and we need to be mindful of the surveys that seem the most grounded in hard, true facts.

Ignoring or doubting scientific surveys can seem like the best way to deal with frightening proposals about some of our everyday appliances. After all, who wants to limit their texting or eat cold leftovers?

However, some scientific surveys about radiation and technology are worth dismissing, such as claims that using cell phones can cause nausea—if we were to believe every statistic thrown at us, by now we’d probably all be living in a bubble, camping out in a cave, and avoiding anything even vaguely described as “electronic.” But we have to at least consider the possibility that the scientists behind statistics have valid concerns.

Only a decade ago, people regarded scientific studies about ultraviolet rays causing cancer as unimportant. And through most of the 19th century, the concept that smoking lead to lung cancer was considered absurd. But today, tanning for hours without sunscreen and denying the negative effects of tobacco is considered downright stupid. It’s fairly realistic that in a few years from now, people will be saying the same thing about cell phone use.

No, you shouldn’t go to the nearest garbage can, toss away your cell phone, and refuse to use it ever again. That’s not realistic. But you should at least sort through the information presented to you. Lost among the bogus claims made to the public are claims by scientists who spend years publishing inch-thick reports on huge amounts of data. It’s these reports that we should be listening to. If we make no effort to separate the reports worthy of consideration from the ridiculous ones, we’ll overlook what these surveys are saying.

Apathy is just as bad as paranoia. If we learn to sort through surveys instead of turning a blind eye and deaf ear to all of them, we can make sense of statistics and figure out with which issues we should and should not be concerned. So for now, feel free to keep texting. But maybe, for caution’s sake, try not to keep that trusty, but potentially harmful Blackberry in your pocket 24/7.