Health: Next thing is, you'll forget your number

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The Independent Online
At first, their only health hazard appeared to be mild irritation and the odd flush - perhaps of pride, or maybe embarrassment. Then they were linked to asthma, to Alzheimer's Disease - and cancer. The latest news is that they cause loss of concentration and lapses in short-term memory.

Once again, scientists are issuing stark warnings about the risks of using mobile phones. Dr Henry Lai, a specialist in microwave radiation at Washington University, is the latest to enter the ring.

His research, delivered at a conference in Brussels, shows that the microwave radiation of the kind emitted by mobile phones impaired the ability of rats to learn simple tasks. The animals were exposed to about 45 minutes of low-level radiation and their resulting confusion convinced Dr Lai that mobile phone radiation could affect mammalian brain cells.

But Dr John Stather, deputy director of the National Radiological Protection Board, the British government agency responsible for researching radiation hazards, was less convinced. "There's nothing we've seen that would cause us to have any concern about the use of mobile phones," he said yesterday.

"The present generation of cellphones are all within the standards for exposure to radiation which we recommend as an organisation. I mean, I've got one. Nothing's stopped me using it."

He pointed out that 45 minutes was a high level of exposure: "It isn't what most people would do on a cellphone - and it's common sense not to to use it when you drive."

A spokesman for Vodaphone said: "Usually you have an illness and you're looking for a cause. With mobile phones, they have a cause and they're looking for an illness."

- Clare Garner