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Snapshot

False Alarms: Your cellphone won’t give you brain cancer

Original contemporary acrylic and pastel painting of people addicted to cell phone by Nalidsa Sukprasert.
Original contemporary acrylic and pastel painting of people addicted to cell phone by Nalidsa Sukprasert.(nalidsa/Adobe)

In 2000, the Broward County Public Schools in Florida hired a consultant and physicist named Bill P. Curry to explore a nerve-racking question: Would installing wireless networks pose any health risks to the district’s 250,000 students?

Yes, he replied, in a report that included an alarming graph suggesting students’ brains would be exposed to significant amounts of radiation.

Much of the anxiety over the risks of cellphones and emerging 5G technology can be traced back to that single graph. But as the New York Times recently pointed out, there’s one problem: Curry, who lacked biological expertise, got it wrong.

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Experts say he failed to account for the protective effect of human skin, which shields organs, including the brain, from higher radio frequencies.

So go ahead. Give your teen all the smartphone time she wants. Her brain is safe from radiation — even if it’s not safe from Instagram.

— DAVID SCHARFENBERG