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Really Anything To Be Worried About?
Mobile phones are the growth industry of the Nineties, a success story that is here to stay. They have gone from expensive plaything to essential accessory, but studies seem to suggest that they could cause memory loss and even brain tumours.
Other research appears to show that using a mobile can cause a rise in blood pressure - only a small rise, but one which doctors fear could be harmful to those who already have high blood pressure.
The mobile phone industry, worth £300 billion a year globally, says it takes safety seriously and says there is no substantive evidence against the piece of technology used by 13 million people in Britain.
Mobile phones use microwave radiation, the same kind that powers an oven, but at a fraction of the wattage. It is this radiation that doctors fear can represent a health risk at close quarters. Microwaves cause concern because of their ability to heat the substances they pass through - although nobody is suggesting the brain is being cooked like a convenience meal in a microwave oven. There are regulations which ensure that users' body temperatures are not raised unacceptably.
A second worry is whether a source of microwave radiation held close to the head could cause changes in cell structure, which could cause cancer. Research is being carried out in Britain on an artificial head containing chemicals that mimic the human brain.
Studies so far appear to show that most of the energy from a mobile phone is absorbed in tissues behind the ear. Experts hope to establish how much radiation the brain absorbs and answer the important question: are mobile phones safe?
A spokesman for the Federation of the Electronics Industry, which represents mobile phone makers, said: "You need to look at the totality of the evidence, and on that we firmly believe there is no link between mobile phones and any adverse health effects. We take the issue very seriously." An advisory group from the National Radiological Protection Board, formerly the Atomic Energy Commission, says there is no firm evidence that electromagnetic fields cause cancer but more research is needed.