Dect Cordless Phones & Brain Tumors
Ron Butlin, a 58-year-old novelist, from Edinburgh, had
already been suffering from mild heart palpitations when he
got a Dect phone. But in a matter of weeks, they became
"I was rushed to hospital and put on various drugs until
they found a combination that worked, fortunately - but it
He got rid of the Dect phone and has had no palpitations
So what is going on? Goldsworthy believes that the microwave
signals from the phone weaken cell membranes, which then
leak. Enzymes can then get into the cell and start digesting
In Germany, hundreds of doctors signed a petition calling
for a ban on Dect phones in public places.
The German Federal Agency for Radiation Protection has
backed this with a warning that Dect devices, "have no
control to regulate power output according to the power
In Europe, you can now now buy digital cordless phones that
do not emit microwaves when on standby. But in Britain, the
response is more conservative.
Dismissing studies like Hardell's a a one-off, the Health
Protection Agency - which advises the UK Government on
radiation issues - argues that as a Dect signal is weak, it
is not harmful.
"Only the base station unit in a Dect system is operating
like a mast and the health risks around it are no greater
than from a mobile mast," says the HPA's Dr Michael Clark.
However, critics say that it is not the signal strength that
matters. One of the worries is that the radiowaves are
pulsed, coming in sharp intermittent bursts that can disrupt
the brain's signalling.
The two sides do agree that a Dect base station is
constantly emitting, like a mini phone mast in the home.
The HPA has advised manufacturers that base units need not
be designed to be on all the time.
"But it's an international industry standard and we can't
regulate," says Dr Clark.
They also agree that exposure of children is a concern, as
their developing tissues are more susceptible to damage.
The Government recommends that under-eights should not use
mobile phones at all and under-16s only for "essential
calls". The HPA says that although, "there is no clear
evidence of harm from cordless phones, parents can take a
precautionary approach and prevent children using them".
Christine Garnier, a 45-year old company bookkeeper from
Jersey, has no doubt this is a good idea.
She had two cordless phones in her house when a local
protest against a mobile mast made her think again about the
technology she used. She got rid of them, "and within 24
hours I felt a sort of pressure in my head go. But the real
change was in Thomas".
Her six-year-old son had been having sleep problems, often
said he felt sick after being in the house after school and
was temperamental. "As soon as I got rid of the phones, he
became calmer and slept much better."
Dr Goldsworthy believes that "probably everyone is being
affected to some degree".
Others say that only "electrosensitive" people are
significantly affected and, although their resulting
conditions can be serious, they account for only three per
cent of the population.
Professor Hardell claims that, whatever the disagreement
over the source or severity of short-term symptoms, in the
longer term, "we can expect an increase in diseases such as
Alzheimer's and Parkinson's due to neurological damage and
While there is no consensus on the degree of risk from
mobile and Dect apparatus, both sides recognise that the
UK's accepted exposure limit is the highest in Europe.
At the Human Health in an Electro-Technological World
conference where Professor Hardell presented his findings
last November, the scientists who helped set these levels
were roundly criticised. David Dean, among others, is
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