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Fluoroscopes, Cell Phones and Cancer

Life was simple during my childhood days, and it didn’t take much to excite me. Going shopping in downtown Springfield with the promise of a new pair of shoes was definitely a memorable event, for such ventures didn’t happen with great frequency. I enjoyed having my feet measured with the familiar metal apparatus, and then came the fun of selecting the shoes, and then the best part of all. The salesman would lead my parents and me to the big brown platform sort of thing, and I would be helped to stand in the right place, the salesman seeing that my feet were set just so. And then the culmination of the event. I pressed my eyes onto a viewing element, one set of parents’ eyes were fastened to another, and the third viewer was the venue of the salesman. Our eyes at the ready, he threw the switch and the most amazing thing happened; I could see the bones in my feet. There they were proudly stuck inside my new shoes, and I couldn’t keep them still, wiggled them around and up and down as much as the new stiff shoes would allow. It was amazing. I did not know, nor did my parents that as I stood there, I was being shot with dangerous amounts of x-rays. So were they. So was the salesman.

The shoe fitting fluoroscope was a common fixture in shoe stores during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. A typical unit, like the Adrian machine shown here, consisted of a vertical wooden cabinet with an opening near the bottom into which the feet were placed. When you looked through one of the three viewing ports on the top of the cabinet (e.g., one for the child being fitted, one for the child’s parent, and the third for the shoe salesman or saleswoman), you would see a fluorescent image of the bones of the feet and the outline of the shoes.

According to Williams (1949), the machines generally employed a 50 kv x-ray tube operating at 3 to 8 milliamps. When you put your feet in a shoe fitting fluoroscope, you were effectively standing on top of the x-ray tube. The only “shielding” between your feet and the tube was a one mm thick aluminum filter. Some units allowed the operator to select one of three different intensities: the highest intensity for men, the middle one for women and the lowest for children.

Very interesting material about the use of these machines, the decision to discontinue using them, damage caused through the years and much more is here. Picture courtesy of Paul Zeimer

Yesterday, when I read the following material and thought of the possibility that the ubiquitous cell phone could be damaging to us and to our children, I recalled having my feet x-rayed, with none of the adults and certainly not the children, considering the possibility of any danger. I’m not in the least paranoid, and have a rather calm, non-worrying nature, but I’m thinking it might be good to consider these studies, especially in regard to our children.

Picture from Inventors Spot

Recently, researchers from the Orbero University in Sweden led by Professor Kjell Mild have suggested that young children may be at risk for brain cancer when using cell phones because of their thinner skulls and developing nervous systems. The study also suggests that 10 years is the minimum period needed by cancers to develop, which would warrant more research at this time when a large number of the population has been using cell phones for a long time. More here.

My devotional blog is here.