The Radiation Debate Continues….

A landmark decision in the United States on Monday by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association regarding radiation measurements on mobile handsets may soon be mirrored in Australia. The new guidelines require handset manufacturers to disclose the SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) of each model, or the amount of radiation absorbed by a specified amount of body tissue while using a mobile phone.

In Australia currently, manufacturers are required to display an “A- tick” symbol on the back of the phone to certify the SAR is under the level allowed by the Australian Communication Authority’s regulations, but are not required to disclose the actual output. In the overseas ruling, the SAR is not required to be displayed on the handset, but must be available to the public via various means including the Federal Communications Commission’s website.

There is no scientific evidence that mobile phones present a health risk according to the latest study. The Stewart inquiry, released in May, states clearly that it could find no evidence of a health hazard. It did note, however, that future studies might show otherwise. Public concern continues to remain high regarding this issue, probably fuelled by the regular appearance of attention-grabbing headlines in the media. The most notable this year would be the hype surrounding a report by “Which” magazine and the supposed increased danger of using a hands-free unit. Interestingly, the report was based on testing of two individual units and was quite inconclusive for a number of reasons. The recent poll on had 739 respondants, out of which 94% said they are concerned about the effects of radiation.

Mr Peter Russell, Executive Director of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, said he believes the radiation disclosure ruling overseas is a reasonable initiative if it helps to allay consumer fears. Certainly this is true, although it may unfairly prejudice some buying decisions for perhaps an invalid reason.

A recommendation in Australia is likely to be made in October when the results of a senate inquiry into radiation will be announced.