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'Dangerous' Is Your Mobile Handset?
Mobile phone companies are deliberately hiding the radiation levels of their handsets from the public.
A Sunday Mirror investigation has revealed how they have buried the information in a website which is so complicated it takes a computer expert more than three hours to negotiate.
Instead of reading a simple table, any consumer who wants to find out which phones have the lowest SAR rating (a measure of radiation emissions) has to download more than four hundred separate documents.
Each phone lists the radiation levels in its manual, but the figure is meaningless unless it can be compared with other phones.
Of Britain's bestselling phones, the Sunday Mirror can reveal the Sony Ericsson T610 has the highest SAR rating at 1.2.
This is more than seven times higher than another Sony Ericsson, the Z600, which rated at just 0.16. See our table on the left for more examples.
However, phone firms don't think consumers need to know which phones rate higher than others.
Michael Milligan, a spokesman for the Mobile Manufacturers Forum, which is responsible for providing the ratings, said: "The information is there and available if you want to check it. But we do not really support consumers using the ratings to decide which phones are safer than others.
"I have absolutely no reservations about the safety of mobile phones."
Our investigation was launched as radiological expert Professor Sir William Stewart warned parents to ban children under eight from using mobiles, fearing their thinner skulls would not shield them from harmful radiation.
He said: "SAR values are available but they are difficult to compare - more should be done to make the information available."
Little is known for sure about the dangers of mobile phone radiation, but research has linked it to brain damage and cancer. Now the Department of Health and mobile phone experts want manufacturers to come clean too.
As a result of our investigation, a spokesman confirmed the department would contact mobile companies to tell them to provide the information in an easy format.
Janice Allen of the National Consumer Council said phone companies need to be honest with consumers. She said: "Grouping phone models according to high, medium or low emissions would be more useful."
Mike Clarke of the National Radiological Protection Board said: "People make good decisions only when they have good information.
"Currently, SAR information is difficult to find if a consumer wants to compare more than three or four phones.
"Levels of radiation do not always relate to aerials or technology.
"Often the size of the case will bring the phone closer to the head and that can make all the difference.
"While the risks of mobile phones are still unclear, consumers need all the information to make their decision."
SAR stands for Specific Absorption Rate and it measures the number of watt watts (of energy) per kilogram (of human tissue) which have seeped through the skull into the brain. In Europe, the legal SAR limit is 2.0 - higher than the limit in Australia and the US, where phones must not exceed 1.6.
Retailers including Carphone Warehouse do provide guides to SAR levels of their stock - but this does not allow consumers to compare the full range.
A spokesman for Sony said: "There is no scientific evidence showing that mobile phones cause adverse health effects and our handsets operate within World Health Organisation guidelines."
WHAT IS SAR?
ARE MOBILE PHONES
However, EU tests suggest the emissions from phones may damage human DNA. A Dutch study said brain functions such as memory and reaction times may be affected by exposure to mobile signals.
And German research showed an increase in cancer rates around mobile phone base stations.