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Mobile Phone Firms Silent On Radiation
Mobile phone firms were yesterday accused of keeping consumers in the dark over radiation levels generated by hi-tech handsets.
Some models emit ten times the level of others, but experts said most users had no idea which ones were best for their health.
Sir William Stewart, head of the Health Protection Agency, claimed the industry had made it very difficult for the public to identify the safest phones.
He chaired an inquiry in 2000 into mobile phone safety which specifically called for emission ratings to be publicised.
However, four years later Stewart has hit out at manufacturers and networks for 'doing too little to inform worried consumers'.
He said emission levels should be clearly printed on handsets so customers had all the information before they bought a mobile.
SiStewart added: 'If it's possible to have football scores on a handset, surely it is possible to have emission levels on them.
'There is a website set up by manufacturers but have you tried to navigate that site to find Specific Absorption Rate values?
'I can tell you it is not easy,' he told a Children with Leukaemia conference in London.
The SAR is the rate at which the body absorbs emissions from a handset, and must be below two to qualify as safe.
Government experts believe the jury is still out on the safety of handsets, which heat the head and brain. In 2000, the Stewart Report warned that children should strictly limit their use of mobiles. It identified subtle biological effects which might not trigger illnesses, such as brain tumours, for 20 years.
However, Stewart believes the industry has put a gloss on the state of the science to insist the technology is safe. He said: 'We said in the report that it's not possible to say categorically that there are not health effects. But what has come out from the industry is that mobile phones are safe.'
The industry 'was pretty responsible' but 'had been very selective about what they said about the report'.
Stewart also chairs the National Radiological Protection Board which is being merged into the Health Protection Agency.
Dr Michael Clark, for the board, said there was 'real concern' about the huge numbers of children using mobiles. He went on: 'The advice is that children's use of mobile phones should be restricted. But no one has taken any notice of that.'
A study by retail analysts Mintel found as many as 80% of 11 to 14-year-olds had a mobile.
The Mobile Operators Association said: 'All mobile phones sold in the UK comply with international health and safety exposure guidelines set by independent scientific experts.'