Studies to understand the relation between rf and biological tissue have been conducted since the early 1940’s. The epidemiological studies performed were inconclusive due to the large number of uncontrolled variables such as the amount of power emitted by different models of phones used. Furthermore, studies performed on laboratory animals also resulted in insignificant increase in health problems.
Though in February 2011, the New York Times reported a study conducted by the researchers at the National Institute of Health which found that cell phone usage caused 7 percent increase in brain activity. This increase in brain activity was confined to the area of the brain that was near the rf antenna of the cell phone. The results of this study indicated that the use of cell phones did have measurable effects on the brain activity.
The role of the engineer when confronted with ongoing debate of the relation between cellular phones and cancer is vague. The engineer could move towards redesigning of cell phones that reduce rf emission. However, this action would not be scientifically proven as the adverse effect of cell phone usage resulting in cancer has yet to be noted. The ethical procedure to be followed by the engineer in this case is discussable.
The Utilitarianism, moral theory, states that those actions are acceptable and good which serve to maximize human wellbeing. Utilitarianism stresses that maximizing the potential of the whole society is more important than maximizing the importance of an individual. The theory aims to balance the needs of the society with the needs of an individual, with an emphasis on the action that would provide maximum benefit to the people. In respect to engineering, the moral theory is particularly important in risk-benefit analysis and cost-benefit analysis.