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Campaign On Safer Use Of Mobile Phones
The Malta Times
Journalist: Ariadne Massa

The next time you make a call from your mobile phone try to keep it short or opt to send an SMS instead, not just to keep the costs down, but to reduce any possible health risks from radiation.

This advice comes from an information leaflet being issued by the Health Promotion Department and the Campaign for Awareness on Radiation Emissions (CARE), in an attempt to educate the public on safer use of mobile phones.

"Mobile phones are here to stay. Our intention is not to alarm the people but to encourage them to adopt a sensible and precautionary approach to the way they use mobile phones," department director Mario Spiteri said in an interview.

In September, the total number of mobile phone users stood at 280,847, but Dr Spiteri said there was hardly any awareness on the effects that the radiation emitted from the mobile phone could have on their health.

Though international research has so far found no known health problems caused by mobile phones, everyone advises caution, especially among young children, until more research is carried out.

While the jury is still deliberating on its effects, researchers have pointed out that the gaps in current knowledge mean that mobile phones cannot be classed as safe. And, given the large number of mobile users in Malta, even small adverse effects on health could have major public health implications.

The Stewart Report, commissioned by the British government and published in 2000, advises that children should be especially careful since their skulls were still growing, "making it easier for radio waves from a mobile phone to enter their heads".

The report said that the cells of children, especially brain tissue, are also developing and tended to absorb more radiation compared to adults.

In light of similar research, the local department is recommending that, as a precautionary approach, children under the age of 16 should be discouraged from using a mobile phone.

As part of the campaign, the Education Ministry is also expected to distribute 60,000 copies of the new leaflet to all the schools. Dr Spiteri said the use of cell phones among children had been rampant and it was a common sight to see seven-year-olds flaunting their coloured sets and making calls.

"We are advising parents to explain the possible risks associated with mobile phone use to their children. Ideally, if taking it away is not an option, we suggest they reduce its use to short essential calls," he said.

Along international lines, the department is also advising users to buy a mobile phone with a low specific absorption rate (SAR) - this is the radio wave energy that each handset transmits to the human body.

The leaflet advises the public not to use the phone when reception is weak because this would mean the handset needs more power to communicate with the base station and so the radio wave emissions will be higher.

Also try to carry the phone away from your body and avoid keeping it close to your chest, in a shirt pocket or in your trousers, especially if your phone has a high SAR value.

"Mobile phones have become part and parcel of our life. What we are saying is use it prudently," Dr Spiteri advised.

The leaflet, issued by the Health Promotion Department and CARE makes the following recommendations before using your mobile phone:

Avoid using a mobile phone if you have access to a land line.
Only use your phone when necessary.
Keep your conversations short and try not to talk for longer than two minutes, where possible.
Where appropriate send an SMS instead of making a call, so as to avoid radiation emitted near your head.
Alternate between ears so as to reduce the concentration of radiation in one spot.
The level of radiation increases when the phone is trying to connect to the number you have just dialled, so wait to connect before you place it close to your head.
Try not to use the phone when the reception is weak, since the phone needs more power to communicate with the base station, meaning that the radio wave emissions will be higher.
Do not cover the aerial with your hand.

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