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Experts Divided On Mobile Phone Hazards
Journalist: Patricia Reaney
November 27, 2000

It's no wonder that people are confused about the health hazards of mobile phones. Even scientists are divided on how dangerous they may be.

So far there is no irrefutable medical evidence that mobile phones cause brain tumours or other medical problems but there have been studies suggesting there could be cause for concern.

Two review articles published in the Lancet medical journal on Friday added to the debate by presenting opposing views of the safety of the phones that have become as essential to modern lifestyles as washing machines.

Dr. Kenneth Rothman, of Epidemiology Resources Inc. in Boston says it is simply too early to reach a verdict on mobile phones. But he says that the danger of them causing an accident is more immediate than the harm from electromagnetic radiation.

The heaviest users of mobile phones, he said, have more than double the number of deaths in road accidents than the lightest users.

"Based on the epidemiologic evidence available now, the main public-health concern is clearly motor vehicle collisions, a behavioural effect rather than an effect of radiofrequency exposure as such," he said in the journal.

Even if scientists establish a link to brain cancer, he believes it will still be smaller than health risks from accidents.

Perception of Safety
But Gerard Hyland, a theoretical biophysicist at the University of Warwick in England and the International Institute of Biophysics in Neuss-Holzheim in Germany, takes a different view.

He argues that mobile phones can cause non-thermal damage to the body because their frequencies can interfere with body frequencies.

Headaches can be caused by the effect of radiation on the dopamine-opiate system of the brain and sleep disruption is consistent with the influence of radiation on melatonin levels, he added, referring to brain chemicals.

But Hyland, who called for more research into the impact on body frequencies, admitted it would be difficult to establish a link.

"There is a subjective element to how sensitive we are. What might affect you may not affect me," Hyland explained in a telephone interview.

In a commentary on the reports in the Lancet, Dr Philip Dendy, a former chief physicist at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, England, said at the moment it came down to public perceptions of safety.

"There are indicators which should certainly cause us not to be complacent but they fall short at the moment of conclusive proof," he told Reuters.

"There is no absolute scale of safety," he added. "The bottom line is, at present time, the knowledge base of the hazards of mobile telephones is not good enough."

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