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Phone Radiation Plea Ignored By Government
Sun Herald
By: Fia Cumming
05/19/02

The Howard Government has ignored a Senate inquiry's plea for regulation of mobile phone hands-free kits and radiation shields, despite claims they may increase the risk of cancer.

Communications Minister Richard Alston has still not acted on the recommendation of the inquiry into electromagnetic radiation more than a year after it was made. A spokesman for Senator Alston said a response would be made but he could not give a deadline. The inquiry's chairwoman, Democrat Lyn Allison, said yesterday that testing of the devices was even more important because new mobile phones would emit more radiation.

A new Australian standard, introduced this month, allows up to one-third more radiation from phones. "Consumers now have even more reason to use devices that reduce emissions," she said. "But they will be kept in the dark on their effectiveness while there is no standard or requirement for independent testing and labelling."

The inquiry heard evidence that mobile phones would "power up" and emit more radiation if shielding devices were attached. Other research suggested that hands-free kits directed radiation to the head or bounced it to other parts of the body. The committee said it was disturbing that there were no standards or other regulations on the devices. It called for testing of hands-free kits and phone shields, new standards to regulate them, and labelling to protect consumers.

A report by the UK Industry Department last week claimed that hands-free kits could significantly reduce radiation to the head. Senator Allison said the US standard required phones to be tested with and without a hands-free device attached, and the results were made available to consumers.

The Howard Government has given the power to set phone radiation standards to the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency. The new standard, which is in line with international standards, is needed to accommodate the new 3G spectrum phone technology. It was opposed by the CSIRO and consumer groups but supported by the telecommunications industry. Senator Allison said the new standard was no more scientific than the previous one.