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Convenience Not Such A Brainwave
Canberra Times
Journalist: Steve Liebke
February 28, 2000

Concern has been voiced for some time over the health effects of electromagnetic frequency emissions.

Most people seem to know (even if they're not exactly sure why) that you shouldn't sit too close to your telly or computer monitor, or press your face against the microwave as you watch the lazy susan.

Why then, are so many people seemingly oblivious to the possible dangers of holding a microwave-emitting device next to their head for prolonged periods on a daily basis? Handsets have been shown to vary enormously in their radiation outputs and health effects appear to be dose dependent.

Older models generally pump out more than the newer ones, though this is not always the case.

It has been found that up to 60 per cent of the radiation emitted by a mobile handset is absorbed by the user's head.

In addition, the entire face of the phone ""leaks'' radiation, with the earpiece the greatest culprit. Having an aerial that points away from your head is little, if any, protection.

Radiation has been shown to effect changes on a cellular level and include alterations to DNA itself.

Users may therefore be at greater risk than average of contracting cancers of affected organs (most notably the brain) as well as other diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. More common complaints are increases in headaches, fatigue and possibly skin irritations. 

SAR is measured in Watts absorbed per kilogram of body weight. The British standard for mobile-phone emissions is 1 W/kg. The Australian and United States standard is 1.6 W/kg.

There is still a great deal of research required to confirm or discount these findings.

Niels Kuster of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology tested a number of popular mobile handsets. When compared with the values at which biological changes have been recorded, the outputs of all the phones tested provided reason for concern.

However, to be fair, different testing procedures and protocols can yield differing results. Therefore, values for emissions may vary if a different testing method is used. What, then, can we do to limit our exposure to mobile-phone radiation? The glaringly obvious answer is to either throw the darn thing out or not get one in the first place.

Secondly, limit your exposure to second-hand radiation emitted by other's phones (ie. keep a metre or so away from someone on a mobile call).

A phone with a hands-free feature will reduce your exposure, although quite often they are only practical in very quiet locations.

A portable hands-free plug-in device will only move the area of greatest exposure from your head to wherever you wear your phone, be it your belt, jacket pocket or elsewhere.

A car kit might help, but not outside your car.

My general recommendation is to use a mobile for emergencies only, and limit calls to less than a couple of minutes.

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