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Phone Radiation To Soar: Experts
Herald Sun
Journalist: Rick Wallace
April 20, 2001

Radiation emitted by mobile phones could be quadrupled under a dramatic weakening of Australian standards.

Federal radiation authorities have recommended the nation's tough restrictions on mobile phone emissions be watered down.

The proposed overhaul would take Australia's regulations from being one of the world's toughest to among the weakest.

The trade-off for Australia's 10.5 million mobile phone users could be cheaper handsets.

But consumer groups, politicians and the nation's peak scientific body yesterday raised serious concerns about health effects of the proposed overhaul.

Mobile phones have been blamed for causing cancer, dizziness, nose bleeds, vomiting and brain tumors, but scientific research has not found any definite links.

"I haven't heard a cogent argument as to why it should be relaxed," said CSIRO telecommunications division deputy chief Dr Gerry Haddad. "The jury is still very much out on the health risks."

The mobile telecommunications industry is lobbying for the new standard to be adopted in Australia and worldwide.

But manufacturers say they are not moving to produce higher radiation emission handsets and consumers are not at risk.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) has released the draft standard for public comment and is poised to implement it within months.

The proposed code is based on a European one that has not been adopted by the US or Canada.

The draft standard increases radiation limits for both handsets and mobile phone towers. It also allows higher radiation output from cordless phones and other high-frequency devices.

An independent expert contacted by the Herald Sun confirmed the new standard would substantially boost permissible radiation levels.

Chris Zombolas, of testing company EMC Technologies, said that under the changes both digital phone types -- 900MHz and 1800MHz -- would be allowed to emit more radiation.

"At 900MHz the limit is increased by a factor of over two and at 1800MHz it's gone up by 4.5 times," Mr Zombolas said.

He said changes to the allowed absorption rate for the head and upper body effectively increased exposure rate by 70 to 80 per cent.

Australian Democrats telecommunications spokeswoman and chair of a Senate inquiry into the new standard, Senator Lyn Allison, was alarmed by the changes.

"I am always concerned if the CSIRO are not happy with watering down the standard and they are not," Senator Allison said.

The Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts reference committee will hand down its report on the standard soon.

Like the old interim code, the new standard does not include special limits for children, despite fears they may be more susceptible to radiation than adults.

Teresa Corbin, of the Consumers Telecommunications Network, said allowing high-radiation mobiles into Australia was a big risk.

"The jury's still out on the dangers of mobile phone radiation," Ms Corbin said.

"And it's not just phones. It's towers, too, and the standard's been relaxed for them as well."

But the head of the Mobile Manufacturers Forum, Michael Milligan, said the standard was based on credible research supported by the World Health Organisation.

Mr Milligan said its adoption could speed up the delivery of new European products into Australia and cut testing and production costs, possibly leading to cheaper handsets.

"There's a range of benefits for consumers, regulators and the industry," he said.

ARPANSA chief executive John Loy declined to comment.

In the foreword of the draft standard, Dr Loy wrote the limits were derived after extensive study of scientific literature.

He did not rule out changes to the standard if fresh research highlighted new risks.

Those involved in producing the standard will meet to ratify or amend it after the deadline for public submissions ends on May 11.

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