Wed, 17 May 2000

Hands-free means radiation-free?

JAKARTA (JP): The booming trade of mobile cellphone always sparks controversy. The latest issue over cellphones, which are now used by about one billion people, is whether hands-free kits also emit radiation to the brain.

Since cellphones have become daily lifestyle fixtures and a person's best friend, there has been a lot of studies and research done aimed at investigating the effects of electromagnetic and microwave radiation from cellphones on the human body.

The studies and research focus on major areas, including the thermal (heating) and biological effects. The latter is defined as the effects of microwaves on human cells, particularly brain cells.

The new issue concerns the findings that hands-free cellphones tripled levels of radiation to the brain.

The report, recently raised by the Britain's Consumers Association, has ignited arguments involving mobile retailers in Britain.

"The ear piece wire on the hands-free kits we tested acts as an aerial and channels three times as much radiation to your head," the association said. "Although we tested only two kits, our experts agree others could suffer from the same problem."

It is not clear yet whether this radiation is harmful.

Millions of cellphone users have purchased hands-free kits, believing they reduced the risk of cancerous brain tumors. It is also advised to use hands-frees as there is mounting evidence that talking on cellphones while driving contributes to an increase in road accidents and fatalities.

In response, telecoms tools makers Ericsson and Motorola said that health and safety are and have always been important and top priorities of consumers.

"Motorola invests considerable time and effort into assuring that our product are as safe in use as they are sound in design," said Yanty Agus of PT Motorola Indonesia.

She said that Motorola products are designed, built and tested to assure that they operate within reliable science-based standards for safe human exposure to radio-frequency energy.

Strategic PR Manager for Ericsson Mobile Communications, Mikael Westmark, said that Ericsson's extensive research over the course of many years had never established any conclusive evidence of a link between the use of mobile phones and any adverse health effect.

He said the new finding contradicted Ericsson's test results as well as numerous results conducted over years by independent research laboratories and media outlets around the world. (icn)