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Mobile Phone Firms 'Fudging Safety Issues'
Network News
Journalist: Paul Allen
December 07, 2000

The mobile phone industry has been accused by a top academic of deliberately clouding safety issues over radiation emissions from handsets.

Fresh research published in leading medical journal, The Lancet, says not only is the level of risk unclear, but that mobile operators are using uncertainty to confuse buyers.

Dr Gerald Hyland of the University of Warwick wrote: "In March 1999 the government set up the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones, under the chairmanship of Sir William Stewart.

"The Stewart Report, published in May 2000, makes some sensible recommendations but unfortunately some of its greyer areas are now being exploited by the industry to obfuscate the issue."

Furthermore, companies which issue staff with mobile phones could leave themselves open to lawsuits if employees are affected by emissions, and the Association of British Insurers has warned that employers liability insurance could be affected.

The Department of Health is working on a leaflet warning users of the possible risks, which will be published within a fortnight. It is also setting up a taskforce to co-ordinate research in the area.

Medical physicist Philip Dendy, who also contributes to The Lancet, said: "In the light of experience with ionising radiation and radioactive materials, out-of-hand dismissal of the possibility of subtle effects of low-intensity, pulsed, microwave radiation is most unwise.

"As yet unresolved is the question of adverse health impacts provoked by the contentious non-thermal effects of the low intensity, pulsed microwave radiation used.

"These effects are not taken into account in current guidelines, which simply restrict the intensity of the radiation to prevent tissue heating in excess of what the body's thermoregulatory mechanism can cope with."

A representative for the National Radiological Protection Board, which advises the Department of Health on all radiation issues, explained that its advisory board of independent epidemiologists would consider all fresh research at its next meeting.

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