Aegis Corporation Home Page Back To Previous Page
Print This Page
Close Window

Mobile Phones: Fresh Doubts Over Safety Of Hands-Free Kits
November 02, 2000

Hands-free wiring does not reduce radiation emissions claims a new study

Hands-free sets on mobile telephones could triple the amount of rays beamed into the head says a consumer watchdog.

The British Consumers' Association told it was "concerned" by its findings, which directly contradict government research, and is recommending users spend as short a time as possible using their phones.

The CA's principle researcher Antonia Chitty said that even though the hands-free sets appeared to increase the delivery of radiation beams the levels were still below those considered safe by international guidelines.

"(But) if you are worried about radiation levels you should adopt a precautionary approach and limit the length of time you are using the phone."

An initial CA report on the issue was published in April and sparked the British Department of Trade and Industry to carry out its own research.

Its findings, published in August, were that "hands-free kits reduce exposure for mobile phone users."

A DTI spokeswoman told "Apart from this Consumers Association report, no-one has criticised our report." She said the DTI believed the methodology used in the tests by the CA may be throwing up the different results.

But the DTI is taking the new study seriously and says it will consider all the factors. E-Minister Patricia Hewitt's has pledged to provide the public: "clear and unambiguous advice."

The CA tested five different kinds of mobile phone and 10 kinds of hands-free kits including those by Nokia, Ericsson, Panasonic, Philips and BT Cellnet.

It found the critical factor determining the radiation emissions was the length between the earpiece and the mobile phone antenna.

"Although these kits can reduce radiation, they can also increase it significantly, depending on where you position the phone and kit," said editor of the CA magazine Which?, Helen Parker.

"Unfortunately there is no way that consumers can work out the best position to reduce radiation."

The National Radiological Protection Board, which sets safe levels of emissions for the industry to follow, says it is still studying mobile phones and pointed to differences in research methods.

Scientific spokesman for the NRPD, Dr Michael Clark, told "We would like to see an international standard for the precise measurement of radiation because we feel different scientists are measuring different things."

The NRPD recently agreed to adopt the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection guidelines on radiation emission which is three watts of phone radiation per kilogramme of human tissue.

The actual biological effects of radiation from phones have yet to be determined.

Scientists know that the brain "heats up" from the use of mobile phones, but, said Clark: "You can't stick a thermometer inside a human brain."

Swedish-based strategic press relations officer for Ericsson, Mikael Westmark told said the company had not yet had time to digest the report, but it appeared different measuring methods were being used.

"The last time these test were done people were very frightened, then there was a report from the UK government which contradicted their findings and people wondered 'what was that all about?' It is very confusing."

Nokia referred to the Federation of Electronic Industries for a company comment.

"Hands-free equipment was never designed to reduce radiation emissions, but to allow people to write to type while listening to their phone," the FEI spokeswoman said.

She said the CA survey used different equipment "or parameters" to the DTI tests but the manufacturing industry would be studying the new report thoroughly.

Panasonics spokeswoman, Mahafrid Jamooji, said she had not read the CA report herself but understood it had used a different methodology to reach its conclusions and advised mobile phone users wanting more information to contact the FEI.

Celenec, the EU body for setting standards on mobile phone usage, is currently working on an international harmonisation method for measuring radiation emissions which is to be published early next year.

Top of Page