On almost any busy street these days you'll find people enamored with their cell phones, happily tapping away at keys or peering at teeny tiny screens. Rarely are they looking straight ahead.
This apparently was the case when a Staten Island, N.Y., teen who was texting fell into a manhole while strolling with a friend last week.
Alexa Longueira was about to send a text message when she suddenly slipped under the sidewalk.
"She literally just handed me the phone and I opened it [and] I felt this big drop," the 15-year-old told the Staten Island Advance.
"It was four or five feet, it was very painful. I kind of crawled out and the DEP guys came running and helped me," she said. "They were just, like, 'I'm sorry! I'm sorry!'"
The six-foot landing, which left her with cuts, scrapes and bruises along her spine and ribs was softened by raw sewage.
The Department of Environmental Protection said its workers briefly left the manhole unattended to fetch cones and was quite conciliatory.
"DEP is conducting a full investigation of what happened during a manhole incident on Victory Boulevard," said DEP spokeswoman Mercedes Padilla. "We regret that this happened and wish the young woman a speedy recovery."
But Longueira's family is displeased and, according to the Staten Island Advance, is considering a lawsuit.
Texting aside, Alexa's mother Kim Longueira said workers never should have left the manhole uncovered and unattended. Although it could have been worse, she said it was still disgusting.
"Oh my God, it was putrid," she said. "One of her sneakers is still down there."
Distraction is a real danger, as this Staten Island teen learned, but it comes to cell phones, it's not the only one.
Assertions that the use of cell phones may lead to a higher risk of brain cancer, that their use by pregnant women may result in badly behaved children -- even a video that suggested that the waves from two cell phones could be used to cook an egg -- have been discredited by scientific investigation.
However, research and anecdotes suggest a number of other means by which cell phones may adversely affect health -- and possibly not in the way you might think.
Click on to the next page to read about seven of them.
New research released Thursday suggests that one cell phone-related health threat that many people face may not be from their own phones at all -- but from their doctors' mobile devices.
In a study published in the journal Annals of Clinical Microbiology, researchers at Ondokuz Mayis University in Samsun, Turkey, screened the mobile phones of 200 health care workers in hospitals for germs that are known to be dangerous to human health.
What the researchers found was that 94.5 percent of the phones tested -- nearly 19 out of 20 -- were contaminated with some kind of bacteria. Worse, some of the bacteria that the researchers found were known "superbugs" -- bacteria that are resistant to one or more commonly used antibiotics.
Despite this, the researchers found that only about 10 percent of the health care workers studied cleaned their cell phones on a routine basis.