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British Scientists Nix Cell Phone Usage Amid Health Hazards

A major report due out later this month and based on eminent research carried out by scientists at Bristol Royal Infirmary, a UK hospital, will link cellular phone usage with short-term memory loss, Newsbytes has learned.

Some of the scientists involved with the study have dramatically curtailed their own usage of mobile phones. In many cases, the researchers are using headphones in order to avoid irradiating their brains, Newsbytes understands.

In the research, 50 percent of the volunteers wore microwave transmitters that operated in the 915 megahertz (MHz) wavebands for 30 minutes at time. The others wore placebo units.

After the transmitters were active, the volunteers then carried out a series of tests designed to show cognitive functions and memory.

Newsbytes understands that the research, undertaken under the supervision of Bristol Royal Infirmary’s Dr Alan Preece, found that those who had not been subjected to the transmitter’s output performed better in the tests.

The research will be published later this month in the International Journal of Radiation Biology. It builds on earlier research carried out last year by Dr Kjell Hansson Mild, of Sweden’s National Institute for Working Life In Umea.

Mild carried out his research among a group of 1,000 Norwegians and Swedes, and found that the test subjects complained of transient symptoms after using their mobiles. The symptoms included headaches, fatigue, and tingling plus heat sensations when using hand portables.

At the time, Mild observed that the symptoms occurred whether the phone user was making or receiving calls, or whether the phone was in standby mode. “People have more complaints when they are using the mobile more, but we don’t know at the moment what’s causing them, ” he told reporters last spring.

Mild said that fatigue symptoms were 1.6 times more common for Norwegian respondents who used digital cellphones 15 to 60 minutes a day as for those who used them less than two minutes a day. Those who remained glued to the phone an hour or more a day were more than four times as likely to suffer from fatigue.

Headaches, meanwhile, were 2.7 times more likely to afflict 15-to- 60- minute-a-day callers and over six times as likely among those spending an hour or more a day.

Perhaps the most worrying feature of Mild’s research is that mobile phone users also reported problems concentrating. This is the main finding of Preece’s report due out in the UK later this month, Newsbytes understands.

According to a report in the Sunday Times, a London-based Sunday newspaper, meanwhile, the transient effects on memory could have an adverse effect on tasks that require concentration, such as driving a car.

The Sunday Times’ feature quotes Colin Blakemore, Waynflete professor of psychology at Oxford University, as saying there could be serious implications if people used phones while driving. “It has a transient effect. I have had the feeling that there has been a gap in my experience while I have been on the phone and have not been aware of other things going on,” he said.

“The kind of radiation emitted by mobile phones can directly affect nerve cells and where you put the phone is very close to the areas involved with short term memory,” Blakemore said.

Newsbytes News Network
Journalist: Steve Gold
March 1, 1999

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