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Are Our Mobile Phones? We Just Don't Know
Consumers are still confused over the safety of mobile phones despite Government efforts to clear up the issue, a Sunday Express poll has revealed.
The public are still unclear over the health risks, including claims that radiation from handsets can cause cancer, after the official Stewart report into the dangers failed to give definitive advice because the technology was too new.
A National Opinion Poll survey has disclosed that nearly half of consumers questioned said they were "not confident" about the information available.
Fifty-five per cent said they owned a mobile and 79 per cent of those said reports about health hazards had made no difference. But 42 per cent of people who did not have a mobile said they were put off buying one.
Industry experts said some people were ignoring health fears because the phones had become a crucial part of their lives. Neil McCartney, editor-in-chief of Wireless Internet, said: "It sounds as though there is a lot of uncertainty. A lot has been written about possible dangers, but there has been hardly any hard information.
"Only a couple of surveys have suggested any harmful physical effects. As yet there is very little evidence and this has led to the confusion."
He added that he owned a mobile phone, had not cut down his use of it and preferred not to use a hands-free system because it was "fiddly". "I think the scare stories are being somewhat overdone."
There are 27 million mobile phone users in Britain - about 46 per cent of the population. Alasdair Philips, of consumer group Power Watch, said: "I would have hoped that a higher percentage would have been unsatisfied with the amount of information available.
"But I am delighted that the Sunday Express survey shows that a number of people are concerned. The Government is producing a leaflet to go to everybody in the UK. It just confirms our views that the mobile phone companies have been very economical with the truth in their literature. I reckon that somewhere in the order of five to 10 per cent of the population react fairly easily to mobile phone radiation in terms of headaches, eye strain and earache. There is probably another 10 per cent who react if they use their phones a lot and probably about 70 per cent can use their phones fairly extensively without experiencing any of these short-term effects.
"Never in the history of mankind have large numbers of people held microwave-radiating objects close to their heads. I think there is good evidence that a small percentage of the population react quite badly and that is all that needs saying."
Mr Philips said it would not be known for about 10 years whether the radiation caused cancer but many people were already experiencing headaches and stiff necks. He said clearer information from phone companies was needed.
"A number of mobile phone users and GPs phone me up saying we have got patients complaining of these symptoms and all we can do is give them tranquillisers and advise them to ease up on their lifestyles. Until doctors are told mobile phones can cause these ailments they can't treat them. The Department of Health should say there is good anecdotal evidence that some people suffer like this. "NOP spokesman Tony Lees said: "People are clearly divided and confused on the issue."