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Phones 'May Be Harming Unborn Babies'
New fears have been raised over mobile phones following research suggesting they could put unborn babies at risk.
Scientists found even brief exposure to mild radiation from cell phones causes defects in growing chicken embryos.
Chick and human embryos are considered similar enough for the studies to raise alarm.
As a result, some researchers are calling for pregnant women to avoid mobile phones until the risks can be properly assessed.
Most studies into the possible health risks of mobiles have concentrated on damage to brain cells.
But with many people wearing the gadgets on belts for hours at a time, there are concerns about how they might affect internal organs or babies in the womb. Scientists tested mobile phone-style radiation on more than 10,000 chicken embryos.
Dr Theodore Litovitz, a physicist at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC, said: 'We found that if we turned this on as a chick was developing, we doubled the number of chick abnormalities.
He also discovered that the sorts of low-level radiation from mobiles can interfere with the development of mouse cells.
Dr Litovitz believes the radiation causes cells to release stress proteins ñ their first line of defence against attack.
Although stress proteins are designed to repair damage, they may be harmful if they are continually produced. The study backs up French research into chicks and mobile phones last year.
Then the lead researcher Professor Madelaine Bastide urged pregnant women to be wary of mobile phones until more tests were conducted.
Last night, scientist and mobile phone specialist Roger Coghill said the findings were 'enormously worrying'.
He added: 'We are venturing into the un-known by using these mobile phones on which proper tests have never really been carried out. The idea they could be affecting babies is even more disturbing.'
The mobile phone industry insists there is still no evidence of a health hazard.
But increasingly, scientists are discovering that even weak electro magnetic fields affect the brain.
The World Health Organisation is conducting a £4million study on 3,000 victims of brain tumours, looking for possible links with mobile phone use.
A study at Bristol University found radiation from handsets speeded up reaction times in volunteers carrying out simple intelligence tests.
That raised fears that radiation may be heating brain cells and triggering a dangerous immune response reaction.
Other tests showed rats produce stress hormones when exposed to mobile phone emissions.
And tests in Australia found that mice were twice as likely to develop lymphomas when they were given low-level radiation.