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Australian Doctor Claims Proof That Mobiles Are Bad For Health
Medical Writer
By: Julie Robotham
05/16/01

An Australian scientist claims to have collected the world's first real evidence that mobile phone radiation can affect the head's nerves, causing headaches, visual disturbance and loss of sensation in the scalp. Dr Bruce Hocking, a specialist in occupational and environmental medicine, yesterday presented three case studies, examining the claims of people who believed mobile phones might be responsible for their neurological symptoms. In each case, the sensations the people could be measured using objective laboratory tests of nerve function, he said. The results meant a proposed new Australian standard for the amount of radiation mobile phones and base stations can emit might not be enough to protect some people from adverse health effects. In one case, a 72-year-old man who often used his phone felt a "bruised" sensation on his scalp. No medical cause was found. But Dr Hocking, with neurophysiologist Dr Rod Westerman, found the man's "perception threshold" had altered in response to cotton wool brushed on his skin. This affected two nerves - at the front and back of the head - meaning it was unlikely to be a spontaneous abnormality, he said.

A 34-year-old woman who complained of headaches when she used her mobile for several minutes was found to have "marked changes in the nerves of the affected area" after using the phone. And a 31-year-old technician suffered headache and blurred vision after he mistakenly thought the transmitter was switched off on a mobile phone tower he was working on. The next day his response to skin stimuli was abnormal and his pupils were of different sizes. Dr Hocking, formerly with Telstra and now working independently, said this case suggested that radiation itself, rather than another aspect of holding a mobile phone against the head, was responsible for the nerve changes. Dr Hocking presented the case studies at the annual meeting of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in Sydney yesterday. A spokesman for the Australian Radiation Safety and Nuclear Protection Agency, which is overseeing the development of a new electromagnetic radiation standard, said the standards-setting committee would look at Dr Hocking's studies "if he has something new to share" when it next meets in August. Dr Hocking is on that committee. A spokesman for the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, which represents phone manufacturers and the network operators, said the case studies were not good science because they did not establish that the phones were the cause of the sensations the people reported.