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Mobile Phones To Give Radiation Levels Soon
July 16, 2001

The world's leading mobile phone makers said Monday they will start publishing information next fall about the level of radiation emitted by their phones, in response to concerns from consumers.

The largest cellphone maker Nokia, the second-largest Motorola and the fourth-largest Ericsson, have agreed with the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation's (CENELEC) on a way to measure radiation absorption on phones.

"There have been requests by some consumers that this information should be readily available,'' said Nokia Mobile Phones spokesman Tapio Hedman. ``We are providing them with information they feel is important for them."

The agreement comes after years of lobbying from consumer and other organisations for companies and regulators to agree on a global standard of measuring radiation emitted from handsets.

Reports have alleged that radio waves from mobile phones can affect the human brain. Last year, a UK government-sponsored scientific inquiry, chaired by Sir William Stewart, warned children to avoid excessive use of mobile phones because their thinner skulls make them prone to absorbing radiation.

"We have worked together with Nokia and Motorola on this. It will not be any kind of warning label, but specification information included in the phone package together with other technical measures," said Mikael Westmark, responsible for health issues at Ericsson.

At the end of March this year, there were 770 million mobile phone users globally and Nokia expects that figure to rise to one billion in the first six months of 2002.

U.S. neurologist Christopher Newman filed last year a lawsuit against leading U.S. phone companies, including Motorola Inc., saying that the use of his mobile phone had caused a malignant brain tumor.

Neither Ericsson, nor Nokia were named in the Newman lawsuit. All three companies say research conducted over several years has found no evidence to link health problems with mobile phones.

Manufacturers do not plan to label the phones with the actual level of radiation, called Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), nor put it on phone packages. The information would be included in user manuals.

The companies claimed that research found no evidence to link mobile phones with health problems, but it recently emerged that they have filed patents for radiation shielding devices for almost 10 years.

SAR -- the best way of measuring radiation -- shows the absorption of energy by the human body in watts per kilogram. The maximum safety limit is 2.0, while most phones on the market are now showing values between 0.5 and 1.0.

Mobile phones are, in effect, tiny radio stations that send and receive. Hedman said one of the big challenges would be to explain to consumers what the new number actually means.

The SAR value that will be included in the phone package will be the maximum value, rather than the average one. When you talk, you very seldom reach the maximum level in a properly constructed network," said Westmark.

He said the SAR value was highest when dialling and then dropped steeply off after the connection was made.

Ericsson said it would include the SAR figure with its phones from October, and Nokia said it would do it roughly at the same time.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission already requires cellphons to meet radiation safety standards, and all manufacturers are required to inform the FCC of the SAR levels on their phones before they are approved for sale nationally.

Consumers can already get this information from the FCC, and Nokia has published them in the user manuals of its U.S. phones, Hedman said.

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