Risk to the brain'
Journalist: Sarah Boseley
April 4, 2000
Hands-free kits for mobile phones do not protect your brain
from radiation - on the contrary, they channel three times the dose into the
skull that you receive by holding the phone next to your ear, according to
the Consumers' Association.
A report in this week's Which?
magazine will upset those who rushed to buy the devices out of fears for
their health. Two of the most popular kits were tested - one from Carphone
Warehouse and the other from BT Cellnet. The researchers found the wires
leading from the phone into the ear acted like an aerial, conveying a more
concentrated dose of radio waves than usual.
Which? acknowledges that
nobody knows for certain whether the form of radiation emitted by mobile
phones - radio waves which are non-ionizing radiation - is harmful to the
brain. Exposure to this type of radiation can cause a rise in temperature -
although not as much as sunbathing in a Mediterranean summer - which makes
your heart work harder and can lead to
headaches, sickness and dizziness. Some claim the phones can
cause more serious problems, such as tumors, headaches and memory loss. The
Department of Health has asked a panel of scientists, the Stuart Commission,
to investigate. The Consumers' Association has submitted its findings to the
national radiological protection board,
which sets limits on the amount of radiation mobile phones are permitted to
emit, says they do not have enough energy to damage genetic material such as
DNA and therefore could not cause cancer. But it sets limits on the grounds
that the heating effect of the phones could potentially be a problem.
The Consumers' Association
says the findings on the hands-free kits were a surprise. 'If you're worried
about levels of radiation from your mobile phone,
you shouldn't rely on a hands-free set,' said Graeme Jacobs, editor of
Antonia Chitty, one of the
authors of the report, said there was a mismatch between the reasons the
companies design hands-free kits and the reasons many people buy them.
'Consumers are buying them because they want the protection. Our impression
is that companies are developing them to be handy and convenient,' she said.
BT Cellnet makes no safety
claims about its hands-free kit, says Which? but Carphone Warehouse said
that if the user was worried about radiation, an earpiece attachment meant
the phone will not be adjacent to your head.
When Carphone Warehouse was
confronted about the findings, 'the response was pretty disingenuous', says
Which? The company said its fact-sheets 'simply state the facts - it is a
fact that earpieces remove the phone away from the user's head'. The company
said its revised fact sheet would include the Which? findings.
Learn how to protect yourself from harmful radiation
emitted by your cell phone
by using an airtube headset.