Which? stands by hands-free research

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Recent tests of mobile phone hands-free kit tests by the UK Department of Trade & Industry seem to contradict earlier results by Which?. The Consumers’ Association however stands by its original research and now recommends that the government conducts new research to develop an appropriate testing methodology.

The DTI report conncluded that using personal hands free (PHF) kit with mobile phones reduced exposure to electromagnetic fields compared to the normal use of a mobile phone.

An independent consultancy, SARtest was commissioned by the DTI to test PHF kits following a report from the Consumers Association which stated that the ear-piece wire on the kits acted as an aerial and “channelled three times the level of radiation to the head”.

All measurements taken of the phones themselves were comfortably within exposure guidelines. Misuse of the equipment was also investigated but exposure levels were low in all cases.

The Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones & Health noted that other studies have been carried out which claim a substantial reduction in exposure when using PHF kit, but recommended further work.

The Consumer Association’s Which? report published in April found that some hand-free kits can triple the level of radio waves emitted by mobile phones.

They say the SAR testing methods (a measurement of absorption), used by the DTI are not necessarily definitive for two main reasons:
• SAR tests were originally developed to test mobile phones, rather than hands-free kits
• SAR test methodology is still in draft format and results can vary significantly between laboratories

A Consumer Association statement said Which? had been conducting further research into hands-free kits, investigating SAR test methodology and intended to contribute to the development of a standard test for hands-free kits.

Helen Parker, Editor of Which? said: “We think there are problems with current SAR testing for hands free kits and we are carrying out more research into this area.”

“We stand by our original test results. Consumers need to be aware that hands-free kits are no guarantee of lowering radiation emissions from mobile phones, and in some cases, they actually increase it.”

In May the Stewart Inquiry’s report to the UK Department of Health concluded that ‘the balance of evidence to date does not suggest that emissions from mobile phones and base stations put the health of the UK population at risk’. However, it acknowledged that there was evidence to show subtle effects of radiofrequency radiation on the brain, and calls for more research.

The Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones & Health
DTI tests


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