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Friday, 4 August, 2000, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
Hands-free mobiles given safety boost
hands free mobile
The report suggests that hands-free sets may have less effect
Hands-free mobile phone kits can significantly reduce the effects on the brain, according to research.

The findings of the new Australian Consumers' Association study contradict those of study carried out by the Consumers' Association in the UK in April.

Hands-free kits - an earpiece and clip-on microphone - have been marketed as an alternative to holding the mobile close to the ear while making calls.

Sales increased in the wake of fears that electromagnetic radiation from the mobile could affect brain tissue.

But the UK study suggested that instead of offering protection, some hands-free kits acted as aerials and tripled the amount of radiation reaching the brain.

The new Australian study found, however, that using hands-free kits can reduce the effects of electromagnetic radiation by more than 90%.

The Australian research focused on the thermal effects or specific absorption rate (SAR) of radio frequency radiation - a measure of its actual effects on brain tissue, whereas the earlier study simply looked at electromagnetic radiation levels.

Scientists studied the SAR in two leading digital phones and in one analogue phone.

The study found that even without the hands-free kits, SARs from all three sets remained below Australian standards.

But when they connected the hands-free kit, they recorded a significant drop in SAR levels.

However, further tests showed that if the phone was worn at the waist while in hands-free mode, the SAR recorded at the waist was higher.

The authors of the study said their findings should be treated with caution.

Recommendations
Keep calls as short as possible
Use an ordinary phone set whenever possible
Use a hands-free kit
Place phones on tables or in bags when in hands-free mode

"While our results would seem to be a ringing endorsement for using a hands-free kit, they should be viewed in the context of the contradictory findings of some similar studies," they said.

Referring to the UK Consumer Association's study, published in Which? magazine, the authors said the contradictory findings emphasised the need for further research.

"While its methods have since attracted criticism and the basic recommendations of its study conflict with ours, its results emphasise the need for on-going study."

The UK study measured electromagnetic field intensity, not SAR, in a specific part of the head.

The Australian Consumer Association urged users to keep calls on mobile phones as short as possible and to use an ordinary phone set whenever they can.

They also recommended that users avoid body contact with the phone or aerial when making or receiving a call.

The said users should use a hands-free kit but should place the phone on a table or in their bag when taking a call.

The Consumers Association in the UK said Which? is carrying out further research into the safety of hands-free kits.

Helen Parker, Editor of Which? said: "We stand by our test results into hands-free sets published earlier this year, and are continuing to test more equipment.

"Meanwhile, we want to see the Government fund more research into testing standards."

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See also:

11 May 00 | Health
Mobile phone research ordered
10 May 00 | Health
Child mobile phone warning
04 Apr 00 | Health
Phone radiation claims challenged
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