Hands-free kits cut radiation for mobile phone users, says Government

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The Independent Online

The government will seek to end confusion over mobile phone safety today when it publishes new research showing that hands-free kits reduce exposure to electromagnetic fields.

The government will seek to end confusion over mobile phone safety today when it publishes new research showing that hands-free kits reduce exposure to electromagnetic fields.

Patricia Hewitt, the minister for Trade and Industry, said last night the report gave "clear and unambiguous advice" to the 24 million mobile users in the UK.

The report, commissioned from independent scientists, was ordered by the Department of Trade and Industry after the Consumers' Association said earlier this year hands-free kits increased radiation.

Hands-free sets had become morey popular after reports linking mobile phone use to possible illness and brain tumours but the association claimed that the kits acted like aerials and channelled three times as much radiation to the head.

However, the DTI report will back other research showing that the exposure to electromagnetic fields is cut "very substantially".

SARtest Ltd, the firm used by the Government, also offered new advice for users as a precautionary measure. "Users of personal hands-free kits should let the earpiece cable hang naturally from the ear, keep the cable away from the phone's attena and should not place the phone directly against the body," it states. Even lower levels of exposure could be achieved if "ferrite suppressors" were attached to the cables of the hands-free kits currently on the market.

Ms Hewitt said: "The report confirms that hands-free kits reduce exposure for mobile phone users. It is important that the public is provided with clear and unambiguous advice about the use of hands-free kit." All measurements taken of the phones in the experiment were comfortably within exposure guidelines of the National Radiological Protection Board and the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection.

The study said SARtest Ltd used a range of phones for its tests, including Ericsson, Nokia and Maxon brands. Among the kits assessed were those sold by Vodafone, Orange and Carphone Warehouse. The report concluded: "In the intended mode of use, personal hands-free kits offer very substantial reductions in specific absorption ratio [the measurement unit for the fields] compared to the normal use of a mobile phone held against the ear."

The tests showed normal use of a hands-free kit cut radio frequency fields by 30 times for an Ericsson, 22 times for a Nokia and 14 times for a Maxon.

A government study earlier this year found that there was no conclusive evidence of any harmful health effects caused by mobiles, including those without hands-free kits. However, it advised that more research was needed and in the meantime children should be discouraged from using them.

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