Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Radiation fears prompt possible restrictions on wi-fi and mobile phone use in schools

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 01 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3428

Rapid Response:

We are all doomed! Or maybe not.

I don't know what it is about some modern technologies that
encourages bad statistics and overly risk averse approaches. Maybe mobile
phones really do rot the brain and the first sense that goes is the
ability to judge statistics.

But the reported study that 80% of cancers in some Brazilian city
occur in people who live within 1,500 feet of a base station is one of
those stats that sounds worrying only because there is no context. I can't
access or translate the original, but the reported stat is the one that
has been reproduced in english.

A piece of context: the average person in London, UK is never more
than 100-150m (about 300-500 feet) from a base station. Maybe we are all
doomed or maybe we should demand a better standard from lobbyists when
quoting statistics about risk. It wouldn't surprise me if more than 80% of
the population in Brazilian cities lived inside that radius.

Competing interests: I have worked for PA Consulting for more than a decade. Clients of this global management consulting firm, headquartered in the UK, have included the Department of Health, NHS providers and NHS commissioners. PA Also works for clients in the Mobile technology industry.The views expressed here are personal opinions and not those of PA Consulting.

26 July 2011
stephen black
management consultant
pa consulting, london sw1w 9sr