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Health Hazards Hanging On The Mobile Phone
April 6, 2000

Can mobile phones seriously damage your health?

With almost half a billion users worldwide and with the new religion of internet-mobile just around the corner, it's a question that is starting to generate almost as much hysteria as the cellphone craze itself.

Scientists have for years been investigating suggestions that the radiation emitted by mobile phones, base stations and masts could trigger a whole medical dictionary of ailments, from dizziness to gene damage, nosebleeds to nausea, Alzheimer's to brain tumours.

Consumers meanwhile dashed out in their millions to buy the hands-free earpiece that puts a respectable distance between the mobile microwaves and the human brain.

But this week, Britain's Consumer Association warned that far from lowering the incidence of radiation on the brain, the earpiece wire could actually increase exposure threefold.

So what is the truth about the mobile phone hang-up?

Scientists are pursuing three broad lines of enquiry -- into long-term phone use, phone-with-earpiece use, and the hazards of base stations and masts -- but have yet to uncover definitive proof of harmful effects.

"One thing I wouldn't do is to have a half-hour conversation on a mobile phone because you are exposing a small area of the brain intensively and producing changes to blood flows," said Dr Alan Preece of Bristol University, who has conducted extensive research into the subject.

"With an phone two centimetres away from the head 50-60 percent of the phone's energy goes into the head," said Preece.

The Consumers' Association said this energy can cause a rise in temperature which could in turn cause headaches, sickness and dizziness. Preece was not so sure.

As for earpieces, Preece said his research showed that hands-free kits reduced exposure to radiation to tiny levels, a contention robustly supported by the mobile industry itself.

Despite such assurances, politicians and pressure groups in Britain have clamoured for a coordinated probe into the hazards of mobile telephony and a government-appointed task force is currently gathering evidence for a definitive report on the risks posed by the cellphone boom.

The group is looking not just at mobile devices and headsets, but at the mushrooming transmitter stations and masts that are springing up to try and meet burgeoning demand for mobile services.

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