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Mobile Phone May Rot Your Bones 220

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the but-what-about-my-junk dept.
Stoobalou writes "Researchers at the National University of Cuyo, in Mendoza, Argentina, looked at that strange breed — men who wear mobile phones on their hip. They discovered evidence to suggest that the proximity of the mobile phone caused a reduction in bone mineral content (BMC) and bone mineral density (BMD) in the men who wore the phones over a 12-month period, compared to a control group that didn't."
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Mobile Phone May Rot Your Bones

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  • Wow ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:15AM (#35638970) Homepage

    I'm skeptical, but interested in this ... that would actually be fairly alarming. Though, you'd think cell-phone users would be breaking hips all over the place if that were the case. Certainly some people have their cell-phone in close proximity for an awful lot of hours in a day.

    Though, it does make one think a tin-foil codpiece might be in order in case your junk is getting equally affected by the proximity. :-P

    • Re:Wow ... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by thehostiles (1659283) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:20AM (#35639054)

      if this were true, people who work with high levels of electromagnetic fields daily (like MRI technicians) would be pretty much made of jelly.

      I'm highly skeptical of this, but I'd like to see the actual study article.

      • Re:Wow ... (Score:5, Funny)

        by nedlohs (1335013) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:29AM (#35639228)

        Why not click on the link in the article then?

        • You must be new here!

      • by doti (966971)

        so, that's how he came to be..

        http://i.imgur.com/3oboX.jpg [imgur.com]

    • Re:Wow ... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by nedlohs (1335013) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:35AM (#35639332)

      It's a tiny change so you wouldn't expect broken hips "all over the place".

      The BMD of the phone wearing side was 0.3% lower than the non-phone wearing side. And the BMC 1.3% lower. On average anyway - and there was a difference between sides in the control group to, they aren't going to be exactly equal usually.

      • I wonder if they factored handedness into this- I am right handed and my right hand is measurably stronger and larger than the right- I wouldn't be surprised if my right hip was a little stronger too.

    • by Amouth (879122)

      they saw a reduction - they didn't say how much of a reduction..

  • by Psiren (6145) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:16AM (#35638984)

    Okay, but am I still okay to wear my smartphone jockstrap? Not as convenient as a belt clip I'll agree...

  • by jmitchel!jmitchel.co (254506) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:17AM (#35638994)
    Wikipedia: N-rays (or N rays) are a hypothesized form of radiation, described by French physicist Prosper-René Blondlot, and initially confirmed by others, but subsequently found to be illusory.
  • In this context... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:18AM (#35639028)
    ... significant means "statistically significant" i.e. there was a correlation. "Significant" doesn't mean large, great, or disasterous. Too often mainstream press will pressure the reader into assuming it means something more than this.
    • by TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:34AM (#35639308)
      And lets not forget, lies, dam lies, and then statistics. I don't know about this study (I have too much on), but a lot of medical research has very poor statistics if not just plain outright wrong.

      I was with a group that was suppose to support the medical R&D with statistics and the like for their publications. It was hard working getting them to do anything more than plug a few numbers into a website for a t-test. One guy came with a data set and asked us to show the difference in some measured parameter between the control and experimental group. We could show that there was no statistical difference. The guy said, and i really am quoting him here, "That's why people don't bring you their data!", and stormed out of the meeting room.

      For some reason a lot of people, people in science even, in particular medical science, think that if two groups of data have a different mean, they are different.
      • by timholman (71886)

        I was with a group that was suppose to support the medical R&D with statistics and the like for their publications. It was hard working getting them to do anything more than plug a few numbers into a website for a t-test. One guy came with a data set and asked us to show the difference in some measured parameter between the control and experimental group. We could show that there was no statistical difference. The guy said, and i really am quoting him here, "That's why people don't bring you their data!

        • Frankly, I'm astonished that medical science has progressed as much as it has, given the horrible experimental methodology. What passes for "data" in medicine would barely qualify as noise in most engineering disciplines.

          My guess is that the advances are in spite of human trials to some extent. Those using animal models instead of humans frequently have a much better grasp of statistics (although not perfect). Human trials are frequently done to verify that what the animal models are saying translates. If the difficult weeding out of erronious results is already done, then medical researchers can frequently get away with shoddy stats.

          • by cnettel (836611)
            Those using animal models also tend to have a, well, limited grasp of statistics. However, they still come out on top because: a) the statistical issues are still simpler when you can control for just about any factor except the ones you are really studying, and, b) since the experimental setups are more standardized, the few people that do grasp statistics have provided tools and rules of thumb that actually work well for the cases where they are used.
        • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

          To be fair, us engineers aren't the best with our statistics sometimes either.

          Very few things annoy me (professionally) as much as seeing someone try to apply a Gaussian function to something that is nowhere near normally distributed.

    • I agree that it'll be overblown, BUT...

      If the correlation is real, and it holds up under review (don't count on it), it'll certainly get my attention even if the effect is minuscule.

  • Nowai!! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:20AM (#35639046)

    As a Brazilian citizen, I can claim for sure that any Argentine finding is clearly bogus, just like their claim for being #1 in soccer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Chuckles08 (1277062)
      As a Canadian citizen, I cry foul. A real Brazilian would have said "football", not "soccer". Now, if you don't mind, I have some skates to sharpen.
  • whether or not it's true or false, any emitting device needs to be closely monitored and studied. We often hear of these kinds of reports but before we start band-wagon'ing this issue either for or against - let the peer community scientists do their due diligence and hash this out with peer reviews. A good scientist is always critical of their own work. If it's true, then we need to decide how to resolve it - if not, we can file it under a 'misdiagnosis of results.'

    I mean, its not like its causing str
    • > I mean, its not like its causing strange growths to appear on my thigh

      I've had that happen! Especially when the phone was on vibrate... :-/

  • Been wearing one on my hip every day for the past 4.5 years, and have noticed no problems. Anecdotal, I know. But I'm skeptical.

    • From what little I read of the article and the somewhat more I know about the impact of reduced bone density, it is probable that you would not note the difference until you are well into retirement age. Although this might be more significant for women if the same effect holds for women, since some women start experiencing problems with reduced bone density shortly after menopause.
  • pockets then ? where will we need to shove our phones up in order to be safe of any downsides ?
  • Control Group (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Heshler (1191623) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:34AM (#35639306)
    They need a control group that wears the phones but has transmitting functions turned off or the phone turned off all together. Perhaps the reported result is due to the mechanical abrasion of wearing the phone.
    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      Or the motion of always reaching for your phone the same way might cause some odd twist in the hip that could explain this. It isn't always "ZOMG RADIATION!!!"

    • by Carnivore (103106)

      I was thinking that the phone-wearing men avoid impacting objects with the phone-side hip. Bones require mechanical stresses to maintain density, so if they avoided hitting their hips, that could be the cause. Your idea is a much better control and would help to clarify the nature of the effect.

    • I thought the same thing at first, but then I realized they were talking about demineralization and lower bone density, not reduced bone mass. IANAD (not a doctor), but I don't see how simple mechanical abrasion could account for both of those. If there was a reduction in bone mass, sure, but that's not what the study was talking about.

    • by kybred (795293)
      Typically, when a phone is not in active voice call, it transmits only briefly about once an hour (location update). If you're in a voice call and have a bluetooth headset, then I could see that you could get a bit of RF into your hipbone. But if the phone is just strapped to your hip, and it's not a smart phone doing bittorrent or something, you are not getting much RF radiated from it into your body.
    • by tompaulco (629533)
      I think they need a group that wears them on their left hip. Or better yet, they should all wear them on both hips, but one or both may not be functioning so that the wearer doesn't consciously or unconsciously affect the study. Oh, and also multiply the number of participants by 100. And diversify them.
  • First time I read the title I thought it said "Mobile Phone May Rot Your Boner" I tend to carry my phone in the front pocket of my trousers, so it's no wonder that headline scared the crap outa me!
  • To double the amount of time you get before hip replacement..
    • Screw that. One hip replacement is cheaper than two. I'll just stick to one pocket.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Do people really put phones in pockets? That just seems weird. They'll get scratched up by keys and change, and you can accidentally dial people while moving or sitting.

      • by St.Creed (853824)

        I don't keep anything in the same left side pocket as my phone. It's a Motorola RAZR so it folds shut. No accidental phonecalls. Also, no damage to the screen since it's closed when pocketed.

        And even if it wasn't, I'd still carry it there. I'd pretty much rather lose my phone than ever carry it on the outside. I'm not 70 yet.

  • Perhaps someone with more knowledge than myself can comment on this topic:

    Would it be:

    1. possible
    and
    2. make a positive difference

      to have some sort of shielding between phone and body? For example, shielding on the inside of pocket pants etc., that'd prevent the signals to go towards the body where we don't need them anyway?
    What would you need and would it work?

  • Another explanation (Score:5, Informative)

    by physicsphairy (720718) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:39AM (#35639394) Homepage

    Just did a quick search and it does appear that if, e.g., this [livestrong.com] is accurate, stressing bone causes them to increase in density.

    Wearing a cellphone is restrictive on your range of movement, and you're more cautious about activities which could apply force to that area because you don't want to damage your expensive phone. Hence, the bone is less stressed, leading to less bone density.

    Even if that isn't right, it still seems to me like the correct control for the experiment, if they want to say it's the radiation that's causing the bone loss, would be to have the control group wearing deactivated phones, not having them wearing no phone at all.

    • by rayd75 (258138)

      Even if that isn't right, it still seems to me like the correct control for the experiment, if they want to say it's the radiation that's causing the bone loss, would be to have the control group wearing deactivated phones, not having them wearing no phone at all.

      I read about this when I was growing up. My family had an outdated (even then) encyclopedia that I would regularly flip through in fascination. If I remember correctly, what you're describing is is called "science".

    • by takowl (905807)

      Yes, that would clearly be a better control. If you want to recruit people to carry around a mobile phone turned off for a year, please do so. Oh, and to do it properly, you should also make sure that the subject is not aware whether their phone is on or off.

      Scientists have to work in the real world, and can't do every experiment to perfection. This isn't conclusive, but that doesn't mean it's wrong, or not worth publishing. Lots of science suggests something without proving it.

  • when we wear something on our body it subtly shifts our weight distribution. and I'd imagine that having a phone on your hip also changes your posture to make accessing that phone easier and faster.

    it doesn't seem like that's accounted for at all in the study.

    the control group didn't use phones at all. so there's no control for whether it's the phone's radiation or the physical presence of the phone that causes the (very slight) degradation.

  • No youngster wears a phone pouch on their hip anymore. Did they take the average age and de-calcification for the elderly into account?
    • /handsup

      I'm a youngster, and I wear my Droid on a hip-mounted pouch. (Whenever I keep it in my pocket, the media player starts playing unbidden- that and I can get my phone out and ready in a quarter of the time.

  • In addition to inadequate controls galore for confounding causes, this once again fails to take into account two things -- confirmation bias (why would anybody even think of looking for something like this?) and physical mechanism. What part of skin depth and power do people not get? Exposing your skin to direct sunlight is far more dangerous than any cellphone hanging outside of your clothes at your hip.

    rgb
  • Carrying a cellphone in a front jeans pocket every day gives me a lot more to worry about than loss of bone density.
  • You see, the Scots wear kilts and keep their cellphones in their sporran.
  • The journal article on which TFA is based is embargoed behind Kluwer's academic firewall's and my school doesn't have a subscription to this one. So, I can't see the actual article. However, the comments from some of the people who *can* see the article are telling, to wit:

    "Only by a stretch of imagination do you see a linear correlation in there. Look at figure 3 ... http://journals.lww.com/jcrani [lww.com]...
    OMG!!..."

    and......

    "This is only a pilot-study, and should NOT be brought into the media before a larger and

  • by canajin56 (660655) on Monday March 28, 2011 @11:49AM (#35641220)

    "No difference in mean BMDs and BMCs between groups was found." So, they have their study and their control group. They looked at bone densities in their hips. The average hip density between both groups is statistically identical. But, in the right-handed cellphone user group, the right hip is 1.2% less dense than the left hip, while for the control group made up of mixed-handed people of a different age, the distribution is more even, but still not perfectly even. They conclude that cellphone radiation weakens bone mineralization. But according to the abstract, there was no difference in mineralization, it was just distributed differently.

    And, n=24 is not high enough to call a 1.2% difference "statistically significant". That's just bogus. Anyways, my wife and I both lean to our left. And so do her parents and sisters. Not a lot, but about 1-2%. I'd be surprised if that didn't translate into an unevenness in our hip bone densities. We're all right handed, too. Now, I just complained about their low n, so I can't conclude anything from my anecdote...but maybe we favor the leg opposite our dominant hand? If you have more weight on it, you can more easily pivot to bring your right side forward to do something. And, they only studied people who wear a cellphone on their right hip. Isn't that going to be right handed people? Who quite possibly put more weight on their left hip? And if the control group had some left handed people in it, even if there was only 1 or 2, that would totally skew the averages.

  • by paanta (640245) on Monday March 28, 2011 @11:52AM (#35641288) Homepage
    Not being a doctor, researcher or expert in EMF fields, I gotta ask: is there a plausible explanation for why this would be? It seems to me that there are a lot of researchers out there fishing for weird correlations with cell phone use, and if you look for statistical fish long enough you're going to find something that isn't really there. Without a plausible mechanism for messing with bone density, I'd be tempted to write this one off entirely until someone else confirms it. Especially since it's the first study of its type and is a relatively small group of subjects (n=24).

    Recipe for science fail: conduct 30 studies looking for some type of harm done by a random controversial bogey man. Don't publish the 29 that fail to reject the null hypothesis. Publish the one that does.
    • by Chuckstar (799005)

      "Recipe for science fail: conduct 30 studies looking for some type of harm done by a random controversial bogey man. Don't publish the 29 that fail to reject the null hypothesis. Publish the one that does."

      I know people of various ideological positions complain about bias in science, but if there is truly a systemic problem in contemporary science, this is it. Even meta-analysis studies have problems dealing with this, because the authors of the meta-study may not even know about the unpublished studies, o

  • Even if this turns out to be a reproducible phenomenon, it's not clear that EMF would be the cause. A potentially more likely cause would be that if you wear your cell phone on your hip, you are slightly less likely to be bumping that hip into things. Slight damage from bumps and falls are known to increase bone density, so protecting one hip would potentially result in reduced bone density in that hip. I'm not saying this is an extrememly likely scenario, but at least it represents a known causal effect

  • I can believe this. Watching people blunder around while driving or walking around a grocery store with a mobile phone affixed to their heads, I've come to the conclusion that mobile phone proximity causes your brain to rot as well.
  • I definitely get affected by mobile phone radiation, and it’s not psychosomatic. And when pain happens, then that’s usually a signal that something is not right. And there are too many other people who claim to be affected to simply dismiss it. And, we tend to describe very similar symptoms.

    So how could it happen? Perhaps one of the mobile phone frequencies just happens to tune in to some molecule using electromagnetic absorption [wikipedia.org]? That's my hypothesis.

    But to claim that because it doesn

    • by tgibbs (83782)

      I definitely get affected by mobile phone radiation, and it’s not psychosomatic. And when pain happens, then that’s usually a signal that something is not right. And there are too many other people who claim to be affected to simply dismiss it. And, we tend to describe very similar symptoms.

      Sorry, but a claim of adverse effects from a mobile phone is so remarkable that you need much something stronger than anecdotal, "A few times I didn't feel the pain, and then I realized that the phone was off

  • Why not a blind test? Instead of having two groups; users ans non-users, have three groups. non users, left hip and right hip. Every time a subject was tested he would not have his cell phone on and the technician would not know what group he was in. When the statistics were analyzed the doctor would not know which group was which; he would just be looking to see if there was a difference between the left and right. Only after the analysis was done would the groups be revealed. That would remove any possibl

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