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Call Made For Phone Radiation 'Labels'
Journalist: Charlie Taylor
July 01, 2005

The Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources issued its report on non-ionising radiation from mobile handsets and masts on Thursday. In that report, the committee made 11 recommendations in total including one which suggests that all mobile phones should have a label similar to the A/B/C electric efficiency rating applied to white goods.

Currently, all mobile handsets are designed by their manufacturers to ensure the amount of energy absorbed by the user is below official levels. These levels are based on a measure known as the "Specific Absorption Rate" or "SAR." (Aegis Note: Click here for additional information about SAR). Each mobile handset carries information on its SAR rating but this is not always signposted by manufacturers. However, the joint committee is now hoping to make it much clearer the level of emissions each phone lets off.

At a press conference to mark the release of the report, Bernard J. Durkan T.D., one of the committee's members, explained that the label would not be an official government health warning such as those found on cigarette packets. Instead it would be a label that would serve as an indicator of emission levels so that consumers could make informed decisions when purchasing handsets.

Another key recommendation outlined in the report is that the Radiological Protection Act, 1991, be amended so that monitoring of non-ionising radiation would be within the remit of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII). At present, ComReg monitors around 10 percent of the estimated 4,500 masts in the country, but it is now proposed that RPII should be charged with observing emission levels at all masts in future.

The committee also appealed to Dick Roche T.D., the Minister for the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, to close down a loophole in the law which means that some masts can be established without planning permission. The report recommended that "planning guidelines and planning exceptions be examined with a view to ensuring that no 'electromagnetic emissions' or 'radio frequency emissions' emitting equipment be permitted to be sited near health centres, schools or other sensitive areas such as playgrounds or pitches etc."

The joint committee has also recommended that a standing advisory committee be established to vet and agree all standards for the mobile telephony industry. In addition, an advisory Mobile Phone Safety Users group should also be established to advise the Minister and the committee. Any such group should include both medical practitioner and members of the general public.

Moreover, the committee recommended an independent board should be appointed to review published scientific data on non-ionising radiation from mobile handsets and masts.

The joint committee is set to review the report by June 2006 and examine what progress has been made on its recommendations. However, Noel O'Flynn T.D., chairman of the committee, acknowledged that it has no control over whether any of its recommendations are implemented.

"The public, the media and anyone with an interest in this area should note that the recommendations made in this report place those obligations on others," said O'Flynn. "What, in essence, this report does is set out the 'road map' that should be adopted so that the concerns of the public can be addressed in a coherent and focused fashion that will allow the public understand what are the issues at play and by doing this will allow everyone have confidence in this technology."

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