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Experts Debate Safety Of Earpieces For Cell Phone
Cellular and Bezeq phones were buzzing yesterday as their owners worried about the "revelation" in the British consumer magazine, Which?, that attaching an earpiece to a cellular phone allegedly triples the amount of electromagnetic radiation channeled into the user's head.
The article did not offer anything new or conclusive about whether that radiation is harmful to users' health, however.
Physicians, physicists, and government health officials were unsure how to react, saying they had not seen the scientific study on which the British article was based.
However, a local spokesman for the World Forum of Cellular Phone Producers said that "whether using an earpiece or not, cellular phones on the [Israeli] market meet the most severe international safety standards."
"We recommend not creating needless panic when there is no scientific basis for it," said the chairman of the world forum, Peter Harrison.
Theoretical physicist Dr. Zvi Weinberg said it's probable that earpieces serve as antennae that direct more electromagnetic radiation into the ears. However, he said, phone models may differ in the degree to which their internal wires conduct electricity, and said he planned to calculate the various mechanisms involved during the next two weeks.
MK Avi Yehezkel (Labor) is promoting a private member's bill that would require the three local cellphone companies to finance independent Israeli research on the health effects of the phones.
Dr. Siegal Sadetzki, a clinical epidemiologist at the Gertner Institute at Sheba Hospital, said the World Health Organization is spending $10 million on multi-center research into possible links between brain and head tumors and cellular phone use.
Sadetzki is coordinating the Israeli research, with other studies being conducted in the US, France, Britain, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, and other countries where cellphones are popular.
The Gertner researchers will examine the records of some 800 patients who have had tumors of the brain, salivary glands, and other parts of the head and neck, and ask them detailed questions about their use of cellphones, including equipment such as earphones. Participants will be queried again two years from now.
"You have to put things in proportion. Smoking is much, much more dangerous than any risk posed to health by cellphones," says Sadetzki, who will keep her own phone.
The headlines about earpieces have given a boost to Ze'ev Jabotinsky - grandson of the Zionist leader - a computer expert who several years ago invented a simple, NIS 65 device made from hard plastic and rubber called Rad- Gap.
Jabotinsky said the funnel-shaped telescopic device is glued to the receiver of the cellphone, forcing the user to hold the phone 4.5 centimeters away, making the phone safer.
Marketers of other devices that claim to reduce the amount of cellphone radiation also took advantage of the negative publicity aroused by the Which? article to advertise their products on the radio yesterday.