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Hands-free mobile phone kits win cautious support

Hands-free mobile phone kits win cautious Consumer support

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Hands-free mobile phone kits win cautious Consumer support

Hands-free kits can reduce the exposure of mobile phone users to potentially harmful radiation, says the latest issue of Consumer magazine.

But the magazine warns that it is still far from clear whether the radiation produced by mobile phones is harmful anyway.

Consumer tested hands-free kits for phones used on both the Telecom and Vodafone networks, using a special test dummy designed to simulate human tissue.

It discovered that 97 percent less electro-magnetic radiation (EMR) enters the head when a hands-free kit is used. But it also found that if the phone is worn at the waist, radiation would be transferred to the torso.

With an analogue phone (used on the Telecom network), the radiation levels in the torso were nearly doubled, compared with the head. In one case, Consumer says, the reading exceeded the guidelines in the New Zealand Standard.

With a digital phone (used on the Vodafone network), the radiation levels increased by about a third compared with the head.

Consumer warns that "more testing is needed" before it is known how significant these results are.

However, it advises that a hands-free kit should help minimise any potential health risk provided the phone is not too close to your body. It suggests frequent users who use a hands-free kit to put the phone in a bag or on a table.

The Consumer test follows an earlier test by the UK consumer magazine Which?, where it was reported that use of a hands-free kit might increase radiation levels in the head.

The reason for the discrepancy, says Consumer, is that different test methods were used. Consumer tested the effects of radio frequency radiation, which can cause body tissue temperature to rise. Experts agree the effects of this type of radiation pose the main potential health risk to users of mobile phones.

Which? confined its measurements to electric field strength in a very specific area of the brain.

Consumer believes none of the research findings should be seen as cause for alarm. It says a major British study on the effects of mobile phones (the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones), released in May, stated: "The balance of evidence to date does not suggest that emissions from mobile phones put the health of the UK population at risk."

But this study also noted that if there is a risk, it may affect children (including teenagers who are still growing) more than adults, because their nervous systems are still developing.

Consumer suggests people who are concerned should use a landline or keep their mobile calls as short as possible, and should limit the use of mobile phones by teenagers and children. A hands-free kit may also help, if used with the phone away from the body.

Consumer has called for mobile phones and kits to be labelled with "consumer-friendly" ratings on their thermal radiation effect. It also wants the standard covering radiation from mobile phones to be made mandatory. Currently, manufacturers don't have to comply.

Note The Consumer test was conducted in association with the Australian Consumers' Association, publishers of Choice magazine.

Further information

Consumer 395, August 2000. Or see the full report on our website: www.consumer.org.nz

Comment

David Russell Chief Executive Consumers' Institute


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