Tuesday, 18 September 2012 09:51

No health risks from mobile phones, finds Norwegian study

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There is no scientific basis for the widespread belief that the weak electromagnetic fields around mobile phones and other mobile devices cause health problems. The findings are from a major new report from the Norwegian government.

A team from the Norwegian Public Health Institute (Folkehelseinstituttets) has released the report, which looked at the health effects of weak electromagnetic fields such as those found around mobile phones, cordless phones and networks, base stations for mobile phones, radio stations and other communication equipment. The report is titled “Weak high frequency electromagnetic fields - an assessment of health risks and management practices.”

Weak electromagnetic fields are created when the antenna in mobile phones and other wireless devices emit radio signals, called radiofrequency fields (RF) fields. The International Commission for Protection against Non-Ionising Radiation (ICNIRP) has recommended RF limits for mobile phones 50 times below the level that can cause heating of human tissue. The Norwegian study worked on that level of radiation.

The Expert Group that conducted the study looked at a number of possible health effects of weak electromagnetic fields, and evaluated existing research in the area. The group found no evidence that the weak fields around mobile phones and other transmitting equipment increases the risk of cancer, impairs fertility in men, causes other damage to reproduction or to the nervous system, or causes any other diseases and health problems, all of which have been reported as health problems from mobile phones.

“We are not saying that such problems are imaginary,” says the report. But a large number of studies suggest that such symptoms must have other causes than physical effects of weak electromagnetic fields. When you keep your mobile phone to your ear for a long time, many have found that the area around the ear gets hot. Is this radiation? The skin warms up a bit due to heat from the battery not from the radio transmitter in the phone.”

The expert group reviewed research published previously, as well as recent case studies.The material is very extensive. A number of studies have been conducted on cells and tissue in the laboratory, in animals and humans. In addition, we have made several population studies and studies emanating from cancer registries in several countries. We conclude that it is reasonably certain that mobile devices are not associated with health risks.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire. He is one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’

He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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