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Monday, February 16, 1998 Published at 16:23 GMT


Human guinea pigs to test mobile phone risks
image: [ There is increasing concern over the health risks from mobile phones ]
There is increasing concern over the health risks from mobile phones

The British Government has commissioned a study using human guinea pigs to test whether the prolonged use of mobile phones carries serious health risks.

Eighteen volunteers are taking part in the study which is part of the Department of Health's radiation protection research programme.

The tests, which are being carried out at Bristol University, are designed to detect short-term memory, reaction times and awareness in mobile phone users.

The volunteers will spend between 20 minutes to half-an-hour with a handset fixed to their heads, and carry out a series of tasks. Some of the handsets will be dummy ones, others will be real.

It is part of a bigger project at Bristol University looking into the effects of microwave radiation on human beings.

Some scientists have suggested that radiation from mobile handsets could cause brain tumours, cancer, anxiety and memory loss, and there has been increasing concern amongst the public about the possible side-effects.

Dr Alan Preece of Bristol University, who is conducting the research, wrote in an article last year: "The facts are that cell phones emit either continuous microwaves at about 900 MHz or pulsed microwaves at 1.8 GHz and these must cause a small amount of tissue heating, including brain tissue."

Dr Preece says he has had a lot of enquiries from people worried about the effects of mobile phones.

"There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence of people feeling weak, having memory problems and depression."

Official figures published last November showed that nearly one in five households in the UK possessed a mobile phone.

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