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Health Chief Criticises Mobile Phone Risks
Journalist: Nic Fleming

September 07, 2004

Sir William Stewart, one of the Government's leading public health advisers, has criticised the mobile phone industry for failing to make handset radiation levels available to the public and called for emissions data to appear on each phone.

Sir William, chairman of the Health Protection Agency and the National Radiation Protection Board, said new guidelines on the potential health effects of using mobile phones would be published by the end of the year.

He said the public needed updated advice because new, third-generation mobile technology had been developed and the number of transmission masts had increased dramatically.

The jury was still out on whether Tetra, the controversial new 2.9 billion digital police radio system, had any harmful health effects, he said.

Sir William said: "We said in the Stewart report it's not possible to say categorically that there are not health effects but what has come out from the industry is that mobile phones are safe.

"I think the mobile phone industry in this country is actually pretty responsible. However, they have been very selective about what they said about the report.

"If it is possible to have football scores on a handset, surely it is possible to have emission levels on them.

"There is a website set up by manufacturers but have you tried to navigate that site to find SAR [Specific Absorption Rate - rate at which the body absorbs emissions from a handset] values? I can tell you it is not easy."

Sir William was speaking four days before the fifth anniversary of the first meeting of the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones, a committee ministers asked him to chair to look into the potential health risks of the mobiles.

The group reported in May 2000, stating that a precautionary approach should be adopted.

A spokesman for the Mobile Operators' Association said: "All mobile phones sold in Britain comply with international health and safety exposure guidelines set by independent scientific experts."

A spokesman for O2 Airwave, the company supplying Tetra, said: "The most recent expert scientific reviews have concluded there is no evidence that the Tetra emergency communications network, which is improving public safety across the country, has an adverse impact on health."

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