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Manufacturers and distributors of devices which claim to protect mobile phone users from harmful radiation were not surprised at last week's news that a Telstra-funded study found cellular-like radiation doubled the likelihood of cancer in mice.
"This comes as no shock to us compared to the body of independent research already carried out around the world," said Joseph Pirzada, the director of Microshield Industries Australia, whose $120 Microshield leather phone case contains a protective polyester-nickel layer and radiation-damping antenna guard which reduces measured spurious emissions by 90 per cent.
"Various researchers have carried out their own tests over the past couple of years and concluded that cellular phone use may well be linked with everything from cancer to headaches."
Mr. Pirzada believes a $4.5million allocation by the Government for tests to be conducted under the Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Energy Program is inadequate.
"Bearing in mind the billions of dollars of research into smoking-related diseases, I don't think the European Commission's ê20million earmarked for investigating electromagnetic radiation is even going to scratch the surface, let alone the measly $4.5million issued by our Government, which is supposed to cover all forms of EM radiation, not just mobile phones."
Peter Russell, the executive director of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, maintains that user concerns are groundless.
In a letter to the Herald following last week's release of the study findings, Mr. Russell admitted that while radiation doses applied in the experiment were characteristic of digital mobile signals, "the exposure conditions were not representative of GSM [or other] mobile phone use by humans".
This included exposing the entire body of the mice to the radiation rather than the localised effect on one part of the human body. The mice themselves were pre-disposed to developing lymphoma, which is a cancer of the immune system, and treated with two 30-minute doses per day over a period of 18 months.
The researchers themselves stated "mice and humans absorb energy from these fields differently, so we cannot conclude from this single study that humans have an increased risk of cancer from the use of digital mobile phones".
"The public should know that it can continue to use mobile phones with confidence in their safety," Mr. Russell said.
But even the low level of radiation from mobile phones, which falls within international safety standards, could place people at risk.
"It is irrefutable that mobile phones emit radiation, that's how they work," says Harry Chojna, the managing director of Action Hi-Tech. He imports the Rad-Gap, an adhesive thumb-sized device which promises to lower by 80 per cent radiation from what the maker terms the phone's point of highest emission.
"My background in nuclear physics working in the Defence Department tells me that any type of radiation is damaging," Mr. Chojna said.
According to the AMTA, "there is no substantial scientific evidence that using mobile phones can cause adverse health effects"; Mr. Chojna observes "that's what the cigarette companies were saying 10 years ago about smoking".